Wal-Mart this week ushered in a high-profile outing of Hollywood's UltraViolet scheme for digital streaming of movies and TV. And it's the same old song it ever was: complicated, restrictive DRM with a big side helping of "pay me again."
In theory, UltraViolet gives you an easier--or at least, legal--way to digitally stream your movies to multiple devices. The UV standard, developed by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, offers dizzying promises of an easy-to-access digital library, "total freedom" to view your UV-enabled movies on any device, and future-proof DVD buying where every disc includes … Read more
Now that we've had a few days to digest the MPAA-backed Stop Online Piracy Act (PDF), can we all finally agree that the MPAA is evil and Hollywood wants the Internet to die? And then can we stop letting them write laws for us?
SOPA is the latest--and perhaps the most brazen--effort in a string of attempts by the MPAA and RIAA to bend the Internet to their corporate will and undermine all kinds of consumer rights. It's a breathtaking piece of work that would give Hollywood and private companies free reign to censor, remove, or prevent the … Read more
On Wednesday morning, subscribers to the indie-music download service Amie Street received an e-mail announcing that the company had been bought by Amazon. Existing customers get a $5 gift certificate to Amazon's MP3 store and must download all the music they've paid for by September 22.
Amie Street started by offering music from independent labels and digital distributors like The Orchard, and it was a pioneer of demand-based pricing--all downloads on the site started off being available for … Read more
How badly do you want to see new movies in your home close to the date they're released in theaters? Badly enough to let the movie industry reach through your front door and break your TV? Well, good news for you.
The Federal Communications Commission decided on Friday that the movie industry can remotely disable analog video outputs on your home theater equipment to prevent you from recording certain programs--namely, first-run movies available on demand before DVDs are released or while they're still in theaters.
It's an article of faith in the music industry that pre-release album leaks hurt sales. I don't have the statistics to argue the case in either direction, but it makes sense on a gut level: there's less reason for fans to run out and buy a new record, when they already have the uncompressed files on their hard drives.
As if the record industry hasn't tasted enough bitter irony lately, a bunch of album leaks over the weekend apparently came from a service used by music labels to share files with radio stations, media, and other … Read more
Recently, the office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (a new post under the Obama administration) asked for comments as it puts together its "Joint Strategic Plan" for intellectual property enforcement. Yes, you the public are also invited to comment, and that's what I'm hoping you'll do after you read this. Or during. Or both.
See, the RIAA and the MPAA submitted a joint commentary that the EFF refers to as a "wish list" and, most accurately, a dystopian view of a future in which most government and police resources go toward stopping intellectual property theft and illegal downloading.
This Gizmodo post describing the comments reads like something only hyper-overreactive, FUD-spreading free-stuff-loving Internet types would come up with as a paranoid nightmare: the RIAA and MPAA want spyware installed on your computers that would automatically delete "infringing content." They want network-monitoring software that would halt an illegal download in its tracks. They want to deputize the FBI, Homeland Security, and border crossing guards to examine and seize MP3 players and laptops (something so egregious it even came out of the wildly over-the-top ACTA agreement). Crazy talk, I know.
But read the comments for yourself. It's all in there. And there's more: the MPAA wants blockbuster movie releases to be treated with the same kinds of security measures and law-enforcement mobilization that might occur when, say, a head of state comes to visit.
The comments call for bandwidth throttling and shaping, network filtering and deep-packet inspection (especially on college campuses), and accelerated federal investigations into the theft of "pre-release music and movies...as this is one of the most damaging forms of online copyright theft and requires immediate attention and swift action." Dive in anywhere. It's a minefield of overreaching, unbelievably punitive, alarmist language.
And this is just insult to injury, considering the other things the music and movie industry have either asked for or forced on us over the years, as they become increasingly paranoid about digital piracy and increasingly panicked about their outmoded, pre-Internet business plans. And let's not forget their historic unwillingness to make any sort of actual business changes and instead try to rely on government to keep them in business. Let's review.
Thanks to the DMCA, it is illegal for you to make a digital copy of a DVD that you have actually purchased. That's because, under the law, you are not allowed to break the technological DRM that keeps you from ripping the DVD. It's also because you have no explicit right to fair use with the content or devices you own. The RIAA has spent years flirting with ways to stop you from ripping CDs, hinting that they don't think making digital copies of your own CDs is, in fact, fair use. Several labels briefly issued widely despised copy-protected CDs, until consumer outcry put a stop to it because the crippled CDs frequently wouldn't even play. And of course, when that failed, they resorted to dirty tricks like embedding rootkits in CDs that would essentially break your computer when you ripped one. … Read more
President Obama broke the Internet's collective heart last week, cheering on strict intellectual-property laws, dampening our hopes for meaningful copyright reforms and, worse, announcing that "we must" move forward on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
Now, ACTA covers a lot of ground that the president is concerned about, such as physical copying of goods--the actual counterfeiting in the Counterfeiting name. But as you may know by now, it also contains some seriously disturbing, broad-stroke IP law that could have a devastating effect on the way the Internet works--on research, content creation and innovation, search and seizure, and much … Read more
There has been a lot of commentary following last week's New York Times op-ed by Dick Brass, a former Microsoft executive who claims that the company is bogged down by process and infighting, and has hence lost its ability to innovate.
One of the most interesting follow-ups comes from Groklaw, which dug up some e-mails placed into the public record a few years ago during an antitrust case against Microsoft. (These materials have been a treasure trove of interesting and sometimes-embarrassing internal communications, including then-Windows chief Jim Allchin's 2004 admission that he would have bought a Mac over … Read more
Creating personalized playlists for your iPhone is great if you're a control freak with plenty of time, but I've increasingly come to rely on the Genius function introduced with iTunes 8. But Genius requires you to build playlists around a single "seed" song, and is often weak on variety--it almost always picks two or three other songs from the same album as your seed song, and its other choices tend to run to the same era and genre.