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Content Faction v. Tech Faction 235

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
An Anonymous reader writes: "This essay describes the current battle between two former allies in the DMCA fight - The Content Faction (Universal, MPAA, etc.) v The Tech Faction (IBM, Microsoft, etc.). It gives a great overview of what the battle is, who is taking what position, what's at stake - and how consumers are going to be taking it in the *** no matter who wins, it's just a matter of how rough it will be. "
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Content Faction v. Tech Faction

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  • Content Faction? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vjmurphy (190266) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:46PM (#2737753) Homepage

    Huh? The content feaction would be the artists who actually create the stuff. These companies are just the Distribution Faction.
    • damn right (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MrFredBloggs (529276)
      Everyone bitches about how the record companies are slow to adapt new tech and use it for their own ends...where are the musicians using this stuff? Surely if they are so unhappy about distribution methods, they should get off their butts and do something about it?
      • Re:damn right (Score:3, Informative)

        by TTop (160446)
        Yesterday we saw that many artists are upset about how they're being treated by the content distribution companies [slashdot.org]. Well, except some of them [metallica.com].
      • Re:damn right (Score:2, Insightful)

        by poot_rootbeer (188613)
        The musicians you've heard of are forbidden from using this 'new tech stuff' by their contracts with their record companies.

        The musicians you haven't heard of ARE using this new tech stuff. Go out and find them and support them.
      • They are. At least the smart ones are. Ani Difranco [righteousbabe.com] in particular. As well as being a very good songwriter she runs her own label.
        Rather than getting the small fraction of the price of a CD that most artists get she is getting a good share.
        It's a lot more than most other whinging artists get. Instead of whining ( ala Courtney Love ) she's gotten her act together and promoted herself through relentless touring and the quality of her music.
        Ani Difranco is the future of music. EMI and all the rest are bankruptcies waiting to happen.
    • That would make Nike a distribution and branding company, since the shoes are actually made by small independent contractors being paid poverty wages in Indonesia.
      • by cperciva (102828)
        That would make Nike a distribution and branding company

        Yes, it would. Sorry, what was your point again?
        • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:15PM (#2737877) Homepage
          My point is that in economic and legal terms, to all useful extent and purposes, the recording industry owns that content. The recording artists are just factory workers, independent contractors whose labor has been paid for, and the goods handed over to their bosses. Granted, they get royalties and so forth, but the dispensation of their content is seldom under their control.
          • To make a point of the obvious, making shoes isn't exactly art. These people didn't sign up for Nike because they figured that that was the best way to get their wonderful shoes to the world.
            It's not as simple as "Designer, Distributor"...in that case it's more like "Designer , Manufacturor, Distributor", and we all know where the factory workors sit.
            While the law may treat artists like slave labourers, they're still the Designers, and should have control over where every one of their designs goes.
            • by Lemmy Caution (8378)
              While the law may treat artists like slave labourers, they're still the Designers, and should have control over where every one of their designs goes.

              Only until they sign a contract that says otherwise - and enough of them do, that the recording industry can call itself the content faction. Musicians aren't signing those contracts so that they can Share Their Music With The World, it's so that they can bring in the benjamins, just like everyone else. If they wanted to just share the music, they'd do just that.

              There is a habit to attribute some sort of inherent nobility to certain types of artistic production, but that habit isn't particularly justified.

            • Ah, the eternal debate between craft and art...

              To counter your point, singing a song that someone else wrote while someone else performs the accompaniment and someone else alters your voice isn't art either.
              • Fair enough - but it tends to be the exception rather than the rule in the recording industry. And if it's your own arrangement then there's at least some artistic effort going into it. The point is that anyone can make a shoe according to specifications, only *one* person could ever have written, say, American Pie (the song, that is) in the way that we all know and love...

                And only one person could have written it in the fantastically horrible way that we all know and hate.
                • by Zordak (123132)
                  Fair enough - but it tends to be the exception rather than the rule in the recording industry.

                  That's crap. How many big music "artists" write their own music, or even their own arrangements? In some of the genres with a niche appeal, the performers are the artists (for example, most hard rock/alternative bands write their own stuff), but the big money makers are the mainstream pop titles that are cranked out like so many shoes, and have about as much artistic value. This is your pop and country (which no longer sounds like real country music -- it's just slightly more twangy pop). Almost none of them write their own material. The tunes are manufactured to be non-descript because it makes it more broadly palatable, and they hardly bother re-arranging the words anymore. The people performing it are images put together by their respective labels to give a familiar face to the latest garbage. I am not even a songwriter, and I find it ludicrous that people like Brittney Spears and Faith Hill are referred to as "artists." They're salesmen, and what they sell is mediocre at best. That's not to say that there are no artists in the music industry. I think that there are a lot of artists with record contracts that have something to say, and they do write and perform their own stuff. But to call them the rule is like claiming that trading Inde music on Napster was the rule.

      • Nike does the R&D and engineering of the shoes.

        Universal, Sony, and Virgin do not write and perform the songs (although they DO finance the engineering).

        However. It's been shown that most recording artists could probably do an acceptable job of studio engineering.
        That would be equivalent to the 8 year old indonesian kids designing shoes.
    • I agree what "distribution" is a more appropriate term, since large media companies add absolutely no value to the artist's works besides marketing and disseminating it. Whatever you call it, it is an obsolete industry.

      What this faction is doing is following their preservation instincts. Executives want to keep their jobs and will try ALL avenues to do so. It seems to me that the biggest efforts put into mandated DRM benefit neither the actual content creator nor the consumer--the consumer suffers for not being allowed to take full advantage of technology, and the content creator (artist) cannot fully and freely distribute their works.

      The alternate scenario to the one in the article would be that what happened to the typewriter industry is what will happen to the big media companies. With the advent of computers, the market for typewriters collapsed. Today, a relative handful of typewriters are made compared with 20 years ago--many companies went under and jobs were lost, but the additional benefits broght by the computer far exceeded the loss of the typewriter industry. THAT is what I hope happens with big media companies. They have become irrelevant because of technological progress. The government didn't legislate laser printers for PCs out of existence in order to protect typewriter companies and the thought of doing so would be considered ridiculous, so whay should the members of the MPAA be afforded such protection? The world didn't end because 90% of typewriter makers disappeared, and it wont if/when big media distributers do. In the LONG term, the vacuum will be filled with something better that works WITH and not against technology (so far history had always shown that to be the case if things are allowed to proceed naturally).
      • besides marketing

        you pitch this like it's trvial

        A couple of years ago I worked for a dance music record label in the UK, We'd had minor chart success and were selling about 1000 records per main release.

        But how on earth do you get your record in the many shops scattered around the uk?

        There were 1200 dance music singles in our genre released EVERY week!!

        Making the music is the easy part.

        A band can make multiple tracks per week (our outfit was making probably 10 releaseable tracks per week).

        A startup music crew in the digital age NEEDS good marketing. We had our music videos on MTV even but still little market penetration when it came to singles sales.

        So there we are, we can put maybe 500 tracks a year on our web site on mp3 but how on earth are we going to make money from that? Subscription?

        But that means e-commerce infastructure and business people and marketing so we're back at square one.

        .
  • by reaper20 (23396) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:48PM (#2737766) Homepage
    "If you think about it, the content industry does not want people to have computers; they're too powerful, too flexible, and too extensible. They want people to have Internet Entertainment Platforms: televisions, VCRs, game consoles, etc."

    I don't really know who to cheer for. The content guys are obviously stupid, but MS's tactics and IBMs tendency to forget what one hand is doing means Linux guys get stuck right in the middle. We can access content through 'uncoventional means', without the advertising channels and other marketing gizmos.

