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Will We Need A SmartCard to Watch Digital TV? 326

An anonymous reader writes "This story on EE Times points out that Hollywood and major electronics manufacturers are in agreement on a SmartCard requirement for digital video interconnectivity. Note that the article talks about them 'closing the analog hole.'"
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Will We Need A SmartCard to Watch Digital TV?

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  • Why not Credit Cards instead of Smart Cards. Oh maybe then its easier for Hackers to get the key without paying. Hm, sounds just like another great idea without any use.
    • by MrLint ( 519792 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:20PM (#4901368) Journal
      This is actually very disturbing to me, looks like hollywood wants to merge its 2 payment models while at the same time removing the consumer decision from the loop. it goes something like this, You pay a monthly subscription for your digital TV signal (probably cable) You pay a subscription fee to use your smart card to wtch the shows you pay for (like satellite tv) Oh and that 'free tv' that gets paid by advertizing,, well that all bonus revenue for the media copmanies because they are just going to *assume* you are a 'criminal' andyou are using your pvr ( that they convienently sell you and chage you a mothly subscription fee to use (because theyhave to off set the prediefined amount of people skipping the adverts, See: the minidisc built in piracy RIAA tax) [and to head you off TiVo provides you with a service for you fee stop shut your whine hole before you open it] So bascially you as the consumer.. you have to buy a big buck digital tv (or a cheaper digital to analog converter foryour old tv, you dont get to control what you watch (really) you dont get to control what you can record and watch later.. and the media copmanies get fatter. and of course the coropratoin friendly FCC doenst seem to mind at all, because even if they get kicked out for conflict of intrst, they get coushy jobs in media. (see: the political/corporate revolving door.) All your money are are belong to us.
  • by SomeoneGotMyNick ( 200685 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @04:53PM (#4901117) Journal
    I'm not profoundly religious or anything, but do I need to quote specific verses from Revelations before it's too late?

    Or do I just go ahead and get my number and be quiet?

    Those who don't understand, will probably vote (-1, Offtopic)
  • I wonder... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GMontag ( 42283 ) < minus author> on Monday December 16, 2002 @04:53PM (#4901120) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if the satellite cracking guys might have a solution to this "speed bump" in, oh, about 45 seconds after release?

    Sounds like these folks need to read Cringley's "Curtain Call" article and stop wasting so much effort on things that are doomed to fail.
    • Re:I wonder... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If the cards are the equivalent of the new DirecTV P4 cards, then yes we will.

      'nuff said
      • If the cards are the equivalent of the new DirecTV P4 cards, then yes we will.

        I misspoke, meant more like "will the satellite crackers lend a hand and crack it in about 45 seconds". But you get the idea.
  • by SteweyGriffin ( 634046 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @04:59PM (#4901155)
    My 35" TV is probably eight years old and ready to be replaced. Is now a good time to buy a new TV, or are there worthwhile developments in the pipeline (Bluetooth?) that make it worth waiting 12 months?
    • Take a look at the cost of new televisions that are HD capable. The prices are ridiculous right now. 35" HD TVs start at about $2000. There is absolutely noything about HD TV components or technology that justify the cost. The high cost is simply because they are new and are'nt strong sellers, yet. In a year or two the price will be down to that of a regular TV. Then you buy.
    • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:28PM (#4901877)
      Making a move right now would be a big mistake. The problem is that almost all those big screen devices and the fancy plasma displays claim that they are digital ready and that you hook up an external digital tuner to get great DTV, but there are no digital tuners to let the consumer hook up to them and get the maximum high resolution that DTV offers. The industry has been fighting this for years and, as the article cited here shows, will simply not let the high quality high resolution signal be available without their not-yet-available copy protection system and copy protection every step along the way.

      What this means for consumers is simple: No matter what the sales clerk tells you, and no matter how much you spend on a fancy digital ready monitor or plasma display today, there will never be a tuner that puts out a signal that your expensive monitor will accept at the high definition resolutions you want and expect. Buy now and you will be screwed! Once they figure out how to copy protection hobble the system, then and only then will you be able to get a display that might someday display the full promise of DTV, but unless you plan on being part of a massive class action consumer lawsuit, stay away from any new equipment until they figure out how they are going to cripple the equipment you pay for.

      • The new TVs have HDCP copy protected DVI ports which should solve this issue. (should..) The problem is with TV's that have only component out or unencrypted DVI. Those early adopters will get the shaft.
      • You are absolutely on-the-money, and it's the reason why I won't go anywhere near a big TV which claims "HD/Digital" right now.

