Hey Mister, MP3 With That Hot Dog And Big Gulp?

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Last week, 7-11 executives started talking up their latest business idea: Offering for-fee content downloads in all of their convenience stores. (Hat tip: Nanitek.)

While the idea of downloading the latest Avril Lavigne tunes or horror movie while waiting to pay for your coffee and buy a lottery ticket may be a novelty to some, others have seen this move coming for a while. Earlier this month, CRN told the story of V3 Media of Las Vegas, a company that has designed and built its own hardware- and software-based systems for providing retail downloads of movies, music and other digital content. They're expecting significant growth in this space. The 7-11 strategy would bear them out.

But as V3's Mike Poncher has said, the growth of the content-anywhere model is still being held up to a large degree by the folks in Hollywood--people who are reluctant to open up their movie vaults to the unwashed digital masses (at least not without ever more reassurances that they're protected from piracy).

To that end, billionaire Mark Cuban may force Hollywood's hand. As Cuban explains on his blog:

When content went digital, the floodgates opened. Content could be delivered digitally in thousands of different ways, and the number of methods for distribution would only expand over time. To me, this meant the power of the gatekeepers would diminish and the power of independent content creators and owners would increase.

Cuban is worried that MGM will win its legal battle against the file-sharing service Grokster in a dispute that will be heard today by the U.S. Supreme Court. (The Washington Post provides a useful overview of the suit.) So Cuban has financed Grokster's legal battle and said he believes the future of content availability is hanging in the balance:

If Grokster loses, technological innovation might not die, but it will have such a significant price tag associated with it, it will be the domain of the big corporations only.

So while 7-11 and V3 look forward, it may be worthwhile to keep an eye on the action today and several weeks from now, when the high court issues its ruling.

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