    You have IBM supporting linux on one hand, and its hard drive people pulling that digital management stuff for IDE drives.

    We need to tread lightly before we jump to conclusions...
    • The content guys are obviously stupid, but MS's tactics...

      ...

      You have IBM supporting linux on one hand, and its hard drive people pulling that digital management stuff for IDE drives.

      Thought for the day:

      If you think Microsoft is bad for assailing Linux, with all it's distros, open source and accessibility, imagine how much worse things would be if they supported it and pushed their closed "Shared Source" and whoring to the content industry in their own brand of Microsoft Linux.

      The horror! The horror!

      • Microsoft Linux would be a flop. The sort of people who would use Linux wouldn't buy MS Linux, People wouldn't want to leave Windows, and any way, MS Linux ould probably have the same sort of idiotic bugs that have plagued Microsoft products for years. Such as:

        You can either log in, or press cancel to log in as root automatically...

    • Oddly enough, we have Bill Gates to thank for slowing down the march to "Entertainment Platforms". Oracle, Sun, etc. had been pushing thin clients for a long while, but Gates was making his money from Operating Systems which ran on full-featured PC's. So Microsoft was pushing the complete PC over dumb devices.

      Now with .Net, that incentive is no longer there, so I think the trend will accelerate.
    • "I don't really know who to cheer for..."

      Save your cheering for when there are actually two sides that are at odds with each other. This is really just a case of two extremely large entities getting together and discussing how they're going to screw the rest of us in order to maximize their profits (I guess they think that by calling it "collateral damage" we'll swallow it easier).

      To suggest that these factions are at odds is kinda funny. Why is the government basically giving up on their prosecution of Microsoft? Well, in large part due to the opinion (and campaign contributions) of the "Content Faction". The "Content Faction" may want to see DRM mandate laws in place, but they'll be happy to settle for a Microsoft DRM'd OS that is on 99% of all desktops.

      So save your cheering for when the real struggle starts. Once they figure out how they want to turn your computer into a DVD player that allows you limited email/web privileges, there's going to be a huge fight to get it implemented.
  • So let's see they ram this HDTV stuff down our collective throats and now they are complaining about it?

    I don't think it's ever going to be possible to prevent copying anyways- that's not even legal under fair use! (as I understand it)
    • Re:So let's see... (Score:5, Informative)

      by wheel (204735) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:03PM (#2737838)
      I don't think it's ever going to be possible to prevent copying anyways- that's not even legal under fair use! (as I understand it)

      At the risk of being moderated redundant, fair use gives you the right to make a copy under certain circumstances. It does not mean that content distributors have to provide the means to allow you to do it. In fact, they can quite legally make it technically challenging for you to do so.

      • In fact, they can quite legally make it technically challenging for you to do so.

        Which, by way of the DMCA, conveniently removes your right to make fair use copies.

        If I'm going to shell out $20-30 for a DVD, I'm going to God-damned well fight for my right to make backup copies so that my 19 month old daughter can't destroy my investment.

        If the content industry wants to offer me every movie I want to see ON DEMAND and for a price I think is reasonable, then maybe we can talk. But I warn them, I pay $1 at the local video store for titles like "Zentropa" and "Temptation of a Monk" and "Leolo". In other words, compelling content that our beloved content industry is generally unwilling or unable to provide, at a price I think is reasonable. And did I mention On Demand? Not that bullshit pay-per-view-you'll-watch-it-when-we-tell-you crap. I want it to start when I want, stop when I want, pause, rewind, and fast-forward on my command. In other words, I want the rights I have right now, both theoretical and actual.

        I do have one additional requirement, which is that my high quality open source code remain free from the bloat of mandated "content protection".

        Those are my requirements, and probably the requirements of most of the people here, and, I would guess, the requirements of the general population if they actually knew what was going on. If the content industry can get what they want and still meet my requirements, great. Otherwise, they can enable me or somebody I'll support to take the DMCA and SSSCA all the way to the Supreme Court, again and again, until the rights of the people are restored.

      • If they outlaw your ability to even attempt circumvent the challenging preventative measures (Which is what DMCA and SSSCA are all about)- then you effectively don't have fair use rights even though the law allows you them.
  • by mrroot (543673) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:55PM (#2737808)
    Just because a technology enables you to break the law should not make the technology itself illegal. That is what we're headed for though.

    Maybe someday we'll see a constitutional amendment that gives people the right to own technology. Just like we have the right to bear arms, which may have been equally important to people back in the 1700s.

    Just as guns can be used to commit crime, so can technology, but that is more the fault of the perpetrators than the technology itself.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Shovels should be outlawed, because they can be used to commit horrific bloodshed. Yet, if they were outlawed, only outlaws would own shovels. Those damn gardners are communists anyways, they shouldn't be growing their own food when the capitalists do it safely and for the good of the country.
    • Interesting point...

      Guns allowed the 1700s US populace to feed themselves, protect their property, and provide for the common defense. Unrestricted general purpose information processing devices have interesting parallels.
    • We can wish. Sadly, with the current Congress, it's more likely we'd sooner see an amendment passed to revoke the First Amendment. Not necessarily ratified by the states, mind, but it would have an easy ride getting most of the Congressional votes it'd need to be sent to the states for ratification.
  • by 3seas (184403) on Friday December 21, 2001 @12:57PM (#2737818) Journal
    "Because computers are potentially very efficient and capable copying machines, and because the Internet is potentially a very efficient and capable distribution mechanism, even in the hands of ordinary individuals, the Content Faction has set out to restructure the entire digital world we have today. They want to rearchitect not just the Internet, but every computer and digital tool on or off the Net that might be used to make unauthorized copies."

    Slashdot article on W3C TAG [slashdot.org]

    " In an effort to build shared understanding of Web Architecture principles, W3C has chartered and assembled a Technical Architecture Group - the TAG for short. The TAG will document cross-technology Web architecture principles, and resolve architectural issues. "
  • which is worse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by archen (447353) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:00PM (#2737829)
    In all honesty I just skimmed the article because I didn't find it all that interesting. I don't really see so much of a bad point of IBM and company winning this fight, compared to the nightmare described if the Content faction wins - basically making it all but illegal to have a general purpose computer.

    civil offense for anyone who developed (for example) a new computer that did not include a federally approved security standard preventing the unlicensed copying of copyrighted works

    Now THIS really scares me. That is just a skip away from "having any copyrighted material on your computer will result in prison time". Movies first, then Music (or perhaps at the same time). Then we move on to images. Have a wallpaper of some copyrighted picture? Yeah, that's illegal. At some point we have to draw the line. I don't agree with copying movies, but that could be because I hate watching movies on a computer anyway. I'd much rather sit on my cushy couch and watch a movie myself. Go rent a high quality DVD, or search the internet, find a link that works, and wait for hours downloading it - hmm... I'll just spend a few bucks. And if I liked it I'd probably buy it anyway. I really wonder if movie downloading is as wide spread as the movie industry claims.
    • Re:which is worse (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Buran (150348) on Friday December 21, 2001 @02:11PM (#2738143)

      "Have a wallpaper of some copyrighted picture? Yeah, that's illegal."
      Is it? Not really... unless you bought it from, say, a "bundleware" CD of stuff that is supposed to be free (many freeware programs explicitly say in their readmes that this is not allowed) or it's an illegally resold commercial item (stolen goods?)

      Fair use is an interesting thing. Browsing the machine that hosts my web site (I'm one of a number of virtual hosts on it) I came across this page [critter.net] once:

      Q: I love that drawing of yours, may I use it as the desktop wallpaper on my personal computer at home?

      A: Sure you can. You're enjoying it personally, after all. This doesn't mean you can use if for your wallpaper on a webpage though! Private viewing of my work, such as on a PC desktop, is just fine.