        That said, if new digital sets are crippled as much as the entertainment industry is trying to make them, I won't go near them either.

        Sorry folks, I have NO problems staying with a decent analog picture if it's free.

        Even if they put smartcards of some sort in TV sets, what are they going to do, tell everyone who has purchased a set that "in 6 months we'll be altering the encryption, you must now go and purchase a new card for your TV or you won't receive any signals".

        Oh wait, yes, that's EXACTLY what they're going to do. And I won't have it.

        The funny thing is that the entertainment industry has been absolutely whining up a storm about DVD piracy, but the fact is that DVDs are selling incredibly well (far better than VHS tapes used to), and as an added benefit, they cost less to produce.

        Just goes to show the greed of the industry...
  • by SoCalChris ( 573049 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @04:59PM (#4901160) Journal
    I'm sure these cards will be nice and secure, just like the ones that satellite providers use.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to watch free HBO.
  • by AnalogHole ( 633753 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:00PM (#4901164) Journal

    Note that the article talks about them 'closing the analog hole.'"

    Should I be alarmed ?

  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:01PM (#4901183) Journal
    I am not going to buy any technology that is not at least as flexible as my existing equipment. Flexibility is more important than image quality.

    • I want to be able to view anything on any device.
    • I also want at least some capability to make a single copy. If this is limited to 1 generation, then this will be acceptable to me, but possibly not to everyone.
    • I want to be able to record any broadcast for later viewing. Including Pay Per view.
    • This must not be location limited at all.
    It is not my concern that the media cartels have a business model that divides the world into regions. It is possible to make a profit without region control. They should adapt their business model to what the consumer (i.e. me) wants.
    • by PurpleFloyd ( 149812 ) <<moc.ibtta> <ta> <02onez>> on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:24PM (#4901427) Homepage
      I am not going to buy any technology that is not at least as flexible as my existing equipment.
      You won't get much out of your old equipment, flexibility or no. In a few years, due to FCC demands, analog broadcasting will go away. Forever. You will either watch nice DRM-enabled TV, or no TV at all.

      Personally, I don't think I will get a new idiot box when I am "required" to. These new rules and regulations are just too much. No time shifting? Fine, no TV.

      • Then my existing DVD collection will have to do. I can live with that.
      • I am already down to 1 show per week (which I end up missing about once a month because I am too busy having a life that night to watch someone elses pretend life).

        All my news comes via the internet.

        Three predictions for you...

        1) In five years one eighth of the population will use a cell phone for their primary number and will either not have a land line at home or will have local service only with no long distance.

        2) In five years streaming video will be good enough that video over the internet will be the "TV" of choice for most of the /. crowd and will be making the same waves in the main stream press that Linux and open source is making now. (with the same dire predictions from the entrenched dinosaurs)

        3) Said dinosaurs will be announcing a new encryption standard for video which is "Unbreakable! Unlike the last standard which was hacked 14 days after it was announced..."
      • In a few years, due to FCC demands, analog broadcasting will go away.

        I'm very confused by the orrery of errors being perpetrated by the Hollywood cartel and the FCC, but don't those regulations only apply to over-the-air broadcasts, leaving cable unaffected? I remember reading somewhere fairly recently that cable companies were blowing HDTV off.

    • I also want at least some capability to make a single copy. If this is limited to 1 generation, then this will be acceptable to me, but possibly not to everyone.

      While I agree with you, I do want to clarify one thing - I want to be able to make a single *digital* copy. If I miss a digital broadcast, I should not be punished by having to tape it on an analog VCR.

      I agree, though, that I want a single copy. I think that is a workable "fair use" compromise. There are some problems with it (families, for example), but a single digital copy (and an infinite number of analog copies) could definitely be worked with.
  • by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:02PM (#4901188)
    "Will We Need A SmartCard to Watch Digital TV?"

    Will I need to buy a Digital TV if they make it too hard for me to watch? Seriously, all this 'flags' crap makes me want to avoid it all together.

    TV needs me, I don't need TV. Without my eyeballs on the commercials, they aren't making money. They should consider that before they try pushing restrictions I don't want.
  • Yeah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:02PM (#4901189)
    Yes, you'll need a smartcard (for pay tv) and yes, it will be cracked pretty quickly. At least, if the experience in the UK is anything to go by.

