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US DTV Patent Royalties Are $24–$40

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  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @07:37PM (#28189707)
    If the FCC mandates that all television must be broadcast in digital they either A) Need to remove that requirement, B) Have someone invalidate the patent or C) Buy the patent and release it to the public. This is nothing more than government assisted extortion.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not really, there's patents covering all sorts of FCC mandated things, like wifi, CDMA, 3g, GSM, I could go on & on & on.

      • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @07:45PM (#28189771)
        The difference is that its not mandated by the FCC. If I want to create Bluetooth internet rather than use Wi-Fi thats perfectly fine (so long as my signal limits are good), however if I want to broadcast TV I only have one thing that I can pick from. I used to be able to choose a public-domain one (NTSC) but now it requires a patent to do the same thing. If the FCC didn't mandate that all stations (save for low-powered ones) use it, it would be a non-issue, but they do require it.
        • by westlake (615356) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:32PM (#28190211)

          I used to be able to choose a public-domain one (NTSC) but now it requires a patent to do the same thing.

          NTSC is RCA television - and remained RCA through the introduction of color. There were significant bit players like DuMont in the early days, of course. But Sarnoff held all the cards which mattered. You can call NTSC "public domain" if you like, but the realities of patents, tech, politics and power were perfectly clear at the time.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Darkness404 (1287218)
            But today in 2009 NTSC is effectively public domain especially when compared to DTV. Also NTSC was really the only standard* for TV at the time it was created, whereas stations now are being forced to convert to DTV when NTSC which costs less for everyone is available.

            *NTSC was really about the only color TV standard at the time, both PAL and SECAM were still being developed
            • by mattack2 (1165421)

              [blockquote]
              *NTSC was really about the only color TV standard at the time, both PAL and SECAM were still being developed
              [/blockquote]

              Wikipedia commenters would call "really about the only" "[weasel words]", so I'm not exactly sure what you mean, but the following was actually adopted by the FCC and then withdrawn:
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field-sequential_color_system [wikipedia.org]

              • But Field-sequential color didn't allow the existing B&W TVs to view it like NTSC did. Plus NTSC was first standardized in 1941 with color added in 1953 allowing for any TV to receive it in color if they were color or black and white if they were black and white TVs. Considering that only about 100 TVs were shipped that could view the Field-sequential color, I would consider it really the only standard. Field-sequential was a failure of epic proportions.
          • by seeker_1us (1203072) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:15PM (#28191371)
            And when "RCA television" was adopted, it was market driven.

            There was NO market drive to force the adoption of digital-only broadcast.

            And before some knucklehead starts to say "HD," digital TV has nothing to do with HD. It had everything to do with selling off bandwidth to private corporations.

            • by westlake (615356) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @01:37AM (#28192183)

              And when "RCA television" was adopted, it was market driven.

              Market driven?

              What the heck does that mean?

              There had been experimental broadcasts of mechanical television when Harding was President. All-electronic television takes recognizable shape with Philo Farnsworth in the mid-thirties.

              But if you are talking about a driving - relentless - force to get radio and TV into every American home, to define the standards for radio and TV broadcasting - in technology and in content - you are talking about RCA and NBC.

              From 1954 to 1965 the color TV set was an RCA TV set. The only network with a regular schedule of color broadcasts, NBC.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @07:47PM (#28189795)

        Those are all "optional" services and technologies. Over-the-air television is completely different.

        This is what happens when money-grubbing for-profit entities dictate what becomes "standards". For that amount of 'control' over the process, the patent holders should've been required to give the patents to the public.

        • by Obfuscant (592200) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @07:54PM (#28189861)
          Those are all "optional" services and technologies. Over-the-air television is completely different.

          How is watching over-the-air TV anything BUT optional?

          OTH, how do you use 3g technology without paying some "money grubbing for-profit" enterprise?

          • by Chabo (880571)

            So far as I know, if you wanted to build a 3g transmitting tower, you don't need an FCC license.

            So in theory, if you had the money for the equipment, you could build a 3g LAN, if you wanted to... I don't know... provide LAN access over your 100-acre property.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by binarylarry (1338699)

              Are you sure you don't need to license bandwidth in that spectrum?

              Weren't google, verizon, etc. all squabbling over the freed up portion last year?

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Brian Gordon (987471)
                I think you're right; you can't just build a cell tower on your roof and run your own interfering service. You do need an FCC license.
                • What if I did license some spectrum, ensured that my emissions were always at least attenuated -80 dB outside of my bandwidth, and ran a non-dictated service?

                  It should never matter HOW the licensed spectrum is modulated so long as other licensees aren't affected.

              • That was for the spectrum that standard def TV is vacating. That is in the 700MHz range. 3G operates at 1900-2025MHz and 2110-2200MHz in the US.