      In other words, this is fair use. The image may be copyrighted, but since you are not reselling it and are viewing it "in your own home" as those FBI warnings on home movies put it, there's no real harm. The images are provided for that purpose, after all -- what's the difference between dropping it on your desktop and floating windows over it and just leaving it in your browser? This is an example of what is intended by the fair use copyright law. A real shame that more content providers (in this case an artist) don't "get it" like this one does.

      Yeah, I have a fair amount of copyrighted images on my computer. No, I don't redistribute them. Most of them are there as results of discussions ("this is what that looks like, so you know what I'm talking about"). That falls under "academic" use, which is largely what the recent arguments of fair use are about (Prof. Felten is a prime example).

      I'd be a lot worse off if my own computer denied me permission to do that. The worst part of all this isn't the lost profits for one of these two camps.

      It is going to be when academic freedoms, long held almost sacred here in the US, start to die. Compared to that threat, which has huge potential for long-term damage, the short-term worries about movies and music are a joke.

      But that's typical of the MPAA/RIAA lately. Make money now and screw over the future. I bet the space station engineers at NASA and Boeing would be nodding their heads right now if they were reading this ...

      • Neither one of you's wrong, because you're talking about different things. Yes, copying an image onto your desktop from a website is currently considered fair use, but the first post was saying fair use is being eroded to the point that this will become illegal.

  • As has been said so many times before, all of these stupid ownership and copyright battles can be over and done in a matter of a few months, if consumers would just WISE UP to what it is they're buying, and refuse to purchase anything with unreasonable strings attached. As long as consumers LET them call the shots, they WILL. Without the money, though, they're nothing.

    It's time to stop whining, and start doing (like I have). Stop buying the stuff. SIMPLE.
    • Read the damn article.

      The issue discussed is NOT content -- it has nothing to do with whether you're boycotting copy-protected CDs, or Disney movies, or whatever. Do you like building your own machine from parts scrounged via PriceWatch? Do you like building your own bleeding edge Linux kernel and optimizing the driver for your video card? Well the article is about the distinct possibility that corporate interests will negotiate a legal solution that directly implies that writing your own software or building your own hardware is ILLEGAL.
    • Explain to me why 99.999 percent of the consumers out there should give a rip and "wise up." What unreasonable strings are being attached to them? Let's look at DVDs for instance.
      • Region encoding? Big whoop. For the vast majority of people out there this is a non-issue. They aren't buying foreign films from France. People are buying stuff like Cat and Dogs or Planet of the Apes.
      • Can't play on alternative OSes. Again. The market inconveinenced is so small it effectively has no voice.
      • Can't copy. Most people don't do that anyway. If Joe Average doesn't feel the need to backup his financial data on his PC then why backup his video library? For the public in general this too is a non-issue.

      Now let's look at what they get by using DVDs.
      • Better video and sound quality.
      • More features. Like different aspects. Abilty to add in deleted scenes. Different languages. Games. The list goes on and on.

      So from the consumer's perspective, there aren't any strings attached. Just a better product. And just as it is extremely hard to convince the Copyright Office and the Courts to take into consideration hypothetical pitfalls and insignificant markets it is even harder to explain these issues to a consumer. Been there, done that.

      So no, it isn't "simple." I refuse to buy those products just like you but after listening to my co-workers I realize they could give a rip about any of these issues. Even the one who got burned by the region encoding on a DVD he bought from the UK. Was he disappointed? Yes. Would he stop purchasing DVDs? Hell no.

      The problem with consumers "calling the shots" in this battle is one of inertia and unless Big Media does something completely whacked like suddenly going straight to everything is copy controlled pay-per-view it will only be "radicals" who fight this on the consumer front.

  • compelling content? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TTop (160446) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:06PM (#2737850)
    article says:
    What's been missing from the debate so far has been the users themselves. It seems safe to say that most computer and Internet users like to have choices -- choices both of the content they consume and of the kinds of tools they should get to use. Still, maybe citizens would say they're willing to give up "general-purpose" computers and willing to use, instead, systems designed to prevent them from engaging in willy-nilly copying, if that is the price you have to pay for compelling music and movies and television over the Internet.

    I guess I don't hear people clamoring for "compelling music and movies and television" over the Internet. I already have devices that do all three of those things just fine -- what's going to compell me to buy new devices to do these same things? I don't really want to sit in front of my computer to watch movies or television anyway, and I don't see the digital televisions coming into the _really_ affordable range (sub $1k) anyway.

    I'd be happy to keep it that way as long as nobody tries to mandate how my computer treats bits! Why would I want to give up my existing devices for new content-controlled, digital rights managed devices? Is it somehow going to be "better" for me? What are the benefits to the consumer? It seems like (almost?) all the benefits are for the content companies, not me! Why would somebody pay money for this?
    • by DJerman (12424) <djerman@pobox.com> on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:25PM (#2737919)
      Why would somebody pay money for this?

      Because LOTR: Return of the King may not play in your old DVD player. All they have to do is change the coding. It's not for delivering stuff over the internet -- it's for keeping you from re-watching your old movies forever, rather than buying new ones, and to keep you from (God forbid) creating your own stuff and posting it for others to see. What it's really for is to raise a barrier so that artists can't show or sell their art without funneling through one of these big companies for distribution.

      If the Hollings bill passes, one day your computer will break, you'll look around, and there won't be any more to buy. You'll pay for this or live without computers (or toasters, if it passes in the form i read it). That's the evil - that you won't be able to get a general purpose computer or media player even if you don't want the compelling content. Because if it were general purpose it could be used to copy and display uncontrolled content.

      The point is that you're right -- this can't happen with out a law (and treaties) banning alternatives. And the law will happen if we're not careful. That's what's wrong here. Government protecting corporations against the people who elect the government.

  • by telbij (465356) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:11PM (#2737865)
    I find it somewhat scary that 'content companies' have willing allies in congress for this kind of oppressive legislation.

    To me it's a symptom of too much prosperity. Think about it, these 'content companies' are no more than _businessmen_ who profit from other people's work. They say it's their god-given right to buy something and then sell it repeatedly forever making billions of dollars. Yet they forget (and it would seem congress forgets) that money != value. Money is supposed to represent value so that people can trade goods. Throwing more middle-men into the equation doesn't increase value UNLESS they provide quality-assurance, shipping, or some other thing that the producer themselves doesn't want to do but is nevertheless necessary.

    Our quality of life is determined by how many goods and services get produced, not how much money is spent. Because the United States is so rich, we forget that the value of money comes from all our hard work. If we suddenly start devoting man-hours to stifling distribution of existing work and regulating everything so that every pasty-faced exec can get his stock options + bonus, where will the value be?

    In the information age it's clear that the richest society is the one with the most information. The way to achieve that goal is to spend our time researching and developing new information, not creating a world where trading information becomes harder.

    Note that this is not an "information wants to be free" argument. I think people who contribute to society should get paid, and get paid well. Currently there is not an efficient mechanism whereby information producers can get paid small amounts by the masses who enjoy their work. That's the 'content companies' niche.

    I grudgingly admit that there is a place for middle-men in this world, but we have to draw the line at legislation that just makes them fatter and reduces our cultural value.