    Here ONdigital collapsed after pirated cards flooded the markets. The Canal+ card/crypto system was broken. There was later a scandal when it was revealed that the team of hackers who broke it appeared to have significant backing from News Corp who operated the rival Sky TV which used its own crypt system.

    This article talks about watermarking which is a tad more advanced than what's used here, but it makes little difference. The cards will be cracked, cloned, whatever. They should see what is going on outside their own borders.

    • Re:Yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:51PM (#4901666) Homepage Journal

      The cards will be cracked, cloned, whatever. They should see what is going on outside their own borders.

      I'm sure you're right. Here's why I think you'll always be right:

      Content protection for broadcast media is a fundamentally hard problem. Other smart card systems can make use of key diversification and card blacklists to limit the damage that can be caused by breaking one card. The idea is that in a system where every card has its own, unique keys, stealing the secrets from one card only allows you to duplicate that card, so if the system can recognize and blacklist duplicate cards relatively quickly, crackers will give up because it's just too much work for too little gain.

      For broadcast systems, though, there's a problem: every card (or at least large sets of cards) has to have the same keys, because you can't generate a different data stream for each card. At best you can encrypt the datastream with time-varying keys and have a separate keystream consisting of a zillion copies of the current datastream key, each encrypted under a different card key. Scale that up to a large system with tens of millions of subscribers, though, and you either need vast bandwidth just for the keystream (keep in mind that in practice there are a bunch of different datastreams, all of which must be keyed independently so you can sell different channel), or you need to make some cards with duplicate keys (actually, a possible way to address this just ocurred to me... but there's probably a flaw in it).

      If some legitimate cards are duplicates, then you can't blacklist illegitimate duplicates without killing paying customers, and pissing off paying customers is very bad business. Not to mention the fact that in a broadcast environment, it's fairly difficult to *identify* illegal duplicates. In most other smart card systems there is a back channel for sending data to a central system where it can be correlated to look for anomalies. Such auditing is a crucial part of most secure smart card systems.

      Building secure smart card systems (like building any secure systems) isn't about making smart cards completely impenetrable, because no real-world system or device ever is (particularly not when you place a key component of the system in an attacker's unsupervised hands!), it's about structuring things so that the cost of breaking the card exceeds the likely benefit. In most environments, this is feasible, and, hence, smart cards are useful secure tokens. In broadcast content protection, however, many of the techniques used to limit the benefit of breaking a card are simply unavailable. And where benefit exceeds cost by a significant margin, someone will surely see a business opportunity...

      • Re:Yeah (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Dave Walker ( 9461 )
        "If some legitimate cards are duplicates, then you can't blacklist illegitimate duplicates without killing paying customers, and pissing off paying customers is very bad business."

        Couldn't prove it by me. Two recent examples:

        DishTV (relevent, I think). I moved across the street. After reinstalling, aiming my dishes, and running the cable, was only able to hit two of the three birds I pay to get, and those only on one of two receivers I pay for. After many calls to their tech support, many frustrating hours of trying different LNBF's and switches (on the advice of their tech support reps), I threatened to go to DirectTV with their free install/two receiver deal. The service rep pretty much said "That's your decision. Go for it."

        White Castle. Yeah, the belly bomb place. They recently decided that it's too much trouble to put mustard on your hamburger for you. But they'll happily provide you with mustard packets. One of the neat things about White Castle hamburgers is that they're easy to handle in the truck for lunch on the go. Ever try and open a mustard packet and put it on a hamburger while you're driving? (And the mustard in the packets just isn't as good as what they put on in the store.) THEIR reply when I flat out stated I wouldn't be back until they changed this policy? "We've made this decision because it was taking too long to serve our customers. We hope it doesn't affect your purchasing habits with us." Sounds like a training problem to me. I haven't been back since, and they probably haven't noticed.

        Oh, and don't even get me started on the Kroger card, lol. They probably don't miss my business either.
    • While you provided excellent examples in the UK, there is no need to look any further than US satellite services. Directv and Echostar both use smart cards that have been hacked since the beginning. When one gets swapped out for a new one, that one gets hacked in a matter of months. Nothing new.
  • by citroidSD ( 517889 ) <> on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:02PM (#4901191)
    and I quote: Other problems remain, though. For example, some insiders say Hollywood studios are demanding that the DVB copy protection group consider a way to add geographic limitations to where content, once legally obtained by a consumer, can be viewed. The plan is similar to an unpopular regional coding scheme used for DVD content scrambling

    What does this have to do with piracy? Nothing, they use piracy as an excuse (and remember piracy is not a legal term, it's called copyright infringement) to help maintain a failing busines model. They want to control how and when people consume media, under the guise of protecting the consumer from the dangers of pir^H^H^H unauthorized consumption of copyrighted content.
  • The Truth? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Frankly, some of those additional requirements [demanded by Hollywood] have nothing to do with copy protection, but a lot to do with studios' own business models," Jaboulet said.
    Truer words were never spoken. A desire by Hollywood to protect its copyright is one issue, but trying to restrict my right to do whatever I want with my property is another. [Oh right, I forgot I don't actually own that DVD - Fair use, anyone?]

