But Will The Market Go For It?

Oh, yeah – I’m buying this – right after I get cable: New DRM Scheme Could Make DVD Players Obsolete

Hewlett-Packard and Philips said Wednesday that they have developed a content-protection system for DVDs, designed to protect users from burning “protected” DTV broadcasts. The encryption system will be built into next-generation DVD players as well as media.

Without a player and disc using the new Video Content Protection Scheme (VTCS) [sic – it should be VPCS], DVD burners won’t be able to record digital video under the new regulations. That will mean that the enormous installed base of DVD players and burners may be forced into obsolescence, executives said.

The new Video Content Protection Scheme scheme is designed to work hand-in-glove with the new FCC “broadcast flag” initiative, scheduled to begin on July 1, 2005. The FCC wants to try and protect content from being passed indiscriminately among private individuals via the Internet and other means. VCTS has been approved by the FCC, the CableLabs consortium of cable providers, and is under consideration by the Japanese ARIB standards body.

Slashdot: New DRM Scheme To Make Current DVD Players Obsolete

From the Philips site on the tech:

Why do you need VCPS?

On 4 November 2003, the United States FCC published its decision on the Broadcast Flag, meaning that after 1 July 2005, digital video recorders in the United States will have to encrypt recorded TV broadcasts that carry the flag. In Japan, a similar regulation already requires the encrypted recording of digital TV broadcast signals.

The implementation of VCPS in DVD+R/+RW equipment and discs is not mandatory, but equipment and discs without VCPS capability will be unable to record or playback TV broadcast in the USA that is protected with the Broadcast Flag.

How do you add VCPS capability to your product?

Adding VCPS capability to DVD+R/+RW equipment and discs is straightforward. Manufacturers of blank DVD+R and DVD+RW media simply need to place VCPS-related information in the ADIP (Address-in-Pregroove) of their discs, which can be done without investing in new manufacturing equipment and without increasing manufacturing cost. Manufacturers of optical drives can add VCPS capability in firmware. Manufacturers of DVD+RW recorders and DVD players need to add an implementation of the publicly available AES cipher in their MPEG decoder ICs.

See this Slashdot thread: The market will decide …

The FCC’s Role: An Opinion

An Obscene Waste of Energy

So is getting rid of the FCC a good idea?

It may not be as far-fetched (read: fringe) as it sounds. Because the FCC has become so politicized and beholden to big business, it has ceased to be protector of the airwaves, which are supposed to belong to the citizens of this country (but most believe they belong to big business).

[…] In the end, it might be necessary for a government entity to oversee the nation’s communications. Who else could divvy up the broadcast spectrum so corporate and public interests are served? You could make that argument, though as I see it you could save the $300 million budgeted for the agency and put it to far better use — like rebuilding schools or providing better equipment to soldiers in Iraq.

But I’m certain of one thing: There is simply no reason for the FCC to regulate broadcast content. By doing so, it is acting as a censor board.

The Favored Platform For Distribution?

Anti-Piracy Patents for Cell Phones Pooled [pdf]

MPEG LA, which already offers all essential patents for the international digital video compression standard known as MPEG-2, said five companies had pooled essential anti-piracy patents for a standard set by the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), an organization of handset makers and mobile telecoms operators.

[…] The pooling of the anti-piracy and content control technology will make it easier for handset makers and mobile operators to start using the technology, because they can buy the rights to all essential patents in one place, MPEG LA said.

“They will know what the price is, so there is no uncertainty when they make their business plans,” said MPEG LA’s Vice President for Licensing, Larry Horn.

The Register: Phone biz agrees on $1 DRM levy

The BSA Puts Their Oar In

ISP’s Liability for File Sharers at Issue [pdf]

Several of the world’s largest high-tech corporations plan to urge Congress today to force Internet service providers to crack down more aggressively on their users who swap copyrighted software, music or video files online.

[…] Although members of the Business Software Alliance, including Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines Corp., Intel Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc., have not suffered losses from illegal file sharing as great as the entertainment industry’s, they believe the problem will only worsen as technology improves and more people get high-speed Internet access.

[…] The campaign to modify the law is part of a broader effort by the BSA to address a variety of copyright and patent issues. In a report to be released today, the group outlines its concerns but offers no specifics on how the 1998 law should be changed. But in an interview, Chizen and BSA Executive Director Robert Holleyman said Internet service providers should no longer enjoy blanket immunity from liability for piracy by users.