    I think this problem, like so many in our society is caused by too much money in government. The founding fathers knew that religion had to be separated from government in order to be fair and just. Sadly we were too poor then for them to realize that the economy must also be kept strictly out of government. I say we have publicly funded elections with standard forums where candidates can express their views. Outlaw political advertising as subversive propaganda, and let Joe Schmoe run for office. It has been said that "You can't legislate morality." But that is a falacy because what else is legislation for?
  • The problem here is a question of balance. Yes copyright infringement is a generally bad thing. It pushes up prices for the rest of us and threatens the profitiability of the providers. Is stopping piracy the most important thing in the world ??
    heck no !
    The content industry has been screaming "The monsters are coming" for years yet entertainment is still masively profitable for them. The current law already shifts the balance too far in favour of the industry and away from consumers. If the quest to stop infrigement is going to interfere with everyday life then it's going too far.
    • Right on- this started the day VCRs came out, and now they have the term "perfect digital copy" to also bandy about. And the one guy who predicted that "Napster was the end of the music industry, in 5 years it'll just be a cottage industry"- can you lay the FUD on a little thicker next time?!

      I don't know what the "content faction" is really striving for here. Every year their revenues and profits go up, even in the Napster years. Forget music, I stopped listening to new music a decade ago. Movies I like, but if they keep pushing DVDs into stranger formats and making me jump through hoops just to watch a friggin rental, I might just drop that habit, too. Good job there, guys! Alienating the customer!

      The "tech faction" sounds like the less evil of the 2, but even they have their problems. DRM on hard drives- so much for backing up my data if I don't do it right. (Yeah, it's only supposed to be for copyrighted/watermarked material, but do you really trust that they won't screw up the DRM code somehow, resulting in my data refusing to be copied?)

      And why the hell does the government need to set any kind of standard in a private industry?! (Answer- lobbiests are paying them to) How about just trying to keep our asses from being blown up in big buildings?

      News from the future:
      "Sony has just trademarked the color blue. Here is the online account number that you may send your micropayments each time you see the color blue. Film at eleven, once we pay for the blue"

      indiv.rights > toilet
      indiv.$ > content.co

      /rant
  • by SysKoll (48967) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:16PM (#2737878)
    At stake in this war, says Eisner, who's the acknowledged leader of the Content Faction, is "the future of the American entertainment industry, the future of American consumers, the future of America's balance of international trade."

    We know the SSSCA does not make sense from a technical point of view. We know that it is akin to smothering basic freedoms. But of course, these considerations do not compute in the dollar terms that are the only things filtering through your average executive's thick ears (not to mention many Congresscritters).

    So let's humor Eisner's point of view and talk greenbacks here. Let's see: Unless my sources are totally wrong, Hollywood's revenue is about $9 to $13 billion a year. Among which a lot of derived products reimported in the USA (e.g. console games on movie licenses) which actually degrade the US trade balance. But let's retain the $13 billion/year for the sake of this discussion.

    On the other hand, the IT industry represents $600 billion at least. Heck, just adding up IBM, Microsoft, HP/Compaq and EDS gives you more than $300 billion/year.

    So let me get this straight, Mr. Eisner: in order to "protect" a $13B/year industry branch against a problem that isn't an effective threat yet, and might never be, you and other SSSCA supporters want to hamper and possibly seriously harm an industry that is at least 25 times bigger?

    And this is going to help the US economy?

    So even from a strickly financial point, SSSCA does not make any sense. Eisner is a fraud. He is athreat to the IT industry, which produced far more jobs, wealth and well-being than any other industry since WWII.

    With business executives like that at the head of American corporations, who needs Ben Laden?

    -- SysKoll

    P.S. Actually, from the moment Eisner started draping himself into patriotic self-righteousness, it sounded fishy. The guy is a patriot the way a televangelist is a believer.

    • by Tackhead (54550) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:50PM (#2738044)
      > [Content Faction: Tens of billions in revenue]
      > [Tech Faction: Hundreds of billions, maybe a trillion, in revenue]

      I think we'd all agree that government operates by the Golden Rule: Those that have the gold, make the rules. But if we truly live in a "one dollar, one vote" society, why the fsck is anyone in Congress listening to the Content Faction at all? Do Content Faction lobbyists hire better hookers, with cocaine instead of silicone in their tits?

      > So even from a strictly financial point, SSSCA does not make any sense. Eisner is a fraud. He is a threat to the IT industry, which produced far more jobs, wealth and well-being than any other industry since WWII.
      >
      > With business executives like that at the head of American corporations, who needs bin Laden?

      I thought my "Hollywood hookers and better coke" crack was good, but I think you've got the better soundbite, by far.

      Rack up the dollar cost of the WTC disaster. (Conservatively $100B), and compare it to the dollar cost to the Tech Faction if the Content Faction gets its way, and discover that a mere 10-15% "hit" in Tech Faction revenues is the equivalent of a WTC attack when it comes to GDP. The Eisner-Valenti-Rosen triumvirate is a greater threat to the economy than bin Laden ever was.

      I think we need to push three talking points:

      • The memes "Content Faction" and "Technology Faction". Portraying Hollywood as a "faction", rather than an "industry" makes it clear that there are opposing interests here.
      • The fact that tech is at least an order of magnitude larger - in jobs, revenues, profits, and taxes remitted to the government - than the Content Faction.
      When you write your Congresscritter, you can call them "industries" instead of "factions". And instead of asking him which industry is likely to give him the most campaign dollars over the next 30 years, ask him which industry is most likely to provide the most jobs for his constituents. He'll do the campaign contribution math by himself, and you've pointed out there's a compelling "it's the economy, stupid" excuse his opponent can use against him, should he side against the Tech Faction.

      When you talk to your co-workers, write letters to the editor, or post to weblogs, feel free to be honest - call 'em Factions, and ask the campaign contribution question. The readers will do the "Hollywood must have better hookers, if my Congresscritter supports the Hollywood faction, he must be corrupt" math by themselves, and vote accordingly.

    • But of course, these considerations do not compute in the dollar terms that are the only things filtering through your average executive's thick ears (not to mention many Congresscritters).

      But, you have to understand that the media that these players represent is even more critical to Congressmen than the money they can get from the tech side. What happens if a Congressman finds it difficult to buy air time during the next election cycle? He won't be a Congressman for long. And, although the Internet has grown as an alternative information distribution medium, it can't make up for that kind of lack of access.

      Another thing to remember is that the main thing that leaders need to provide are bread and circuses. You can trade off a fairly good amount of bread to have a good circus before the rubes revolt. And this is an especially tasty tradeoff if you happen to get to be head clown.

      In short, never, ever assume that a politician will make a decision based solely on economic issues. In this situation, the issue hits at the heart of any politician's decision-making calculus - getting elected.

  • They may no longer be able, for example, to move music or video files around easily from one of their computers to another ... The digital videos they shot in 1999 may be unplayable on their desktop and laptop computers

    I don't think consumers will ever except this. Even if some politician who's been paid off by the industry tries to make it fly it will fail. The idea that your own liberties, such as managing the videos you shot, are limited just in case some greedy record comany or film studio might have their copyright voilated, is outrageous.

    If people (who are old enough) cast their mind back, copy protection on software largely disappeared in the eighties. It was just too much of a burden on people who didn't pirate software. And ultimately it didn't work.

  • by sphealey (2855) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:17PM (#2737883)
    This is just the typical mating dance between elephants who are both mature, experienced, and tough. They will circle each other for a while, bellowing challenges, doing a bit of fighting to see who (if either) is dominant, who is more willing to fight, who is more determined. Then the mating will commence (i.e. a "compromise bill" will be introducted by Mr. Hollings) and the two large elephants, and their children, will continue to dominate the rest of the herd.

    I hope no one thinks that there is an actual chance that IBM or Microsoft will oppose the RIAA, MPAA, et al? Their long-term interests are identical; it is just dividing the spoils in the short term that is creating the appearance of conflict.

    sPh

    • This is just the typical mating dance between elephants who are both mature, experienced, and tough. They will circle each other for a while, bellowing challenges, doing a bit of fighting to see who (if either) is dominant, who is more willing to fight, who is more determined. Then the mating will commence (i.e. a "compromise bill" will be introducted by Mr. Hollings) and the two large elephants, and their children, will continue to dominate the rest of the herd.