    Besides - any guesses as to how long it'll be before this is circumvented? Place your bets!
    • Re:The Truth? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by russotto ( 537200 )
      OK, so the mice vote to bell the cat. What if the cat (that is, the "consumer") ain't buying? People are already not-buying digital TV in droves. The FCC is going to hate it, but even they are unlikely to be able to force the shutdown of analog TV under current conditions, and use-crippling technology isn't going to help at all.
      • The FCC is going to hate it, but even they are unlikely to be able to force the shutdown of analog TV under current conditions, and use-crippling technology isn't going to help at all.

        Excuse me? What was that? FCC NOT able to force shutdown of analog TV?? Havent they already set the date [] for analog TV phase out?

        In a few years you'll only be able to buy digital TVs... and I still can't figure out why that is being done (what good is it for me as a customer that is). I could point out plenty of useful things FCC could do instead of this.

    • .. including what THEY call copyright protection have EVERYTHING to do with their business models. The fact that Jaboulet didn't say as much either means he's an idiot or paid quite well. You choose.
  • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:03PM (#4901203) Homepage Journal
    The question is, will existing digital equipment handle content that's protected in this manner? Or will it be like the case with my Jornada, for which there are basically no decent eBooks available, since it preceded the version of Windows CE that had built-in protections like this...

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:03PM (#4901204) Journal
    And fail miserably. Seriously, if DTV replaces analog in 2006, I will eat my hat.
    • you won't be the one eating your hat, the out of work CEOs will since the companies they work for will colaps when they stop makeing money due to the drop in consumer demand for their crapola.

    • by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:26PM (#4901443) Homepage

      2006? Nah. 2012? Probably. The 2006 figure was never taken seriously by anybody with a clue. Screw replacing the TVs - that's chump change. Replacing every bit of electronics in the broadcast chain, including the tower, in 10 years? When there was absolutely nothing available in 1996? No f'ing way.

      But if you think that DTV is going to outright fail, well, you're just as blind as those who thought it would be nationwide by 2006.
    • maybe in usa..

      but i don't see why it would fail around here, since i can see the price of a set-top box coming tumbling down by that time(to the point where the price is something ridiculous, like 30e).

      oh yeah, the broadcasts begun a over year ago... if i wouldn't have cable, i'd probably buy a set top box, or digi tv card for my computer, just because of the few extra channels.

      iirc they plan to stop analog around 2006 to free up the air, i'm not sure what they plan to do with the frequencys though.

      'here' is in finland.
      i would be more skeptic of the stopping of analog if they were still sketching the standards and planning to air in the 'near future'..
  • by Student_Tech ( 66719 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:04PM (#4901214) Journal
    The only way to truely close the analog hole is to not have any analog information. That means our eyes get pulled out or supplimented with digital receivers because that last step in any system is a analog transmision from the screen to our eyes. Any flags that get set to no copy well not be there in that step and a camera aimed and synced with the TV could record it and turn it back to a digital form free of what ever flags were set.
    • That means our eyes get pulled out or supplimented with digital receivers because that last step in any system is a analog transmision from the screen to our eyes.

      I think you're one step removed, even without eyes you might still have an illegal copy of the copyrighted work in your brain, damn memory. Although I'll be heading for Cuba before they remove mine.

      New geek motto?
      Sure communism sucks, but the zombies suck your brains.

  • by IvyMike ( 178408 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:05PM (#4901226)

    "Please, sign me up for this new technology. It offers me no benefits, costs me money, and gives up my rights."
    -- You. At least, you in the eyes of Hollywood.

  • Waste of effort (Score:3, Informative)

    by corvi42 ( 235814 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:05PM (#4901228) Homepage Journal
    This is such a waste of effort. All this means is that the person to first rip the data and then let it loose on gnutella ( or morpheus, etc. pick your fav. p2p ) will have to pay for the privelege. How is this different from buying a movie ticket and then taping it with your handycam and giving / selling the result?