            • by Miseph (979059) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:01PM (#28190439) Journal

              You are incorrect. A radio tower able to do 3g strength broadcast over 100 acres will almost certainly need an FCC license to be legal. I suppose that if you live far enough into the sticks, were very careful not to cause any sort of interference on on local radio transmissions (including any local HAMs) and simply neglected to tell anyone about it you might be able to fly under the radar, but that doesn't make it legal, just difficult to regulate.

              Anyway, provided you DID have the proper FCC licenses to operate a large range broadband broadcast tower, there wouldn't be any FCC regulation with regard to whether you used CDMA, GSM, iDEN, WiMax, or shoe polish to broadcast it... so long as you didn't broadcast outside of your allotted frequency or power range.

              • " there wouldn't be any FCC regulation with regard to whether you used CDMA, GSM, iDEN, WiMax, or shoe polish to broadcast it"

                But you might have to pay patent fees (directly or indirectly) to the patent holders o those technologies (apart from the shoe polish).

              • Except (Score:4, Interesting)

                by maz2331 (1104901) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:45PM (#28190753)

                Some frequency bands DO regulate the permissible modulation as a term of the license. In the "TV Bands" broadcasters are required to use the patented ATSC system, which includes patented MPEG.

                The issue isn't mandating technical standards at all. What IS an issue is mandating the use of something that requires a private-party royalty payment.

                Perhaps a better model would be something similar to bidding on a public contract. A patent adopted as a public standard under such a system would revert to the public domain in exchange for a payment, which could be collected from licensees as part of the license fee, but must remain free for use in recievers.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by hplus (1310833)
            Public notices are often transmitted via OTA TV, which has lead to it being considered non-optional. I don't think that all of these notices (school closings, weather warnings, etc)are even broadcast via radio anymore, making TV or the internet the only way to receive them.
        • by ragefan (267937) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:11PM (#28190037)

          And if the gov't does remove these license fees, which of the following do you think is more likely to happen? Every manufacturer lowers the cost of their products by $25 to $40, or just pockets the money and the consumer continues paying the same amount for the TV as though nothing changed.

          • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:15PM (#28190069) Homepage Journal

            All it takes is ONE manufacturer seeing their sales slip to cut their profits. Then the rest follow.

            I've been in the wholesale, retail AND manufacturing businesses, and I can tell you that profit margins are flexible in things such as this. The moment one company does it, while still being profitable overall, they all do it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by retchdog (1319261)

            They could try to keep the money, but they'll change their tune quick when the flood of cheap Chinese knockoffs for $40 cheaper shows up.

            Under patent laws, such imports are (in principle) stopped at the border.

            I think the consumer would find a differential fairly quickly.

            • by digitalunity (19107) <digitalunity&yahoo,com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:01PM (#28191269) Homepage

              Not exactly, regarding the stopping at the borders thing.

              US Customs does stop counterfeit product shipments, meaning products that bear the name of a registered trademark but were not produced under license or agreement with the trademark holder. This has important public safety implications. For example, and I choose this one because it happens frequently, an Asian manufacturer produces an electrical cable under the trade name of a popular cable manufacturer and ships it to the US. Unbeknown to the buyer, it might actually not meet the standards for safety for that product, such as inadequate insulation thickness leading to shock hazards in appliances.

              However, US Customs does not hold products manufactured without the required patent licenses without an injunction. For instance, a Chinese DVD player manufacturer might not have contacted the DVDCCA to license the patents. A DVDCCA representative in the US would have to go to court to get an injunction barring that company from shipping products into the US, and further, they would have to contact US Customs to enforce the injunction.

        • by SteeldrivingJon (842919) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:03PM (#28190463) Homepage Journal

          "This is what happens when money-grubbing for-profit entities dictate what becomes "standards". For that amount of 'control' over the process, the patent holders should've been required to give the patents to the public."

          They developed it, they deserve to profit. Some giant electronics company who wants to make TVs doesn't deserve to profit from another company's engineering without compensating the original developer.

          Sorry, that's just how it is.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TinBromide (921574)
      1) Develop semi-public transmission protocol and patent it
      2) Convince/Lobby/Bribe FCC to require your protocol/device to be sole method of data transmission for a widely used and veeery popular (populous?) medium
      3) Profit!

      Oh Sorry, I forgot the ??? Step, guess there isn't one in this corrupt equation.
    • by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @07:54PM (#28189871) Homepage Journal

      Buy the patent and release it to the public.

      Can you elaborate a bit on how this is better than the current licensing scheme? Perhaps there would be some economy of scale, giving the public a better overall price. But it's even less fair in the sense that the cost would have to be borne equally (as tax burden) by someone who buys many ATSC tuners and someone who buys none!

      This is nothing more than government assisted extortion.

      But buying patents with Federal funds is preferable?