      Hee hee, this is a wonderful analogy... I just wonder which side is going to end up doing the boinking...
  • by sensate_mass (171138) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:23PM (#2737913)
    A lot of the lawmakers who'll be attempting to pass legislation requiring manditory hardware/os-based DRM currently support gun rights.

    What's the difference between "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." and "Hard drives don't commit piracy, people commit piracy." I'd like to think that limiting a person's ability to quickly and easily murder from a distance would be more important than limiting their ability to pirate a song. Does anyone here think we'll see laws that force gunmakers to limit what people can shoot at anytime soon?

    • Those lawmakers would probably say that the gun/general-purpose-computer-plus-Internet analogy is incorrect and that the correct analogy is something along the lines of:
      gun
      : nuclear device :: VCR : general purpose computer + broadband
      I.e., while they advocate ownership rights of average citizens to a device whose beneficial uses are as broad as hunting, securing one's home, and contributing to the common defense -- and whose harmful uses are at worst the murder of a handful of people (before the police or some off-duty postman blow you away), they would advocate strict government control of a device whose benefits are undisputed, but who harmful effects can change the face of the world (their logic on all counts, not mine).
  • First, the Federal Communications Commission requires that broadcast television be sent "in the clear" -- in unencrypted form -- as a matter of public policy. The argument here is that broadcasters are custodians of a public resource -- the part of the broadcasting spectrum used for television, and need to make whatever they pump into that spectrum available to everyone.

    Oh man, the US gov talking about an entertainment medium as a "public resource"??? Am I the only one that sees a giant price tag on this? "Dear corporate America: for two million dollars, the airwaves will no longer be 'a public resource', but will instead be rebranded as 'an essential component to American innovation' and 'a vital tool in the fight against media piracy'.. and a law will be passed that says ALL content must be encrypted... any takers?"

    Remember kids, our US government consists of four parts: the executive, the judicial, the legislative, and the corporate.

    • I think the idea is that the broadcasting frequencies are scarce and a scarce resource, so it is in the public's best interest for them to be regulated as a public resource. This is also the rational for allowing the FTC to reasonably censor television (no X-rated movies on normal air-wave television).
  • We are in the process of drawing or having a line drawn. After it is drawn, it still will be moved to some extent.


    Look at guns, they are legal, but with many restrictions. They can be used for legal and illegal reasons. The same thing with computers, CD-Rs, casette tapes, pencils, etc. As with gun control people - you can't have people doing anything illegal with guns, if there are no guns, which restricts people using guns for legal reasons (and yes, I know that guns are not the greatest analogy, but I am taking license).


    What should be is go after people who break the law, not people who make tools that may be able to be used to break the law. Or ones who advertise tools for breaking laws (like the SPAMMER that advertises Never pay for a DVD again.

  • by Bonker (243350) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:26PM (#2737927)
    "Do you hear that, Mister Andersen?"

    Listening to this argument is interesting, because you can see just how much these companies, the Tech giants on one side and the Distribution giants on the other continue to rail against what they call the 'Destruction of the Intellectual Property Industry', at least as what they said in the article.

    All I have to say is: The Sooner the Better.

    Seriously. These guys are fighting obsolescence. They were obsolete the second the first computer disk was digitally written. That was the shot that killed them. Not Napster... not Gnutella, not Morpheus. Not even DivX or DeCSS. What these industries do not know is that they've been doomed to slow death the second mankind invented digital storage. The ability to store and manipulate data in a digital format is one of those watershed inventions, like fire, the wheel, gunpowder, or the combustion engine. Too much has changed for the existing order to survive. Just like there are no wagon makers any more, there will be no 'content distributors' in the future.

    The fact that information can be reproduced endlessly, perfectly and easily by individuals, invalidates all the companies who sprung up in order to fill the gap that existed before digital information storage was possible.

    The record industry bitterly, bitterly regrets the invention of the CD. It's very nearly a perfect format for storing audio. The people who make CD's and hardware for and software for creating CD's sure as hell don't, though. Roxio, as well as others like Phillips and Magnavox all have commercials on TV that encourage their customers to make CD's full of 'free' MP3's.

    Yeah, right. As if. 'Free'. Sure....

    The same thing is going on between the distribution industry and the computer hardware industry. Sure, it's a good thing for hard drives and CPU's to be altered so that information cannot be copied on them. That makes them a lot more expensive to produce, however. Why should one industry suffer because another is obsolete? That's the thought going through the minds of the people at Maxtor, Western Digital, and Iomega. It's also the thought going through the minds of people at Intel and AMD.

    For the recording and entertainment industries to survive, they're very literally trying to cripple an entire industry with players from all around the globe. They're buying legislation right now because that's the only chance they have to force companies like ABit and Acer, who aren't even headquartered in the United States to tow the line.

    But it's already too late. The first step in any kind of revolution is civil disobedience. Sometimes that's enough. Sometimes the flow of ideas is just too powerful to allow the existing order to stay in power. Gandhi believed this when he led India against Britain, and he ended up being right.

    Even if the recording and entertainment industries manage to buy all the legislation they want, they're still faced with the daunting task of stopping the civil disobedience they've created. They'll very literally have to march into every home and take away non-DRM compliant computers and TVs.

    Here's a quick hint. The U.S. government tried to do this in the 30's with alcohol. It ended up being one of the single greatest failures of the government and has created criminal and social problems that live on today.

    So, the long and short is not how long you can hold on to your computers... It's how long the RIAA, MPAA and any other companies that make money by restricting the flow of information can hold on to life.

    Die, bitches, die...
    • Good post. Can't resist following up on this, though: "Here's a quick hint. The U.S. government tried to do this in the 30's with alcohol. It ended up being one of the single greatest failures of the government and has created criminal and social problems that live on today."

      The US government is also trying to do this with (recreational, illegal) drugs, and is experiencing failure that is even worse than that of prohibition.

      However, it doesn't matter to them: the drug lords in the DEA are employed and wealthy, and will continue to protect themselves by insisting that this idiocy continue.

      The US government might very well attempt to control the entertainment media as well, and will experience the same high level of ineffectiveness. But that's not important: what is important is that the media lords will have money and power. Joe Common Citizen will take it up the ass with a broken glass bottle *yet again*, and will take it more or less willingly, just as he did for booze and pot.

      USA. Land of the free.
  • Attack? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sloppy (14984) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:27PM (#2737934) Homepage Journal

    I am opposed to copy protection, but up to now I have always defended content makers' "right" to attempt to implement it. As far as I'm concerned, it simply reduces the value of a product, and then natural selection in the marketplace can decide whether or not it is worthwhile.

    But I really am starting to get pissed off at all these stealth attempts to move the status quo from "try it if you think it's worth it" to mandated incompatability. I am very much opposed to mandating incompatability, but I don't think I would resent the attempts to do this so much, if it weren't done in such secret. These cockroaches scatter whenever there's light cast upon them and media exposure has been shown to be nearly lethal to this kind of legislation. And that makes sense too, because, after all, this crap really is directly against the interests of the American People. Congresscritters are happy to sell us out, but they really hate getting caught while they are doing it (but interesting, they don't seem care if they get caught after-the-fact -- I still haven't figured out that part yet).

    DMCA wouldn't have passed if it had received news coverage instead of the Lewinsky scandal. Now we have the terrorist thing to distract the media, so this really is a good time to attack the American people again. They can get away with it, right now. But if it doesn't happen now, it'll happen later. More distractions can always be found. It never ends.

    And that bothers me. Sooner or later, the assholes will find a weakness and push us back a notch, and then another, and then another. We just have to let our guard down once. I don't know about you guys, but I get pretty fucking weary of this, and I know someday I will be taken unaware.