    Someday these corps. are going to have to realize that digital is _more_ easily copied than analog, not less. No matter what clever locks and barriers they put up, the data is the same, and so it is inherently easy to reproduce. The demands of digital secrecy/security are fundamentally opposite to the demands of broadcasting and never the twain shall meet.
  • by rickthewizkid ( 536429 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:06PM (#4901234)
    Geez when I had cable, I had to tinker around with 75-100 pF variable capacitors, copper wire, and metal RadioShack boxes to get free TV! Then I graduated to sattelite, and all I needed was a smartcard programmer! This is great news!

    (Score: 5, Funny)
    (And to think, I don't even _own_ a TV anymore... is this a bad thing?)
  • by awitod ( 453754 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:07PM (#4901249)
    It looks like I'll just be one of those wierd old guys that still listens to music on vinyl. I also enjoy books.

    I bet my kids will hate me for it.

    On the other hand, now might be a good time to learn how to fix the current generation of 'disposable' kit and start hoarding parts. It might eventually become a nice little niche market.
    • The intention is that they stop broadcasting in analog. Repairing old equipment won't help. It's not as if TVs were stand-alone pieces of equipment, if you want to watch, what you watch is selected from what's shown.

      That's one of the reasons they hate VCRs.
    • That makes two of us. The loudest thought that came into my head as I read this was "Well, I guess that If this sort of restrictive nonsense becomes the only TV/movie option I'll just stick to reading books". Hell, even if publishing paper books becomes illegal tomorrow, I'll still have two lifetimes' supply of reading - and that's only including the best books ever written.

      Of course, there's always the chance that Joss Whedon will throw a big monkeywrench in my plan at some point... ;-)
  • by ad0gg ( 594412 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:08PM (#4901253)
    Now they are going to obsolete all the current HDTV gear out there in market, tv's and recievers. Of course the hardware manufactors support this because it forces people to buy new tv's with recievers built in and broadcast companies love it because they'll stop you from recording shows and skip through commercials. Content providers(cable and sattelite) could careless because they are going to charge you extra money to recieve these HD signals.
  • by HisMother ( 413313 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:09PM (#4901262)
    If it gets too hard or too expensive to watch TV, people may be forced to
    • Read a book!
    • Go outside!
    • Participate in democracy!
    • Volunteer for charity!
    This guys may be the best thing that's happened to western civilization since before Ed Sullivan sucked our collective brains out.
    • Totally agree. Majority of TV viewers are those who like to do something which requires the least amount of effort, that is, snoozing in front on TV, with 6 pack and some chips. Having something so complicated as a SmartCard will be well above their mental capabilities, so most likely they will revert to something like listening the Radio talk shows + 6 packet and some chips. I really really hope it will happen so the number of TV viewers will decrease. Well, probably a few will read the book, go out, etc, but I believe the majority of TV viewers are what I've just described. Cheers.
  • by X_Bones ( 93097 ) <danorz13 AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:09PM (#4901263) Homepage Journal
    There is no such thing as 'closing the analog hole.' No matter what scheme you use to protect your content, it *has* to be decrypted somewhere. And then some enterprising team will take apart the decryption mechanism, figure out how it works, and build a stand-alone decryption box.

    It needs to be done, if only because people have been spending thousands and thousands of dollars on flat-panel TVs, HDTVs, etc. and they're all loath to buy another one anytime soon.

    I had a point but I forgot what it was, so I'd better stop now.
    • But you CAN make the penalties for being caught with one of these boxes so extreme that it's not worth the risk. Remember, in America you can go to prison just for possessing certain dried plant material, and hurting nobody but (possibly) yourself. Emerging YEARS later with bad Bic-ink tattoos, a permanently distended rectum, and a criminal record that makes you unemployable. Big Media can easily buy a comparable law for digital TV piracy. Free cable sounds less appealing now, doesn't it?
  • by the_2nd_coming ( 444906 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:09PM (#4901270) Homepage
    and people will not use it.