      -Peter

      • The FCC has a lot more than taxpayer dollars, perhaps they could waive a fee or two. But if they were to buy it, it would even out due to the taxpayer money that are already in place to help people get ready for DTV. Sure, it might be a bit too late now, but you could have cut down a lot of the cost of those boxes by paying just a bit of money. Then, yes there is the scale where there comes a time when you buy it now and then things are cheaper and it evens out in the long run because most businesses would
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If the FCC mandates that all television must be broadcast in digital they either A) Need to remove that requirement, B) Have someone invalidate the patent or C) Buy the patent and release it to the public. This is nothing more than government assisted extortion.

      Or require that the patent be licensed on reasonable & non-discriminatory terms. Which seems to be the case.

      • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:13PM (#28190047)
        That would be perfectly fine if The FCC required switching it would be a non-issue if stations could still use the NTSC standard, but the problem is they can't. When there is an open alternative available that does the same thing it should be up to the stations, not the government to decide which method to broadcast in. What this ruling has done is made anyone dependent on traditional NTSC broadcasts to put $24 or more into the hands of these patentholders at either the expense of taxpayers (with the cards) or their paycheck without it.

        If you want the government to keep a patented thing as a standard it is only fair to allow stations the economic freedom and basic right of choosing which standard to broadcast in or whether to dual-broadcast in both standards. A government should listen to the people and not mandate a standard that requires patent fees to be paid, sure, standardize it but don't mandate it whenever a viable alternative is available.
        • Wow, I suppose I should have clicked preview, the first part of my post should read, That would be perfectly fine if the FCC didn't require switching. Apparently the bold tags went in but the crucial part of the post didn't. I suppose thats what I get for posting on only a few hours of sleep....
        • " When there is an open alternative available that does the same thing it should be up to the stations, not the government to decide which method to broadcast in"

          But it doesn't do the same thing, because it would prevent the reallocation of the bandwidth, and would require many stations to continue broadcasting in both formats, which is expensive and wasteful.

        • The problem is, of course, that the traditional broadcasts will likely interfere with both the new digital broadcasts, and other technologies in that spectrum.

    • by tweak13 (1171627) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @07:56PM (#28189889)
      If you think DTV is bad, you should check out HD Radio. Rather than use one of several much more open standards available to them, the FCC requires that digital radio be in ibiquity's crappy format.

      Want to transmit in digital? You need to use ibiquity's software, there is no other option. Oh, and you owe them a few grand per year per transmitter as well. Building a receiver? You get the decoder chips from them, and pay them fees. I hear they've finally let some other companies start building chips since they've been too inept to make one that will work in a portable device.

      It's too bad, I think digital radio could be pretty valuable as far as keeping radio relevant, but the FCC decided to screw everyone instead.
      • I've heard of that before, and it is unfortunate. However, I suspect that pervasive cellular-type wireless will marginalize broadcast radio, you won't need a separate device for everywhere because you already take a capable device with you. It might be a boon for a new era of small broadcasters too, they won't have to worry about tower maintenance or the FCC.

        • by tweak13 (1171627)
          I suspect that you're right about wireless internet eventually taking over, but we aren't even close to being there yet. Right now a single AM station can cover several states, and reach millions of people. Try serving a few million people with individual audio streams at 64kbps. The bandwidth adds up fast, and our cellular networks are already performing pretty dismally under the relatively light load they have now (at least in my area). Until telcos get their asses in gear and build out their networks
      • by dgatwood (11270) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:33PM (#28190225) Journal

        HD radio is not mandated. It is approved. There's no phase-out of analog AM or FM planned, and the non-hybrid HD radio has not been approved, AFAIK. Also, there are dozens of approved FM sideband formats out there, from traffic radio to pagers, and there's nothing stopping you from proposing a competing digital radio sideband standard. For that matter, I think you can already use the the FMeXtra standard as an alternative (at least on the FM band), but I'm not positive about that.

        Either way, the HD radio story is a far cry from mandating that the old standard must go away by a particular date so everyone is forced to buy the hardware in question. There's still plenty of time to come up with a better digital radio standard.

        • by tweak13 (1171627)
          I wasn't suggesting that analog radio was going away. I don't know about the status of all digital HD either, but there isn't anybody even beginning to think about it yet.

          As far as I know there aren't any other digital audio formats approved for use in the sidebands. Actually, nothing I know of period is approved for the sidebands. The things you're thinking of are subcarriers on the analog signal, which for the most part don't require explicit approval. FMeXtra is one of those subcarrier formats.
      • >>>FCC requires that digital radio be in ibiquity's crappy format.

        In defense of the FCC, there really was no other choice. They had decided they wanted to reuse the same AM/FM band that had always been used, and iBiquity offered the only viable format. Yes there was the option of Digital Radio Mondiale/Worldwide (DRM) but only for AM. The FM version did not yet exist so that only left HD Radio.

