January 11, 2004

Object Lesson in Technological Alienation: Adobe’s Crippling of PhotoShop [1:05 pm]

How to sell the GNU Image Manipulation Program — Gimp? From Wired News: Copy No, No: Adobe and Uncle Sam

Adobe Systems acknowledged Friday it quietly added technology to the world’s best-known graphics software at the request of government regulators and international bankers to prevent consumers from making copies of the world’s major currencies.

The unusual concession has angered scores of customers.

Adobe, the world’s leading vendor for graphics software, said the secretive technology “would have minimal impact on honest customers.” It generates a warning message when someone tries to make digital copies of some currencies.

The U.S. Federal Reserve and other organizations that worked on the technology said they could not disclose how it works and would not name which other software companies include it in their products. They cited concerns that counterfeiters would try to defeat it.

[...] Angry customers have flooded Adobe’s Internet message boards with complaints about censorship and concerns over future restrictions on other types of images, such as copyrighted or adult material.

“I don’t believe this,” said Stephen M. Burns, president of the Photoshop users group in San Diego. “This shocks me. Artists don’t like to be limited in what they can do with their tools. Let the U.S. government or whoever is involved deal with this, but don’t take the powers of the government and place them into a commercial software package.”

[...] Some policy experts were divided on the technology. Bruce Schneier, an expert on security and privacy, praised the anti-counterfeit technology.

Another security expert, Gene Spafford of Purdue University, said Adobe should have notified its customers prominently. He wondered how closely Adobe was permitted to study the technology’s inner workings to ensure it was stable and performed as advertised.

“If I were the paranoid-conspiracy type, I would speculate that since it’s not Adobe’s software, what else is it doing?” Spafford said.

See this earlier entry: From Slashdot; and this article from Canada.com: Adobe admits using technology to block attempts at counterfeiting currency

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Cory on TiVo’s Latest Foray into DRM [12:19 pm]

TiVo’s new PC-viewing deliberately broken

The TiVo execs I’ve spoken with about this have expressed TiVo’s philosophy as “reasonable compromise” — delivering features that customers want, so long as it doesn’t make the Hollywood companies too unhappy. This is usually presented as a business-person’s realpolitik: look, kid, we know your ideals say that crippling the stuff we sell you is bad, but we’ve got a company to run here.

What’s funny about this is that it’s the exact opposite of the traditional way of running a disruptive technology business: no one crippled the piano roll to make sure it didn’t upset the music publishers, Marconi didn’t cripple the radio to appease the Vaudeville players — hell, railroad barons never slowed their steam-engines down to speeds guaranteed to please the teamsters.

Where does this bizarre idea — that the dinosaur industry that’s being displaced gets to dictate terms to the mammals who are succeeding it — come from?

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Some Names To Watch [12:09 pm]

From a CNet News article: Congressional leaders promise action on tech issues [via Cory]

Debate was more unified on intellectual property issues, with lawmakers saying that while Congress will continue to support strong copyright protection, media industries need to come up with their own solutions to file-swapping and other issues. Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., joined others in criticizing the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for suing alleged music swappers, calling the RIAA’s legal tactics heavy-handed and against the intent of U.S. copyright laws, including the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

“The fundamental problem with the approach of the RIAA took is that it was based on legislation that created special property rights,” Sununu said. “Suddenly, you had a private entity that’s able to issue subpoenas, which is unprecedented.”

“That’s not what the DMCA was intended to do,” he said. “We can’t be writing legislation that gives holders of certain types of intellectual property special rights…We can’t carve out special legislation to give special powers to certain types of content.”

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said it’s up to content creators to come up with business models that accommodate modern technology and attitudes. “I don’t agree you’re going to get teen-agers and young people to believe they’re doing something immoral” in file swapping, he said. “The industry has to decide on a different model.”

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A Great Slashdot Title [11:42 am]

On a novel distribution technique — albeit not what the title seems to assert: Sir Mix-A-Lot Using Weed To Distribute Music

Hip-hop musician Sir Mix-A-Lot has made his new CD Daddy’s Home available for download using Weed technology. Weed is a relatively new file sharing system based principles of shareware and referrals. You download the DRM WMA weed file and can listen to it 3 times on any computer before deciding to purchase it or not. If you do purchase it (at a price set by the artist), you will receive referral fees (20%, 10%, 5%) for the next 3 generations of people that purchase your copy. The artist always receives 50% of the price. Certainly an interesting approach to distributing music in a world of p2p and iTunes.

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