    I uess paper books will be the next target of this "analog hole"

    so once people decide to stop watching TV, and begin to read more books, the publishing industry will begin to fase out paper books in favor of to close that analog hole right. we will have a new underclass, those who can not afford electronic equipment...

    will content publishers learn that when they try to keep control over the published information that it looses all value becasue no one wants to buy there crap? no, they will not and this is what will send us into the next dark age.
  • Courtesy of this [] /. article which links to this story [] on Information Week, you can see it's all pretty much summed up here.
    For SmartRight to be effective, it would have to be adopted by makers of high-definition TVs, set-top boxes, digital video recorders, and PCs. Thomson makes high-definition televisions, set-top boxes, and satellite television hardware, but it would need the cooperation of computer makers and legislators, who would have to mandate the inclusion of the technology in future hardware
    Seems to me this is still a ways off even if Philips decides to adopt it as there is still plenty of resistance from other angles. I wouldn't be shivering just yet. Just because HDTV mfrs. are out putting these things in their TV's is basically now just a waste of money, since there is nobody that utilizes the technology. It's going to be a stalemate a while yet as broadcasting companies, as well as film studios won't put the encryption in until everyone has one, and TV / set top mfr's won't add the cards, since it's a waste of money. Since IANAL I won't even get into the logistics of getting something like this passed through proper legal channels and all the hoopla that will create....
  • by dsfox ( 2694 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:15PM (#4901324) Homepage
    Hopefully we will soon need a smartcard to buy cigarettes as well...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:18PM (#4901354)
    Digital TVs watch YOU!
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:18PM (#4901356)
    After years without seeing anime (I used to watch Robotech as a kid) I was reintroduced by my local club that twice a month runs screenings for shows unreleased in the states. I don't know how/if these clubs will survive all this DRM garbage. It'd be really sad to see these great clubs go away (some are over 20 years old I think) in 5-10 years because the content gets locked down. I just hope these drm tv's and what not bomb as hard as divx (the original where you paid everytime you wanted to watch your dvd).
  • Unplug (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:20PM (#4901370)
    As long as Americans continue to keep their media-created, instiable appetite for broadcast video and audio, this will work.
    Why not unplug? Listen to the radio, read a book, go for a walk..
    What's so special about Law & Order, Pay-per-View Heart concerts, and even, dare, I say, the Discovery Channel? Go to a library, INTERACT WITH PEOPLE. The only reason that the population will turn into a mob of wallscreen-watching zombies is if we decide to.
  • by roybadami ( 515249 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:21PM (#4901379)
    Nothing too unexpected or draconian here at least at first sight -- surprisingly reasonable, in fact.

    This is very much what the home cinema press (here in the UK, at least) has been predicting for years, and it seems to be an improvement on the current impasse.

    Currently, you receive an encrypted data stream through your digital cable or satellite system, and it's decoded by a smartcard, but you're never allowed to get your hands on the datastream at all.

    Under this proposal, you'll be able to get your hands on the encrypted datastream, and pipe it around your home network, save it to disk, whatever. You'll still need a valid smartcard to be able to decrypt and view it, but you need one now already. It even sounds like they are thinking about not requireing you to have a smartcard for every TV (or keep moving your smartcard about), but instead allow one card to serve an entire home AV network.

    As for 'closing the analog hole' with digital watermarking techniques, this really doesn't sound any different from a souped-up Macrovision. We already have analogue signals tagged with a 'do not record' marker, so there's nothing really new here.

    Now, there are still ways they can screw this up; I'd really like them to drop the regional coding idea. And I hope that if I record a datastream for later viewing, that datastream doesn't become inaccessible to me if I subsequently cease to subscribe to the cable or satellite operator it was recorded from.

    Overall though this sounds promising, and I feel moderately optimistic that this will end up being a system I can live with...

    • by mrkurt ( 613936 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:38PM (#4901568) Journal
      Here in the states, this is not how it was supposed to work. The expectation with digital TV was that it would be a broadcast medium, and the spectrum is considered to be operated by broadcasters who are operating as a public trustee. This is how it's supposed to work in theory. We have been promised a range of services, from high definition broadcasting, which is just taking off, to simulcasting up to four channels over the expanded bandwidth (which is what our local PBS station said they wanted to do). Now comes $Hollywood and their demand to be in charge of this technology. If I want just movies and don't mind paying for the privilege of getting them, I'll subscribe to cable and HBO. I don't want that, I want expanded programming choices and a much improved signal. This is what digital TV was supposed to deliver, not another channel for the content providers to extract more quid from viewers.
  • That's alright.