        Also I don't think HDR is all that bad. It has the ability to support upto 7 channels on a single stat

        • by ZosX (517789)

          Doesn't HD radio downsample past even FM standards?

          "Promotion for HD Radio does not always make clear that some of its capabilities are mutually incompatible with other of its capabilities. For example, the FM system has been described as "CD quality;" however, the FM system also allows multiplexing the data stream between two or more separate programs. A program utilizing one half or less of the data stream does not attain the higher audio quality of a single program allowed the full data stream. The FCC h

          • " HD doesn't really seem like that much of a step forward when it requires taxed hardware and offers little if any advantages over traditional FM analog signals, asides from more streams of top 40 crap followed by commercials of course."

            One of the two NPR stations in Boston, WGBH, offers three sub-stations over HD. One's a classical station which is unavailable over FM, and one's a feed of the Cape Cod NPR station.

            The classical station sounds pretty nice, so they aren't cutting its bandwidth to the bone. Th

          • by tweak13 (1171627)
            You're vastly overestimating analog radio. AM tops out at around 10kHz bandwidth, but it's so noisy you're never going to hear most of it. FM tops out around 15kHz, with higher frequencies rolling off sharply to protect the stereo pilot tone at 19kHz. Of course digital formats will slaughter high frequencies as well, but analog really doesn't have it so great.

            Right now, the FM digital setups provide about 100kbps of total bandwidth (numbers vary with configuration), with the option to expand that mor
    • by Eil (82413) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:30PM (#28190201) Homepage Journal

      If the FCC mandates that all television must be broadcast in digital they either A) Need to remove that requirement, B) Have someone invalidate the patent or C) Buy the patent and release it to the public. This is nothing more than government assisted extortion.

      Yes, and it's a shame that practically nobody realized this until these systems were already rolled out.

      Europe, Russia, India, Australia, and China have been using DVB-T for their digital broadcast television. Support for DVB hardware in free operating systems like Linux is already in-place and also covers digital satellite and digital cable (DVB-S and DVB-C, respectively) because the standards are so similar.

      I guess using existing, deployed, open standards would have just made too much sense.

      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:54PM (#28190399) Journal

        DVB-T wouldn't work properly in the mostly-rural U.S. The standard chosen by the FCC can broadcast 100-150 miles (via VHF) with about half the power requirement of DVB.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mwooldri (696068)
          If the FCC standard chosen actually worked for VHF then that would be true. Low VHF (i.e. between channels 2 and 6 inclusive) is actually not very good for the 8-VSB modulation method. The complaints I hear are from TV DX reception enthusiasts and they're talking about their LOCAL stations... TV DX enthusiasts are more than likely to have decent receiving equipment and antenna installations, and they're having problems with the low-VHF signals. High VHF is better but is still more susceptible to interfe
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            >>>Low VHF (i.e. between channels 2 and 6 inclusive) is actually not very good for the 8-VSB modulation method.

            Yeah but DVB-T is even more susceptible to impulse noise, so even for Low VHF the 8VSB is the better choice. That's why the FCC picked it. ----- And yeah I've heard those stories from enthusiasts but I've never had a problem getting VHF-8; it comes in much, much stronger than their old UHF-58 signal which was blocked by the surrounding trees.

            >>>DVB-T has been improved and there

        • Regarding your sig, chances are that old hardware will run 10.5. So, it's not the machine that doesn't last, it's the software...

        • by moosesocks (264553) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @11:50PM (#28191567) Homepage

          DVB-T wouldn't work properly in the mostly-rural U.S. The standard chosen by the FCC can broadcast 100-150 miles (via VHF) with about half the power requirement of DVB.

          Argentina, Uruguay, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Australia, New Zeland, Saudi Arabia, and Namibia all have a lower population density than the continental United States, and have adopted DVB-T for broadcasting.

          We can expand this list further if we include areas that have a slightly higher density than the US. We can expand this list way further if we exclude areas that are virtually uninhabited (less than 0.5 people per square mile).

          The "most of the US is rural" argument is complete and total bullshit. I can't get good TV reception (NTSC or ATSC) or good cellular service in New Jersey, which is *far* more densely populated than any European nation.* It took an age and a half for us to get decent broadband as well.

          *Excluding micronations. In fact, the only nations that are larger than 1,000km^2 (roughly the size of New York City) and more dense than New Jersey are Bangladesh, Taiwan, Mauritius, and South Korea.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Talk to someone living in Montana, Wyoming, or Oklahoma and convince them they are not rural. These people rely on broadcast televsion (and radio) as their only means of news, weather, and entertainment, and the FCC decided it was cheaper for these states to operate 8VSB at lower power levels.

    • I had the same reaction, nice gig if you can get it.
    • "This is nothing more than government assisted extortion."

