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March 20, 2005

BBC’s Bill Thompson on DRM [6:54 pm]

What price for ‘trusted PC security’?

Because the trusted computing base is also used to make digital rights management (DRM) systems more secure, this will give content providers a lot more control over what we can do with music, movies and books that we have bought from them.

We have seen recently how allowing digital rights management services into our lives can lead to unwelcome consequences.

[...] One wonders whether hardware-based DRM will work for those who believe that locking-down digital content is a bad idea, and that the flexibility of copyright law is something that should be embraced and not taken away.

It will not work because of the fundamental flaw at the heart of the system: in order for the purchaser to view the content it has to be unlocked.

Once it is unlocked then someone, somewhere, will figure out a way to make a copy of the unlocked version.

And once an unlocked version leaks onto the network it will be uncontrollable.

The efforts going into DRM would be much better spent building efficient distribution services, finding business models that are based on trusting your customers, and offering high quality downloads at fair prices.

Related: CNet’s Hardware security sneaks into PCs

Slashdot’s BBC on DRM and Trusted Computing

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A Look At The FCC’s Scarcity Policy [5:15 pm]

From this page, FCC, Media Bureau Staff Research Papers Affecting Media Policy and Regulation, you can get to John Berresford’s Scarcity Rationale for Regulating Traditional Broadcasting: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed which has garnered a certain amount of comment (CoCo, Freedom to Tinker, The Technology Liberation Front, Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog)

Abstract

This paper concludes that the Scarcity Rationale for regulating traditional broadcasting is no longer valid. The Scarcity Rationale is based on fundamental misunderstandings of physics and economics, efficient resource allocation, recent field measurements, and technology. It is outmoded in today’s media marketplace. Perhaps in recognition of the Rationale’s flaws, many variations of it have been attempted, but none fares much better under sensible, factual analysis.

Jumping off from National Broadcasting Co,. Inc., et al. v. United States et al.; 319 U.S. 190 (1943) and Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC; 395 U.S. 367 (1969)

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Having the Tools of the Trade [11:24 am]

Home Sweet Studio

Mr. Pierce is part of a quiet revolution in music-making: the move from professional studios to home recording. Making an album used to mean booking a fixed amount of very expensive time in a well-equipped but unfamiliar room; now, it can be a matter of rolling out of bed and pressing a button. Whether it’s Mice Parade’s indie-rock, Aesop Rock’s underground hip-hop, the twilit ballads of Keren Ann, the mercurial California rock of the Eels or sweeping Top 40 contenders from Moby, more and more music is emerging not from acoustically perfect state-of-the-art studios, but from setups tucked into bedrooms and basements or simply programmed onto a laptop.

The growth of home recording is a convergence of technology, thrift and shifting musical tastes that has been building for decades. [...]

[...] Studios still excel at recording ensembles and making them sound lifelike (or better). Songs with the grandeur of Phil Spector productions or 1960’s Motown hits, which had a full studio band chiming away, are unlikely to come out of home studios. And musicians working alone, or mostly alone, can’t count on a group’s creative friction - or an engineer’s involuntary smirk - to sharpen their ideas. But for music that can be built by overdubbing - like the intricate patterns of guitars and drums that Mr. Pierce spins as Mice Parade, or the sampled and looped riffs of hip-hop, or the layers of synthesizers within Moby’s songs - a home studio is just the thing.

As home studios gain, actual studios suffer. “They’re dropping like flies,” Mark Oliver Everett of Eels said mournfully. [...]

[...] For musicians who record at home, the studio becomes a sanctuary: part sandbox, part confessional. “One of the greatest luxuries is having a permanent small studio space that’s always waiting for me,” Moby said. “It’s secure when I leave, and it sits there waiting patiently for me when I get home. It’s the perfect companion.”

And there’s a certain symmetry in the fact that the music that emerges from home recording is increasingly heard by one person at a time, between the headphones of portable music players like the iPod. The sounds musicians have made alone at home end up in an equally private sphere. “It’s not about being lonely,” Keren Ann said about recording at home. “It’s about being apart.”

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Technological Alienation [11:18 am]

Bad Connections

By the 19th century, it was the machines of the Industrial Revolution — the power loom, the motor, the turbine — that prompted concern about the effects of technology on the person. Karl Marx argued that factory work alienated the worker from what he was toiling to produce, transforming him into ”a cripple, a monster.” Men were forced to become more like machines: efficient, tireless and soulless.

Today’s personal technologies, particularly the cellphone and the digital video recorder, have not provoked similar worries. They are marvels of individual choice, convenience and innovation; they represent the democratization of the power of the machine. Our technologies are more intuitive, more facile and more responsive than ever before. In a rebuke to Marx, we have not become the alienated slaves of the machine; we have made the machines more like us and in the process toppled decades of criticism about the dangerous and potentially enervating effects of our technologies.

Or have we? [...]

[...] As a society, we need to approach our personal technologies with a greater awareness of how the pursuit of personal convenience can contribute to collective ills. When it comes to abortion or Social Security, we avidly debate the claims of individual freedom against other goods. Why shouldn’t we do the same with our private technologies? In the end, it does matter if we watch six more hours of television every week, and it does affect our broader quality of life if hollering into our cellphones makes our daily commute a living hell for our fellow citizens on the bus or a danger to other drivers on the road. Rather than turning on, tuning in and dropping out, we might perhaps do better, individually and socially, to occasionally simply turn our machines off.

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Media Competition [10:01 am]

Hit by iPod and Satellite, Radio Tries New Tune: Play More Songs [pdf]

After years of tight playlists and narrow music formats, KCJK in Kansas City, Mo., is trying to prove that it can give listeners the same thing an iPod does: an eclectic selection of music.

Previously, like most stations, 105.1 let computer scheduling programs pick the songs from a library of 300-400 titles, with the same 30-40 songs playing most of the time. Now the station is going against the grain of the past two decades in radio, more than tripling the number of song titles played on any given day. With more than 1,200 songs on the playlist, most songs get played only once every few days, rather than several times a day. Program director Mike O’Reilly and his assistants handpick the music and the order in which they are played.

“It’s all about train wrecks,” Mr. O’Reilly says, using radio terminology for two unlikely songs played back-to-back. “If you hear MC Hammer go into the Steve Miller Band, I’ve done my job.” Indeed, the station boasts that it might play a grunge rock anthem by Nirvana alongside a disco hit by K.C. and the Sunshine Band — the kind of serendipitous combination offered by an iPod.

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