    What we need is to stop defending, and start attacking. Put them on the defensive for a change, reacting to us.

    And there's a way to do it. It's dirty and underhanded, because IMHO it really will infringe upon what I think hey're rights are. But they are assholes and never give up with stealth attacks, and if it has to come down to "them or us" situation, I'd rather be on the winning side. So fuck 'em.

    I think we need to outlaw copy protection. Something on the level of a constitutional ammendment (although that feels like inappropriate overkill) so that stealth attacks can't override it.

    I think most Americans would support it. I don't know how we'd get the representatives to vote on it (a democracy would make things a lot easier than our damned republic). But it might be worthy trying anyway.

    • Ok, wild notion here, but...are you saying we should just get rid of copyright altogether? (Or, at least, severely reduce it - say, back to the 28 or so years maximum it was back around the USA's founding?)
  • A bit Alarmist (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:28PM (#2737937)
    While the article is generally well written, my impression is that the essay is generally just an alarmist piece. There are for sure some things to be concerned about in the future of technology and a lot of the industries in entertainment worry about the change, as they picture the entire future as a 'worst case scenario'. (IMHO, planning on the basis of a WCS means a good business model). Here are the things that come to my mind, in order:

    1) My parents have difficulty just checking email, let alone going out and searching for internet music. While there is a whole generation of people growing up with computers and seeing the internet as a distribution channel for free music, there remains quite a large number of people who don't have the level of skill to get free music. 10 years in technology is eternity: Just look at what was around 10 years ago! By the time we reach 2010, many of these companies will have a shift of people in thier management that will understand that they can't fear the future, they must embrace it.

    2) The racket around VCRs. I'm not a legal person, or even a historian, but if I recall correctly: there were many legal challenges by the same groups to outlaw VCRs. These legal challenges were not so much thwarted by the lawmakers (who may get paid handsomely by the industry), but rather by the large amount of the populace that rose up and said "We want our rights to record!" The power of the people is great, even if it seems dormant most of the time.

    3) Ebooks. Yesterday on NPR, there was a short piece on the failure of Ebooks. While many people believe that it just isn't the time for ebooks yet, many ebook publishers are going out of business. I think there were many reasons for the failures around this technology, but I think the first and foremost was: technology. Each ebook manufacturer used something different, so buying one brand of ebook meant that you couldn't read books from other publishers! You don't see that sort of problem with paperbacks. With all these competing technologies for Content Protection, I don't think that MS DRM will win out, especially with groups of people who couldn't use the technology (can we say Linux?).

    All in all, I really don't believe people will sit around and accept the fact that they won't be able to 'buy' music anymore (or any other type of entertainment), despite the intentions of many of these companies to have strict control over content.

    As a personal hope, I always find myself hoping that MS will win. Why? Because those people who did nothing to preserve their rights of choice deserve no choice at all. Those of us who make our own decisions will continue to use Linux: just as those who enjoy Macs will continue to do so. It may be a niche market, but it will be our market.

    [ if you don't like what I've written, oh well. This is my opinion after all, not yours. ]
  • While the tech and content factions described in the article are fighting - no one is listening to the other side of the battle; almost no one even knows the other side exists.

    Who is on the other side? The content producers (artists) and the listeners/watchers. Neither the tech side nor the 'content' side want the artists or the audience to have any say in the issue.

    Doubtless defenders of the current status quo will spout blather about "Valid contracts" with the artists or how the record companies provide promotion and advertising etc. as excuses for the predatory behavior of companies toward actual content providers. But before you start writing posts like that I am going to propose a shame test: for the sake of argument assume that there really is a God, and that you are going to have to defend your statements in front of Him at your judgment someday. Do you think you could get away with the "valid contract" claim when you know larceny is in your heart? I always apply that shame test to what I have to say - if you don't do it then you are insincere - a troll at best, or evil at the worst.

    Why doesn't the tech faction want to see the artist and audience side heard? The answer is that tech companies do the same things to engineers and programmers that recording companies do to artists, and neither faction wants people to be paid what they are actually worth.

    Programmers, artists, engineers and the audience to our works belong on one side of the argument along with sincere and honest businessmen (I have met a few; they do exist). On the other side are all the greedy thieves: Mega corps and the RIAA.

    By the way -for all of you Libertarians; the standard for a contract ought to be right and wrong, not "what I can get away with". If a contract is not really equally benefiting both sides it is a fraud.

  • by mttlg (174815) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:36PM (#2737981) Homepage Journal

    Matthew Gerson, the vice president for public policy at Vivendi Universal S.A., which produces and sells both music (Universal Music Group) and movies (Universal Studios, Inc.), is quick to dispute the prediction that the music companies face cottage-industry status. "We know that if we build a safe, consumer friendly site that has all the 'bells and whistles' and features that music fans want, it will flourish. My hunch is that fans will have no trouble paying for the music that they love, and compensating the artists who bring it to them -- established stars as well as the new voices the labels introduce year after year."

    Um, I don't know where to start... Let's see, "safe, consumer friendly site," isn't that a contradiction? I have a feeling that "all the 'bells and whistles' and features that music fans want" doesn't include crippled CDs, but Universal seems to like that idea... Sure, "fans will have no trouble paying for the music that they love," but that assumes that you produce that music and not the usual garbage. Lots of people are interested in "compensating the artists who bring it to them," which is why they don't want to deal with the major labels. As for "the new voices the labels introduce year after year," exactly which ones are these? They all look and sound the same to me...

  • This is precisely what Disney CEO Michael Eisner, in a speech to Congress in summer of 2000, was referring to when he warned of "the perilous irony of the digital age." Eisner's statement of the problem is shared by virtually everybody in the movie industry: "Just as computers make it possible to create remarkably pristine images, they also make it possible to make remarkably pristine copies."

    Then perhaps there is no longer enough value in the "making and copying remarkably pristine images" business to sustain so many huge companies. Either make your content something people want to pay for, or find another business strategy. People tend to dislike having the government tell them what to do in the privacy of their own homes, how do you think they will feel about Disney doing it instead?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:48PM (#2738039)
    "Back in the nineties, when we bought a movie on video, your grandma and me could watch it as many times as we wanted, without paying for it again each time. We could pause it to get up and get a soda, and we could rewind it if we missed something and it didn't cost no extra to do that."

    "Wow, gramps. You mean there were no coin slots on TVs back then?"

    "That's right. And if the movie was a dud, we could sell the tape at a garage sale, or give it to a friend, or even just throw it in the trash."

    "Weren't you afraid you'd get arrested, grandpa?"

    "They didn't arrest people for those things back then, boy. Didn't need no stinking TV license, heck, nobody didn't even have to own a TV if they didn't want to."

    "When grandma gets out of prison for muting commercials, can she tell us some stories about the old days too?"
    • It's a sad thing but China is going to be more Free than america within a decade. The chinese have decided that they're going to use linux because 'Microsoft is an extention on the US government.' Which is a Scary thought... FBI: "we've determined you're using linux, and we've come to arrest you.."

      China does supress a number of civil liberties, but soon america will be suppressing those liberties, and requiring you to use 'approved' hardware and software.

      I just hope I'm wrong about this. I guess I better study those nuclear physics or start playing around with genetic engineering in my bathtub if I wan't to stand a chance against the oppressive police state that america is moving towards.

      "the USA act is a mere tiny step away from the two way, always on televisions of 1984." [io.com] What about interactive TV complete with targeted ads etc?
  • by Rand Race (110288) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:48PM (#2738040) Homepage
    In the 19th century my family made quite a good living as wainwrights, they made wagons. I imagine thaey felt much like the content industry does now when the automobile was invented. But guess what? They divested from wagons and invested in autos, they didn't try to make cars illegal.