      Get a grip, it's only television. I bet you could use some time away from the tube.

  • um what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This has to be the worst summary I've seen on slashdot. I'm sure if I had any clue wtf it was talking about it might be alright, but that's not the point of a summary now is it?
  • by iamacat (583406) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:04PM (#28189965)

    It is well established that public airwaves are subject to strict regulation, for example to exclude obscenity. It doesn't make sense to allow private entities to charge fees of their choosing to anyone who wants to receive these airwaves. It would be fine to patent one particular implementation of the decoder, but not all or most realistic implementations. The standard should have been chosen with royalty-free interoperability in mind. Now that the die is cast, the patents involved should be nationalized under eminent domain and owner compensated for development expenses and risks, but not $25 for every TV in America.

    • "It is well established that public airwaves are subject to strict regulation, for example to exclude obscenity. It doesn't make sense to allow private entities to charge fees of their choosing to anyone who wants to receive these airwaves."

      What do you think the patent fees are like for cellphone manufacturers?

  • Early adopters (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:06PM (#28189979) Homepage Journal
    This was, I recall, the situation with DVD. IIRC, there was a time when the licensing fees were high, and combined with the fact it was new techology, these things were quite expensive. Then quite suddenly, they became cheap. Now everyone wants us to buy the expensive HDTV and Bluray. People even say a computer is junk without a bluray, and as a toy it probably is.

    I don't know if there is a real issue here. I don't know if the converter boxes have to pay the license fee, if they do it is certainly at the low end. I don't suspect you have to pay the fee to cable companies to use your old tv. This seems to be the case of early adopters paying to adopt early.

    • Re:Early adopters (Score:5, Insightful)

      by The Archon V2.0 (782634) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:27PM (#28190163)

      People even say a computer is junk without a bluray, and as a toy it probably is.

      Show me these people. I wish to mock them. Seriously, a Blu-ray drive is about seven times the cost of a plain ol' DVD drive, and doesn't really come with a lot of advantages. Sure, you can play a Blu-ray disk. Except for this one fellow I know who found that his drive could only play SOME disks. Solution? Wait for a firmware upgrade. And wait. And wait. At least he hadn't bought an HD-DVD drive, right?

      The prime disadvantage of the cutting edge is that sometimes you get cut. Once Blu-ray gets cheap and the drive quality levels out more, it might be worth it. But even then, some people just can't see any difference in quality and thus no reason to go Blu-ray. And then there's people like me, who use their DVD drives for burning data disks only.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I can see the difference in quality.

        I can't see installing Windows, and a bunch of proprietary crapware, and a new monitor, and losing all my nice mplayer keyboard shortcuts (skip 10 seconds, skip 1 minute, skip 10 minutes), then paying $30-40 a disc, and losing the ability to watch the movie if I scratch the disc, or can't find space to pack it when going on a trip...

        Contrast this to:

        I can rent a DVD for a few dollars, pop it in, rip it, return the disc, and watch it when I have time. I can rip five or ten

    • Re:Early adopters (Score:5, Informative)

      by fahrvergnugen (228539) <fahrv@hotmail . c om> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:29PM (#28190181) Homepage

      DVD licensing fees are STILL quite high, and all the money goes to Toshiba, who own the patents. Toshiba's patent trolling is why blu-ray exists.

      Toshiba built HD-DVD on top of their existing patent portfolio, and unilaterally altered the rules of the trade association charged with helming DVD's future, the DVD Forum, in order to push through adoption of their arguably-inferior standard over Sony's more advanced, more open, less expensive competing proposal.

      Sony, Panasonic, and several other key players walked rather than spend another hardware generation paying through the nose to Toshiba, and formed their own standards body to back Sony's proposed spec.

      Thus the format war was born: Toshiba's standard was named HD-DVD, and Sony's Blu-Ray. For once, Sony was the company that had the widely supported, more open standard. This is why you only saw Toshiba HD-DVD players, while dozens of companies were making blu-ray players.

      Mind you, they're both closed formats, but of the two, HD-DVD was way more evil. The lesser evil definitely won in that case.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        >>>Sony, Panasonic, and several other key players walked rather than spend another hardware generation paying through the nose for Toshiba's HD-DVD, and formed their own standards body to back Sony's proposed Bluray spec.
        >>>

        So basically this was a repeat of the 1970s, but with different players. Sony controlled the Umatic standard for VCRs in the late 60s and early 70s, and then Sony developed Betamax for recording, but JVC, Panasonic, and several other key players walked rather than spen

