(entry last updated: 2003-01-05 11:53:13)
Amy Harmon announces the start of the next stage of digital TV – pay-per-taping. A look at “code as law.” and, at least a suggestion that the consumer is not going to like this digital future much.
Lying dormant in virtually every digital cable box in America is technology that can prevent viewers from recording certain programs to watch them later. Soon, several Hollywood studios are planning to tell cable operators to flip the switch.
People who have become accustomed to recording pay-per-view and video-on-demand shows will probably still be able to, the studios say — so long as they pay an extra fee.
The move is one of a range of new restrictions Hollywood is beginning to impose on digital movies, music and television. After years of battling online piracy in court, media executives are fighting technology with technology, locking up their products with the same types of digital tools that millions of people have used to get the products free over the Internet.
“We need to put in speed bumps to keep people honest,” said Jack Valenti, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, which is lobbying federal regulators to require many devices to incorporate technology that prevents consumers from sending digital media files over the Internet. “If we don’t, our future is bleak.”
… Depending on the rules dictated by the software, your ability to listen to a music track or watch a movie can expire after a day or remain in place forever. You can copy it once, twice, as many times as you want, or not at all. You can play it on all portable devices, no portable devices or a subset of portable devices. And you can be charged a different amount for each set of privileges.
Note: It looks like "speed bump" is going to be the industry’s rhetorical analogy to sell DRM – it may be worth taking a look at the downsides of speed bumps (costs of maintenance, allocation of costs, damage to vehicles, etc.). But certainly an accurate allusion, given Lessig’s achitecture metaphor.
Slashdot has a discussion starting on the article cited above. More importantly, there’s a link in the discussion to an article from Business Week that says that the sort of DRM cited in the article is just going to be a bad idea all around.
Simply put, the digital flag is a bad idea and a serious threat to consumer privacy. Only Hollywood’s interests would be protected. The consortium’s report doesn’t mandate protection of consumer information, only that the technology chosen should be flexible and robust. History has shown that the most powerful and adaptable copy-protection technology is also privacy-invasive.
Take Thomson Multimedia’s SmartRight technology, a copy-protection scheme that’s gaining momentum in Europe and Asia. Every time you watch a movie or transfer a video from a digital TV to a PC, it reports back to the copyright owner.
Spying on customers wouldn’t only infringe on individuals’ privacy but it could also lead to new revenue streams for Hollywood. Today, studios get paid only once when you buy the DVD of When Harry Met Sally — no matter how many times you watch it or how many friends borrow it from you. New technology would conceivably allow the studios to charge you every time you view the film, since a record is created from a technology monitoring your viewing habits from inside your home.
A little off-topic, perhaps, but The Register run down of the Microsoft-Sendo battle is pretty interesting.