    Technology giveth, there was no real music industry until the phonograph was invented, and technology taketh away. Limiting technology in favor of business is shortsited, ill founded, anti-capitalistic, and doomed to fail.

  • by LL (20038) on Friday December 21, 2001 @01:51PM (#2738047)
    The golden rule used to be "whoever has the gold makes the rule" but I would observe from current machinations the golden collorary "he who writes the rules, defines the gold".

    The reason ... think what the internet does .. every single piece of information whether written in the past or immediate future (think trailers) is now immediately available. It's like a thirsty man in a desert being swept away by a flash flood. All the historical economic models based on a content/distribution model is now completely invalidated. Historically media studios could release stuff at different price/time points (movies, videos, cable reruns, etc) with the nice kicker that a popular franchise can be remastered with relatively little marginal cost.

    Now suddenly anyone (with a modicum of hacker skill) can bypass their time/space-controls (cough DVD-region-coding), the TiVo is just one small example. Suddenly all their media libraries is implicity devalued as they can't withdraw "obsolescent" titles. The First Sale doctrine means that anyone can resell their "original" copy which creates competition for their newest overhyped gee-whiz production. Hence their incentive, nay long-term economic survival, in pushing Digital Rights Managment (aka service selectivity/variability) by stealth (submarine legislation) or by wealth (trial by litigation).

    Of course, they don't always have much of a clue (cough*CueCat*cough) so they have to rely on the tech experts to provide them with the tools to control/segment the entertainment market. Which means that unless you have a tech department under your belt like AOL, they are held over the barrel by the likes of Microsoft who have their own ambitions of being the broadband toll-keepers.

    Economics alway always been about scarcity (whoever dies with the biggest toys wins) but the internet inverts all that into a surplus. The "gift culture" that ESR mentions is thus anathema to any self-respecting aspiring monopolist as infinite replication/distribution of information-based products limits their market of gullible fools.

    It will be an interesting decade as all these economic forces resolve themselves.

    LL
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What I find amazing about all of this is that noone is talking about how much we are expected to spend to participate in our on-line culture.

    Radio is free (for now) but I'd have to get a $ub$cription to listen to satellite XM broadcasts. Likewise, I'll need a subscription to be able to listen to music on-line, and I'll need a high-bandwidth connection to be able to download it all...

    How much is all this going to cost me? Digital Cable $50/month, Cable/DSL Internet $50/month, XM subscription $10/month, On-line music $10/month.

    I'm already up to $120/month and I haven't even started talking about what my kids want/need... or how much my cost of living has increased because I have to live in an urban area where these services are offered...

    How much money are we talking about, and how many people, realistically, can afford this ?
  • by 3seas (184403) on Friday December 21, 2001 @02:02PM (#2738092) Journal
    The real issues at hand are far more reaching than copyrights. The Digital Media functionality that computers provides all of us with most certainly goes way beyond the copyright dimension.

    They may not realize it yet, but eventually will have no other choice but to recoignize that the "CANNOT" base intellectual property laws will have to be changed to be "CAN" based.

    I'm all for artists, creators, those who produce additional productive and pleasure values to be recognized and rewarded. For such carrots is how we teach our children to help make our society a better place of all of us to enjoy.

    But the bottom line is to get people to want to recognize and reward those who do good. And the only way that is going to happen is change the laws so as to motivate and inspire people to do so.

    Lawrence Lessig pointed out to me that there are two parts to dealing with Intellectual Property. The first part I believe was in reference to beng granted IP rights as a creator, the second part being liability law. I suppose this is the part in most need of changing into "asset" law.

    comments?

    maybe see other slashdot posts by your truely?
  • If musicians had a good way to deliver their music/art/books/etc directly to the consumer, what need would they have of the big[1] distribution companies?

    Instead the authors would need:
    a) server hosting
    b) advertising
    c) agents who could get them airplay and/or tour venues

    and would no longer need
    d) to press CDs, DVDs, etc.
    e) select the least painful contract from a handful of distrubutors

    This would:
    -reduce costs- by cutting out the middleman/distributor.
    -increase competition- cheaper "distribution" costs would allow more artists to compete for your money.
    -decrease pollution- no need to burn fuel for cd making factories, delivery trucks
    -increase greenspace- no more need for brick and mortar stores
    -shift jobs from music retail stores and fat cat distributors[1] to high tech server hosting companies and slimy advertising firms. (In other words they would have to get "real" jobs.) ;-)

    [1] aka the Evil Greedy Screw the Consumers Coporations
  • Local scene (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gurensan (259321)
    Well, I don't know what to make of this. Any way they handle this we're screwed. The only way I think this problem will go away is to stop paying for big name albums and movies entirely. When the revenue stream dries up, lawyers tend to wither and blow away.

    The problem with this is that there are a lot of extremely gifted artists and musician who would be left out in the cold. Bands like Metallica already have more money than God and can easily afford to set up their own distribution channels, so the little guys are the only people who would be hurt by it.

    What to do about it? Support yout local music/film making/Art scene like you support your local LUG. When they get the support they need locally, they don't need to go to LA to get it and it's only a matter of time before this kind of stupidity and personal rights violation goes away permanently.
  • Just on the note of music here, I know that what I want when I buy a CD or an MP3 online, besides the music, is for the author to be compensated appropriately. I think it would be a great public service to foce music companies and their ilk to publish how much of a CD sale goes back to the authors (whether to pay their debts or in their pockets) and how much is kept by the record company.
  • The writer forgets to mention that this would happen only in the U.S.
    The rest of the world would happily chug along without these wild restrictions on what people can do with their computers.
    The irony of it is that innovation is a product of the freedom to think and do whatever you want with the means at your disposal. Today, the U.S. is the best place for it.
    The minute these limitations are put into place, the U.S. can kiss its technological supremacy goodbye. The bleeding edge will move elsewhere.
  • by Alien54 (180860) on Friday December 21, 2001 @02:30PM (#2738268) Journal
    There was this blurb recently:

    http://www.sacbee.com/state_wire/story/1348770p-14 18333c.html

    Elton John, No Doubt and the Eagles are among a group of musicians who will perform at five benefit concerts the night before the Grammy Awards telecast to raise money for a legislative fight against the record industry. [...] "It's about time for artists to take control of their work and how it is presented to our fans," said Dexter Holland of the band Offspring, which will perform as part of the effort. [...] The tentative lineup is Billy Joel, Sheryl Crow, the Eagles, Dixie Chicks and Stevie Nicks at the Forum in Inglewood; Offspring, No Doubt, Weezer at the Long Beach Convention Center; Ozzy Osborne at the Los Angeles Sports Arena; rhythm and blues acts to be announced at the Universal Amphitheatre; and country artists at an undetermined fifth site.

    Of course, the record companies are denying any allegations.

  • In the 1850's, even many of the factory leaders in the north supported laws that contained slavery to the south, and exported them back from the north. But no matter what happened the factory model of business was incompatable with the plantation model. With factories, a mobile workforce was essential - but with plantations it was a nightmare. Having a society that was compatable with both was going to be impossible.

    All these people were rich business men, had close relations, and a lot of cross investment. However, inspite of all the things that bound them together - the forces that tore them apart were even greater. Today this manifests itself in the Content model and the Tech model. The content model can not be successfull without placing significant profit limitations on the tech model or visa versa. Contention will boil over until we finally decide that copyrights are bad and rid ourselves of them.

    Moral, don't be one of those poor fools who thought that the slave states could peacefully get along with the free states. Those people just didn't get it.