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Sehnsucht (17643)
        Don't paint Sony & Co as being any nicer than Toshiba. They were just as greedy and actually a little more underhanded, which helped their win. BR has it's points but HD DVD had it's. Yes, Toshiba did a lot to throw things in their favor at the DVD Forum but the other members of the forum let them - including Sony and other BR companies (as generally the BR companies were also DVD Forum members due to producing DVD hardware/software too). Mainly what separated the BR companies from the HD DVD companies
      • Well, Sony is a company that embedded root kits into audio cd's, and charges extortion rates on every media format it has everbacked. It made back-room anti-competative deals to push Blu-Ray over HD-DVD on players around $300 with limited, partial implementation, while full-featured HD-DVD players were reaching towards the $100 mark. Yeah, lesser of two evils my ass.
      • Re:Early adopters (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @10:48PM (#28191139) Journal

        Toshiba built HD-DVD on top of their existing patent portfolio, and unilaterally altered the rules of the trade association charged with helming DVD's future, the DVD Forum, in order to push through adoption of their arguably-inferior standard over Sony's more advanced, more open, less expensive competing proposal.

        Ok, I used to work in the industry, and that is probably the most biased and uninformed opinion I've heard. Let's break this down:

        Toshiba built HD-DVD on top of their existing patent portfolio,

        And Sony didn't do the same with Blu-Ray?

        and unilaterally altered the rules of the trade association charged with helming DVD's future, the DVD Forum,

        Citation needed. The DVD Forum has 159 registered members as of 2008, according to Wikipedia. Looking at the structure of it, I have trouble seeing how any one company could alter the rules.

        In fact, reading to Sehnsucht's post, it actually looks like a reasonable change. What is the point of counting an 'abstain' as a no?

        in order to push through adoption of their arguably-inferior standard over Sony's more advanced

        At launch, Blu-Ray had no implementations of any sort of network access, even on the PS3. Any players other than the PS3 had absolutely abysmal performance, due to the use of Java for everything -- a simple animation, sliding a menu in that would cover a tiny portion of the screen, had to be redrawn in chunks, painfully slowly. No mandatory network, no mandatory local storage, I'm not even sure they had picture-in-picture support.

        By contrast, HD-DVD had most of the features Blu-Ray was planning, but actually required and implemented in the first Toshiba players. I'm talking about a small amount of local storage, an ethernet port, picture-in-picture, scripting always enabled, and menus were written in Javascript, wrapped around an animation API that was presumably much lower-level -- menus slid smoothly onto and off of the screen, with nice translucency effects. There was a drawing API if needed, but we didn't need it.

        And yes, Javascript is a better language than Java. Javascript is very Lisp-y, whereas Java is like C++, only worse.

        Oh, and there's the technological advantage that an existing DVD factory can be upgraded to HD-DVD, easily.

        The only technological advantage of Blu-Ray was better bandwidth and storage. But with people producing for both, the HD-DVDs generally were shipped dual-layer (30 gigs), while the Blu-Ray discs were shipped single-layer (25 gigs). No one was using that extra space, and if they were using the extra bandwidth, I sure as hell couldn't tell.

        more open,

        HD-DVD used only AACS for its DRM, and had no region coding. Blu-Ray used AACS and BD+, and was region-coded. Given that I consider both DRM and region coding to be evil and anti-consumer, HD-DVD is certainly the more open in that sense.

        less expensive

        For the manufacturers? Maybe, but as I said, there's that advantage of being able to upgrade existing DVD hardware, so there has to be some advantage. But looking at the price of movies at the time, HD-DVDs were generally cheaper, and HD-DVD players were cheaper and better than Blu-Ray players. I never saw a $100 Blu-Ray player, ever -- indeed, as I understand it, the PS3 is the cheapest to this day.

        This is why you only saw Toshiba HD-DVD players, while dozens of companies were making blu-ray players.

        The Toshiba players were cheap, and there was also the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive. I have no idea if it was Toshiba inside, but the Xbox itself certainly didn't use any code from Toshiba. And there seemed to be all kinds of third-party software players.

        Contrast this to Blu-Ray -- cheapest was the PS3, and it still didn't have all the features the Toshiba player did (like network access -- even though the PS3 is wired, yo

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by socsoc (1116769)

      These are fees on new televisions, so your cable subscription reference isn't relevant. Next you're gonna claim that an Electronic Waste Disposal fee that many municipalities charge on new TVs doesn't affect using your old TV with cable. No shit it doesn't...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This was, I recall, the situation with DVD. IIRC, there was a time when the licensing fees were high, and combined with the fact it was new techology, these things were quite expensive.

      The prices didn't really come down until very recently. [dvd6cla.com] The 4C (DRM) and 6C (various DVD stuff) and MPEG-LA patents still aren't terribly cheap. What happened is that the chinese manufacturers ignored the patents. Because part of the patent licensing agreements is enforcement of anti-consumer stuff (like non-skippable advertisements, upscaling without DRM, etc) these chinese players also dumped the anti-consumer parts too, making the cheapest players on the market also the most functional.