Later: Slashdot discussion – Software Firms Lobby for Stronger Copyright Laws

Who Can Argue?

Given what I think of them, how can anyone disagree? Here’s where market innovation can help: Breaking Free of Cable’s Stranglehold

Cable television companies are not among the exhibitors here at the Consumer Electronics Show. But their influence is everywhere, as equipment makers seek to work with – or bypass – the cable industry’s bottleneck control over the way most Americans watch TV.

All the approaches address the central fact that consumers of most current versions of digital cable service – the kind with the most channels and advanced features – must now use a set-top box provided by the cable system, usually for a monthly rental fee.

Those cable company boxes make it hard for most of the devices that are on center stage here, like flashy flat-screen televisions or advanced video recorders, to truly control the signals they are receiving. Moreover, the cable companies are increasingly muscling in on the electronics makers’ business by enhancing their set-top boxes with digital video recording abilities and other new features.

Somebody Had A Bad Day

copyleft commie flag

Slashdot’s Gates Nose-Dives at CES points to a CNet interview with Bill Gates that makes some gross mischaracterizations of this debate: Gates taking a seat in your den

In recent years, there’s been a lot of people clamoring to reform and restrict intellectual-property rights. It started out with just a few people, but now there are a bunch of advocates saying, “We’ve got to look at patents, we’ve got to look at copyrights.” What’s driving this, and do you think intellectual-property laws need to be reformed?

No, I’d say that of the world’s economies, there’s more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don’t think that those incentives should exist.

BoingBoing commentary: Bill Gates: Free Culture advocates = Commies – I don’t know if “Creative Commies” is a workable long-term name, but the graphic is good for a hoot — see, for example, this vital Slashdot comment – Run screaming from this!!!

Later: Larry Lessig’s succint posting – what a total (intellectual) disappointment this man is

Why “a bad day?” – see Microsoft’s Technical Glitches at CES Explained; a video link – not a very family friendly site but, hey, this is the internet!

Mobility, Electricity, Culture

Power Users, Ready for a Refill

Every day, millions of people are finding themselves scurrying about in search of wells of electricity they can tap so their battery-powered mobile devices can remain mobile. Dependence is growing on laptops, cellular telephones, digital music players, digital cameras, camcorders, personal organizers, portable DVD players and the latest hand-held gaming devices – most of which operate on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries – and finding available electrical outlets away from home and office has become more urgent.

Starbucks and other establishments catering to wired customers appear to do little to discourage or regulate customers who plug in, either to work on AC power or charge up. In large part, the power seekers seem to negotiate their needs among themselves with cooperative grace, following a series of unspoken rules.

Chief among them, some say, is never to use more than half of the sockets in a wall outlet. If an outlet provides four sockets, electrical etiquette dictates that you can plug in, say, your laptop and your cellphone, but not the iPod, too.

Those who disregard this courtesy may find themselves the targets of grumblings and harsh stares.

[…] “It is almost as if people see the outlets as public property,” said Mr. Lebrun, the Columbia graduate student, who lives in Brooklyn. On Columbia’s campus, students freely plug in laptops and cellphones wherever they are, he said, even in classrooms during lectures.

“It is part of the culture,” said Mr. Lebrun, 27, who finds it necessary to charge his cellphone in the classroom because its battery can manage little more than three hours of talk time.

OT: Wow!

CNN Will Cancel ‘Crossfire’ and Cut Ties to Commentator

[CNN President Jonathan] Klein said he wanted to move CNN away from what he called “head-butting debate shows,” which have become the staple of much of all-news television in the prime-time hours, especially at the top-rated Fox News Channel.

“CNN is a different animal,” Mr. Klein said. “We report the news. Fox talks about the news. They’re very good at what they do and we’re very good at what we do.”

Mr. Klein specifically cited the criticism that the comedian Jon Stewart leveled at “Crossfire” when he was a guest on the program during the presidential campaign. Mr. Stewart said that ranting partisan political shows on cable were “hurting America.”

Mr. Klein said last night, “I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart’s overall premise.” He said he believed that especially after the terror attacks on 9/11, viewers are interested in information, not opinion.

See OT: The Times Gets Around To Jon Stewart

Later: The NYTimes’ editorial – Exit, Snarling

Much later: Michael Kinsley on the show’s demise: ‘Crossfire,’ R.I.P [pdf]