    I'll be broadcasting my own analog stuff on the unlicensed spectrum [] and bypass digital all together.
  • by mrkurt ( 613936 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:23PM (#4901409) Journal

    More to the point, will we need to pay for the privilege of buying the smartcard so we can watch digital TV? IIRC, digital TV was supposed to be a free, broadcast medium, available to everybody, just like analog broadcasting. Why is it necessary to have some kind of technology to control who is watching? More to the point, if the copying of digital content so bothers the movie studios, why don't they just opt not to release their flicks for digital broadcast? Oh, that's right, Jack Valenti and Co. threatened to take their toys and go home from the digital party unless something was done. This really scared the broadcasters and electronics makers.

    Apparently, this was that "something." It could be used to extract payments from folks with digital TVs; I guess they feel they can't get these couch potatoes to go to the cinema or get up and go to Blockbuster and buy DVDs. Once again, it's all about control and DRM (Digital Reach for your Money). If these measures are necessary, why is it that the movie studios don't seem to mind if their product (rubbish, for the most part) is broadcast on analog TV all the time? Even after the Betamax case, they don't seem to mind that one can record movies on a VCR-- that is a copy, right? (no pun intended) I am rather surprised that they allow their flicks to be broadcast, rather than lose all that revenue.

    All I conclude is that these industries aren't serving my interests as a potential customer. Once again, Big Media has attempted to put their grubby fingers on emerging technology.

  • by Asprin ( 545477 ) <> on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:24PM (#4901421) Homepage Journal

    The day HDTV and SmartCards become a requirement is probably the day we stop watching TV shows altogether, though we'll likely keep the TV around for watching movies and playing games and the like. I don't know who they think they're kidding, but the crap they're trying to protect just isn't worth this kind of annoyance.

    Case in point - Why do we need 14 channels of HBO in our cable package -- is it so we have more choice? No, it's because exclusivity deals and vertical ownership mean they have to be a Time-Warner billboard. Oh, that and the movies suck, so they have to have 14 channels of it to make it seem like you're getting your money's worth. When I was a kid, we got 1 HBO channel, but they ran primo movies every night, and it was generally worth the subscription fee. Now, it's 14 channels of Sex&City reruns and crap movies from the 80's and (early)90's. Screw them. Don't **EVEN** get me started on "Slowtime" - the premium cable network for morons and the terminally horny.

    Now they want me to get a smart card and an encryption ID key for the priviledge of watching Will & Grace? Sorry. I'll do without - It's more fun playing with my wife anyway.

  • by gr8_phk ( 621180 )
    What about "content" created by others? Do I get to put "copy protection" on my own material? I suspect they are also trying to prevent any new competition. You won't be able to "protect" your (or your companies) content without paying them. Individuals work will not be privy to the new protections at all.


  • Future Scenario (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:33PM (#4901521)

    TV: All viewers must insert their identity cards and authenticate with the Viewing System before playback can commence.

    TV: This TV can see 4 potential viewers and a dog in the room. Three viewers are on the TSN subscription plan and have automatic access to the broadcast. These viewers have household authentication and have validated within the last 24 hours. Viewing is authorized. The forth viewer, Bob Neighbour has inserted his viewerID(tm) card but not authenticated and will need to authorize the use of credit to enable the viewing. TSN allows dogs to watch Monday Night Football for free.

    TV: Viewing paused. Awaiting authorization or departure. TSN thanks you for your viewing habits.
  • by thorrbjorn ( 321412 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @05:35PM (#4901544)
    With a few exceptions here and there, commercial e-book operations have been a financial failure. There's a lot of conjecture floating around as to why no one seems to want these e-books. My own conjecture is that its due to the simple fact that people don't want to pay more for less (in a rational universe, this would go without saying for anyone with any business sense.)

    Its too early so say for sure, but I see the possibility of the same thing happening here. Even leaving aside issues like playing media on Linux desktops, if Joe Sixpack can't do all the same stuff with this newfangled digital technology that he could do before with the old, if it is inconvenient to him, if he is getting less for the same money or more, he ain't gonna want it.
  • Next, they'll have them put in your radio. Does anyone see this as analogous to Microsoft's secure computing initiative? Imagine you have to pay for a smart card when all you want to do is listen to NPR or watch PBS. Is this like trying to run Linux on Palladium hardware?
  • ... and pick up a book.
  • I know one person who owns an HDTV. I'm lead to believe that that is one more HDTV owner than most people know.

    Modern PC's have more than enough CPU power to decode and display digital video streams from the ethernet. Monitors have more than enough resolution to display HDTV. 100mbit ethernet is fast enough for HDTV. We just need cable boxes with ethernet ports.

    HDTV could have an order of magnitude more viewers, if the entertainment industry would get over their computer phobia.