    • People even say a computer is junk without a bluray, and as a toy it probably is.

      If Blu-Ray has become important, the geek really ought to be paying attention. Because it implies a lot about the future form factor of the home PC, the convergence of the home PC and video game console, PC audio and graphics, and the prospects for OEM Linux.

  • Makes Sense Now (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:14PM (#28190059)

    I think this might finally explain something I observed when preparing for the switchover. I was trying to find a VCR/DVD recorder with an ATSC tuner so I could record programs. (A converter box->regular VCR setup doesn't work well because the VCR doesn't have the ability to tell the converter box to change channels.)

    I couldn't find anything in a low end VCR. All of the low end VCRs or DVD recorders were all tuner-free. You had to go up to the mid- to high-range models before you found one with a tuner, and even then it was hit-or-miss. Contrast that with VCR buying 3-5 years ago, where even the lowest of low end VCR had an integrated NTSC tuner.

    At the time I thought it was a reflection of changing viewing habits, that no one was using VCRs to record television shows anymore, but it makes sense that if you need to spend $25-40 on just ATSC licensing fees, you'll just drop the tuner, or would only put it into more expensive models.

    (BTW, I finally went crazy, bought an ATSC capture card and converted an old computer into a MythTV box. It's slicker and arguably better than a VCR, but with more headaches and frustrations.)

    • by DarkOx (621550)

      I suspect that has more to do with VHS being a legacy tech then the license fees. Try buying a dvd recorder or a DVR without an ATSC tuner.

      Consumers buying all the the most high end model VCRs are almost certainly doing to play back their old home movies and tapes. They probably are not interested recording much at all, its just that adding a record head adds almost nothing to the unit price, the tuner on the other hand does and consumers would select the tuneless units. Honestly if you are buying a unit

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "I suspect that has more to do with VHS being a legacy tech then the license fees. Try buying a dvd recorder or a DVR without an ATSC tuner."

        Hell, try finding a VHS tape storage rack. I've been looking for one to organize bare SATA drives, but they're nowhere to be found.

    • Please elaborate on the frustrations of using a MythTV PC for recording. The only VCR I've ever seen with an integrated ATSC tuner was JVC's last Digital VHS model, which could directly record 1080i or 720p HDTV. It was no more expensive than the non-ATSC models. As for DVD-Recorders I've never seen one with an ATSC tuner?

      My solution was to buy an external tuner box with a built-in timer. The timer automatically changes the channels at set times, and my VCR (or DVR) simply records the output from the b

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Optic7 (688717)

      (BTW, I finally went crazy, bought an ATSC capture card and converted an old computer into a MythTV box. It's slicker and arguably better than a VCR, but with more headaches and frustrations.)

      I'm thinking about doing this as well, but I think I'm going to use an HD Homerun http://www.silicondust.com/ [silicondust.com] which gets really good reviews and seems to be relatively headache- and frustration-free since it's an external networked device, so no drivers issues, etc.

    • by westlake (615356)

      At the time I thought it was a reflection of changing viewing habits, that no one was using VCRs to record television shows anymore

      When you make the move to HD and the digital cable PVR there really isn't much reason to fire up your old VCR. In some ways, it would be easier and less painful to track down the external eSATA or Firewire drive that can give you five to ten times the storage of encrypted HD content.

  • by KalvinB (205500) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:22PM (#28190131) Homepage

    The government is footing the bill for the patent fees. The consumer then pays the actual cost of the device.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Keys1337 (1002612)

      The government is footing the bill for the patent fees. The consumer then pays the actual cost of the device.

      This kind of retarded thinking is sadly much too common. The question of how all this gov't idiocy actually gets funded seems to escape most people.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by N!NJA (1437175)

      the "consumer" and the "taxpayer" are the same entity. therefore, the consumer *is* paying for the patents.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:36PM (#28190247) Journal

    Number of stations I received via analog: 25 (across three markets - Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philly)

    Number of stations with digital: 12

    I basically lost half my entertainment. Yes some of the analog signals may have degraded to black-and-white over 80 miles distance, but at least I could still catch the football or baseball game, whereas with digital I merely see a blank screen! :-( Thanks FCC and Congress for giving me less variety. This could easily be fixed if they boosted the digital signal to match the power level of analog signals (basically twice current DTV levels), but they won't bother to do that.

    • by RubberDogBone (851604) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @08:49PM (#28190353)

      Do a rescan on June 12 when all of them go to full digital and begin DTV broadcasts on new frequencies and higher power levels. After June 12, you may find that you are able to receive more channels.

      If not, try a better antenna. If that doesn't work, then get upset. But at least wait until June 12 to write it off.

      FWIW, I used to live in Baltimore but WDCA-20 was what we watched, with rabbit ears and and old UHF loop antenna. It may have had snow and static but we liked it better than channel 45. Fun memories.

