August 7, 2006

Trying Out DVD Downloading Services [8:52 pm]

How to download a DVD

Right now, though, this stuff works better in theory than in practice. The CinemaNow service is easy enough to use. Simply browse through the film listings and pick one you like. You also have to install a small application that monitors the download and automatically converts the Windows Media Video file into the DVD format and burns it onto disc.

That’s where the problems arise. The original download, which remains playable from your hard drive, looks at least as good as a store-bought DVD. But converting it from Windows Media Video to the MPEG-2 format for burning purposes compromises the quality—it’s like making a photocopy of a photocopy. [...]

[...] Apple and Netflix, two companies with a lot more clout than EZTakes, are also gunning for download services. Perhaps they can muscle the studios into cutting reasonable deals. What we really need is a system that provides the high resolution that current technology already makes possible, plus a reasonable copy-protection system that allows us to watch the movies on any video devices we own—TVs, laptops, iPods, phones, and game consoles. Download-and-burn DVDs will not be the ultimate solution for distributing video to consumers. But it’s at least one small step closer to video nirvana.

Related: The myth of the living-room PC (see also What Happened to Media PCs?)

Tech pundits say Intel botched their TV debut by pushing technology that wasn’t ready. Still, if the living-room PC is such a great idea, why hasn’t the Viiv void been filled with better alternatives?

My theory is that PC-TV hybrid products like Viiv aim for a sweet spot that doesn’t exist. Very savvy consumers will hack together these setups themselves. The less savvy will just keep their TVs and computers separate. And the folks in the middle? If they’re around, nobody’s found them yet.

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S.3818 Submitted [4:47 pm]

And I missed it: Senators offer sweeping patent system changes

Called the Patent Reform Act of 2006, the measure followed two years of hearings, meetings and debate, the senators said. It bears a number of similarities to a bill offered last summer by Texas Republican Lamar Smith in the House of Representatives.

[...] The Professional Inventors Alliance, a group representing independent American inventors, blasted the proposal, saying it amounts to a “wish list” for “antipatent, washed-up tech companies” and would water down protections for individual inventors.

[...] If the responses to its House counterpart are any indicator, the Senate bill could ruffle feathers because of competing priorities among the technology, drug, biotechnology and other patent-heavy industries. Both Hatch and Leahy emphasized that the bill represents just a first effort.

“I am sure that further refinements will be made to this bill during the legislative process,” Hatch said, “so I would encourage those who are either pleased or displeased by any of the aspects of the bill to continue working with us to resolve any outstanding issues.”

Sounds like another replay of the Jessica Litman story about how IP laws get made

S3818 summary page on Thomas is not yet available….

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An LATimes Look At Entertaining The Next Generation [7:32 am]

The first in a series of articles that will look at entertainment and technology — and what that means for the rising generation of entertainment consumers: Underwhelmed by It All - pdf

A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, the first in a series of annual entertainment surveys, finds that a large majority of the 12- to 24-year-olds surveyed are bored with their entertainment choices some or most of the time, and a substantial minority think that even in a kajillion-channel universe, they don’t have nearly enough options. “I feel bored like all the time, ’cause there is like nothing to do,” said Shannon Carlson, 13, of Warren, Ohio, a respondent who has an array of gadgets, equipment and entertainment options at her disposal but can’t ward off ennui.

They do seem to be passionate about their electronic devices, though, especially their computers, which ranked even above cellphones when respondents were offered a “desert island” choice of one item. Still, the poll suggests that the revolution in entertainment, media and technology for which many in Hollywood are already developing strategies has not yet taken hold.

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See Anything Familiar? [7:18 am]

Hong Kong Surveillance Law Passes

Pro-Beijing lawmakers approved legislation here today giving broad authority to the police to conduct covert surveillance, including wiretapping phones, bugging homes and offices and monitoring e-mail.

The bill passed the 60-member Legislative Council on a vote of 32 to 0 soon after pro-democracy lawmakers walked out of the chamber in protest early this morning. The Democratic Party and its allies had tried to introduce nearly 200 amendments to the bill through four days of marathon debates, but all were defeated or ruled out of order.

[...] The new law sharply limits the ability of defense lawyers to ask such questions during trials, a provision that was opposed by the Hong Kong Bar Association.

[...] The bill was particularly controversial because it does not prohibit covert surveillance of journalists and because it imposes only a few restrictions on covert surveillance of lawyers. Lawyers are subject to surveillance, but while they are in their homes and offices they can only be monitored if they are personally suspected of committing serious crimes or posing a threat to public security.

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