  • Distributors claim that piracy is making them lose
    big money even if we read about serious studies stating that losses are marginal or non-existent.

    But I think I know why, it's because they want to
    control the market in order to raise the pricing
    of all their products.

    In brief they want to bleed us to death and they
    know that if piracy is too easy it will flourish
    when they raise those prices.

    If ever they get rid of piracy one way or another
    we will pay the price, those movies will be

    Those big corporations are not treating their
    customers as they should.

    I hear the people answering to me "It is the
    way it happens in a capitalist society" and I even
    hear some people trying to tag me as a communist,
    to them I answer right now that controling a market is the opposite of a free market and I don't like it.

    Big corporations colluding together to create
    an environment where the customers are deprived
    of features, commodities and freedom should be
    considered as illegal because it is the exact same thing as a monopoly.

    I get angry each time that I read such news in Slashdot and it is not healthy. Soon I'll be forced to stop reading Slashdot for health reasons.

    Come on people, wake-up, some big guys in big offices want to steal you your way of life, they would charge you the air you're breathing if they ever find a way to do it. Tell them now that it is unacceptable.

  • What if they make it so hard to watch that nobody cares anymore and they stop watching?

    Its the missing link.

    The assumption is we'll watch however it suits the studios.

    We'll see how it all plays out. I've got a hunch though.
  • Dear big M&E, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by porkface ( 562081 )
    Good luck Hollywood! Please, this time around keep track of how much you spend on these shenanegins vs how much you save. Be realistic about how much money "piracy of television" is really costing you. I, for one, just don't see any hope of this paying off, and I don't want to have to go through this again when you fail to learn your lesson. If my $1500 HD-ready TV isn't adaptable to the new system, I'm going to chuck it through your window and demand my money back.
  • by noahbagels ( 177540 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @06:33PM (#4901935)
    I got satellite TV last week. I won't say the brand (don't accuse me of advertising) but suffice it to say it was one of the two major players.
    Picture quality: best I've ever seen. Far better than cable (analog) and far, far, *far* better than the crappy digital cable we here have in San Francisco (Thanks AT&T-crapola).
    Restrictions: NONE!!!
    I purchased a PVR that has no monthly fee - and I can record to outside devices such as VCR without macrovision - even from the PVR recorded content.

    Now - I just got this last week - but must say: I'm 110% very happy with it. So flame away, but I'm sure that as soon as they *force* us on to digital TV, and *force* us not to record shows (hmmm - any TIVO fans???) there will be mass exodus from the evil *them* and people will start using alternatives.

    Other thoughts: how about TV via DSL/other broadband in 5-10 years??? I think it's possible. Satellite - definitely possible.

    For those of you who will flame that they "don't have access to satellite" due to landlords or physical space considerations - I'm sorry & just like many of us look for broadband with our next apartments/homes, I'll be looking for a clear view to the south :)
  • Is the day i stop watching tv or listening to music. Screw them.

  • Blockquoth the article:

    With support from nearly every level of the digital industry, including Hollywood studios, Internet technology companies, computer and consumer electronics suppliers, and chip vendors, the DVB's ad hoc group on copy protection technology "stands the best chance" of finding a solution that all parties to the debate will accept, said Peter MacAvock, executive director of the DVB Project Office in Geneva.

    Nearly every level, except the most important one: the consumers themsevles. Time will tell whether this will be a boon for the broadcasting industry or a DIVX debacle on an epic scale...
  • The final goal is total control of *all* informational content.. Dont let them fool you.

    " Im sorry sir, but your lease to read that title you are requesting, 'the US constitution' has expired.. please come to the center, we will be waiting in the white zone for you.. "

  • by WndrBr3d ( 219963 ) on Monday December 16, 2002 @08:38PM (#4903198) Homepage Journal
    More like they want to 'plug' the 'analog hole' with their money wrapped 'digital dick'.

    Thats just my take on it though, I could be wrong.
  • Question .... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ProfMoriarty ( 518631 ) on Tuesday December 17, 2002 @01:45AM (#4905228) Journal
    Are the big media conglomerates going to strap everybody into chairs like in A Clockwork Orange [] to force us to watch their drivel?

    And what about all of the current analog TV's that are out there ... will it be illegal to own one? Even if you had a digital converter box, that box HAS to output analog signals to a current (non-digital) TV.

    Hmmmm ... maybe time to stock up on supplies for the coming revolution.

If you can't learn to do it well, learn to enjoy doing it badly.