      It's kinda sad that kids coming up now won't know about those experiences. First TVs came with blue screens to politely mask the static and hidden faint signals, and now, there won't really be any faint signals. No more catching the show on the distant TV station because your local one won't carry it. It's a shame.

      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:29PM (#28190609) Journal

        >>>After June 12, you may find that you are able to receive more channels.

        Bzzzz. I've already examined the pre and post-transition stations. NONE of my stations are boosting their levels. In fact, one of them (WBAL-DT) is actually going to a lower level such that they will disappear completely from my screen. So my channel count's going to drop even further than I indicated previously.

        Also I'm not the only one in that boat. According to tvfool.com's report and computer simulation, the average American home will lose 3 stations when analog stops, and about 3 million people will lose their television reception completely (no channels). For whatever reason digital is harder to receive than the old analog signal.

        Thanks Congress.

      • Isn't it funny how for the longest time it was "all you need is a converter box to get free HD" Now that the deadline is almost here, I see all kinds of "well um yeah you may need a big ass antenna too."

  • Bullshit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SteeldrivingJon (842919) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:00PM (#28190431) Homepage Journal

    Looks like most of the patent fees are in the 'confidential licensors' category. That's the *only* category that increases as the screen size goes up.

    And that category, being 'confidential', doesn't describe how, exactly the fees fit into Digital TV.

    MPEG2 and MPEG-LA are fixed fees, at $2.50 and $5, respectively, no matter how big the screen is.

    Somehow they "estimated" that the 'confidential licensors' category ranged from $6.15 to $20.65. Which looks like blowing smoke. They don't actually know, they just made up a number based on the price of the TV.

    (I'd also note that bigger, fancier TVs tend to have more features, including more advanced signal-processing features, so that also would explain why manufacturers might pay more, unspecified patent fees on larger TVs.)

  • by SteeldrivingJon (842919) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:09PM (#28190495) Homepage Journal

    The first US color TVs in 1954 cost the equivalent of nearly $8000 in today's money, for a 14" screen.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Hell, our 19" Sony color TV in the early 1980's cost almost $700. But...it also lasted 20 years.
    • by barzok (26681) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:50PM (#28190777)

      Your B&W TV (or radio) didn't quit working because color TVs came out.

      On June 12 (unless it's delayed again), your analog OTA TV receiver becomes a brick.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "On June 12 (unless it's delayed again), your analog OTA TV receiver becomes a brick."

        Most people have cable. That remains an option if you want to keep your old TV and not buy a digital tuner.

        • by barzok (26681)

          Yeah, save the $50 that the tuner costs so you can shell out $10/month forever.

          Read what I quoted again, and the OP. Your OTA receiver will become useless on June 12. Which is why the comparison to the first color TVs is invalid.

    • The early digital tv's w/ lcd/plasma were well in excess of $20k in today's money.
  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @09:31PM (#28190625)

    Did I miss something, or are we or are we not talking about television? From all the outrage being flung around, you'd think we were talking about something vital and necessary, like food or medical care.

    Requiring people to pay extra for access to lowest common denominator spectacle -- and actually getting them to do it by the tens of millions -- isn't an outrage, it's a hack. With extra bonus points for genuine irony.

  • Sheesh. The Vizio thing is about Funai using Vizio LCD panel patents without a license.

  • Sadly this summary has no information at all, provides no description of the issue to be discussed, and provides no content other than links to other sources. Perhaps the submission could have contained:

    - A description of the issue at hand
    - A reason why an uninformed reader would care about patent royalties at 24-40 dollars (per what?)
    - An explicit argument about why this is or is not a good thing

    I have been a member of this website for years, and while I am as guilty of not reading the article(s) as the c

  • by NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @12:39AM (#28191913)
    This is really an old story, actually a continuation of the NTSC/PAL battles. VSB is the acronym for vestigial sideband, a variation of the modulation scheme used for NTSC. Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (COFDM) is a different and more complex modulation scheme used by Digital Video Broadcast (DVB) in Europe and Japan. The general consensus at the time (way back in the last millennium) was that OFDM was better for penetration but the receivers were more expensive. VSB had a greater service area but could not handle noise (especially reflections) as well. In Europe and Japan, there are more large concentrations of people and DVB/COFDM made more sense.

    THE REAL REASON, however, was that European companies owned the patents on COFDM, and Zenith had the patent on VSB-8 (some say 8-VSB, 8 for the number of levels of signal amplitude used, there is also a 16-level version for cable that was never used). So, America "bought American" and chose Zenith's solution. Later, LG Electronics bought Zenith. LOL!

    Note: Bell Labs patented OFDM in 1966, but Philips and STM wrote patents covering DVB COFDM in 1987. I am sure there are others too.

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