  • Still, maybe citizens would say they're willing to give up "general-purpose" computers and willing to use, instead, systems designed to prevent them from engaging in willy-nilly copying, if that is the price you have to pay for compelling music and movies and television over the Internet.. That is, maybe they'd say so if you asked them. But right now, nobody's asking.

    Except that we would eventually wind up with trash, and it because a dwinding spiral of quality. paying more and more for trash.

    Hopefully it will wind up with people just turning it all off. (right!)

  • One of the users we support has studied this subject in some detail. Check our his article at
    http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue6_2/odlyzko/
  • On the news (Score:4, Interesting)

    by r_j_prahad (309298) <r_j_prahad&hotmail,com> on Friday December 21, 2001 @03:47PM (#2738654)
    It almost brought tears to my eyes when I watched this week's news footage of Afghani citizens out in their back yards in Kabul, digging up old VCRs and TV sets that they had buried to keep them from being seized by the Taliban. One old gentleman had constructed a secret room in his house to hide thousands of books, magazines, and videotapes that would have been destroyed had they been discovered. People were lining the streets listening to music again after a decade long ban, and many were openly weeping for joy.

    But what really choked me up was the whole time I was watching that story, I was thinking to myself "this is your future, this is you digging holes in your yard, in the U.S., to hide computer parts and copies of Linux from your oppressive government".
  • by ksr (207427)
    Perhaps at some point in the not-too-distant future, the following scenario might be realized.

    A woman waits near her departure gate at Newark airport, musing about the glories of days gone by. She inadvertently begins to hum a popular tune from the late nineties. Unfortunately for her, she reproduces the melody with some accuracy; the humming is picked up by several (digital rights law mandated) microphones, and analyzed by the successor to this system [slashdot.org], which identifies the "digital property" being reproduced. The woman's location is triangulated by the multiple audio pickups, and she is identified [slashdot.org] by face [slashdot.org]. An appropriate license is automatically selected, according to the length of the humming, time of day, location, number of people within earshot, previous digital rights infraction record, and distributor-determined digital rights attributes of the tune itself.

    Later in the week, when she receives her monthly IRS debit statement, the woman discovers a $190 charge for a "public performance and audible reproduction license" covering the episode, along with a 28% tax charge. Of course, she doesn't have to worry about the inconvenience of paying; it's already been deducted from her account.
  • by Squirrel Killer (23450) on Friday December 21, 2001 @05:56PM (#2739263) Homepage
    Ok, this might not be exactly on topic, but while reading the article, I couldn't help but start writing down my thoughts about the whole copyright/piracy issue.

    Non-commercial pirates are ordinary people, who otherwise would be like you and me (well, ok maybe they're exactly like me.) They are the people who like certain content and are just looking to access it at their leisure. Non-commercial pirates are fans of content. They are students (formal and informal) who want to learn from the content. They are critics who further critical discussion of content. They are consumers who will likely purchase content when they are able. They are archivists saving the content that the distributors have abandoned. They are nurturers who want to see more content and help make content better.

    But, in order to have a large enough inventory to attract people to their wares, some pirates may turn their activities into businesses. Turning commercial causes provable financial damage to the content holder (at least whatever the pirate charges, theoretical maximum of up to what the content holder charges, although certainly the discount rates of the pirate may boost his sales over what the legitimate holder would have) With such damages, there is an unquestionable standing for a lawsuit. On-line commercial pirates are especially susceptible. The 24/7 availability that offers such an advantage to on-line business, dramatically increases the pirates' chances of getting caught. Unlike the street-corner pirate, the on-line pirate can't turn off his web site if the cops come strolling by. Suffice it to say, commercial pirates are thieves, they are scum, whatever ugly adjective you want to use probably applies to them. They take the creative labor of others and use it to make a profit for themselves. Laws, regulations, mandates, and technical barriers will not stop them from their piracy. They have access to devices to circumvent whatever barriers put before them. They smell money, and don't care who is hurt in their pursuit of it.

    Eric Flint from Baen Publishing [baen.com] isn't worried about online piracy because is a minor problem, any losses are offset by increased exposure of the content, and any attempt to restrict piracy is worse than the problem of priacy in the first place (see this Salon cartoon [salon.com] for an example carried none too far to the extreme ). His own experience has shown that content released freely, and without barriers to priracy (technological, legal, or moral) are the ones that drive exposure to the artist and sell better than similar books not available freely.

    Content distributors (especially in the music industry, the RIAA and record companies) tend to justify their existance because of the amount of their marketing of the artists (in addition to the actual production/distributing efforts.) Online piracy is, then, a dilemma for artists. Piracy increases their exposure by definition, but at an inferior quality and no royalties. Piracy should show to consumers the complete uselessness of the content distributors as guardians of good taste. How many awful CD's do you have that you bought because of a catchy tune on the radio.

    Current copyright laws almost ensure that there will be a historical hole where content simply disappears. Which company will be the one to ensure that Arthur Byron Cover's 1988 novel Planetfall for future generations? Neither quality nor the commerial success of content should be the judge of whether or not it is to be preserved. Many of Shakespeare's plays where bawdy low-rent entertainment in its era, but is now considered high-art. American Pie 2 deserves no less preservation than American Beauty. Plantfall deserves no less preservation than Snow Falling on Cedars. Married With Children no less than The Honeymooners. With corporate takeovers and massive inventories, content distributors can be the worst preservers of content. While this report [stanford.edu] notes some possible solutions, it generally suggests working with the content distributors to authorize preservation efforts. This is unworkable when a distribtor is unaware of their content property, has dissolved, or is hostile to the preservation effort. The societal need for preservation outweighs the property rights of the distributor.

    It is high time that legislators and regulators stop acquiescing to every demand of the content distributors. The policy pendulum has swung too far in their favor. The problem is that the pendulum has swung quietly, without the public's knowledge. Efforts that the public does know about don't sound as harmful as they actually are, so your constituents (or those who are affected by your regulations) aren't alarmed. But as representatives of the people, you are the guardians of their rights. Fair use rights that the content distributors are attempting to restrict and even to abolish. The most perilous danger with legislative acts recently, such as the DCMA, is that they ingore that all copyrighted materials will eventually reach the public domain, as required by law (via the "limited time" clause). While content entering into the public domain is not advantageous to content distributors, it is vitally important to the general public.

    Of course, that's just my opinion... (don't sue me Dennis!)
    -sk

  • signal will include a digital "watermark" containing information that tells a TV watcher's home-entertainment system whether to allow copying at all, or to allow limited copying, or to allow unlimited copying.

    components of new home entertainment systems will also likely have to be designed not to play unwatermarked content - otherwise, all you've done is develop an incentive for both inquisitive hackers and copyright "pirates" to learn how to strip out the watermarks.

    So the next generation of equipment will only play watermarked content, thus foiling the evil hackers plans of stripping out the watermark. Wow, sounds pretty foolproof. NOT. Someone will just write a utility to change the "Don't copy" flag to "Unlimited copy" without removing the watermark.

    "Make something foolproof, and someone will invent a better fool." - Unknown

  • The music industry is becoming seriously annoying to the computer community. We must act to destroy it. Not by piracy. By automation.

    The first step was MIDI - a score goes in, and music comes out. No musicians required. It doesn't sound all that great; we need smarter performance generators. There's research underway on this.

    Next step is to eliminate singers. Voice synthesizers exist now, and there are ones that will accept a MIDI track as prosody. Again, this needs to get better.

    The best part of this is that there is a compulsory license and statutory royalty rates [nmpa.org] for this, so the record companies can't say no. The current royalty rate is is $0.0755 per song plus $0.0145 for each additional minute after the first five. Per copy.

    It's coming. Click here [ogi.edu] for examples. Even runs on Linux.

A sheet of paper is an ink-lined plane. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"

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