Sunday, September 04, 2005

Consumers To Be Punished for Modifying or Doing Things with Products They Buy?

Reuters.com has a blurb about the new Blu-Ray DVD format that will be forced upon us in the near future. I work at Sony, and hear that Blu-Ray is technically great, but the following part disturbs me:
On top of that, consumers should expect punishment for tinkering with their Blu-ray players, as many have done with current DVD players, for instance to remove regional coding. The new, Internet-connected and secure players will report any "hack" and the device can be disabled remotely.

"A hacked player is any player that is doing something it's not supposed to do," Andy Setos (engineer at News Corp) said, adding the jury was still out if regional coding would be maintained or scrapped.

Not supposed to do? Like what? Show porn? Show material that the religious minority finds offensive? Play DVDs criticizing the government? Show material that isn't licensed by the Hollywood cartel? Shows material supporting the ideas of public domain or open source? Play back DVDs or music more than the number of times that Hollywood executives want you to? Play back movies from other countries?

Come on! No corporate entity, just because it's acting as a creator of a product, should claim infinite rule-making abilities under patent and copyright laws. Infinite scope is not protected, only the right to control copying with the priviso of Fair Use. That's it. The D.M.C.A. added the ability to sue folks who tried to go around their rules, but there's nothing from stopping them from expanding the scope of whatever rules they want. Hence, Andy's quote of "Anything it's not supposed to" meaning "what we say it should do." You want to try make your DVD player work in your car? Too bad. That's a crime. You want to hook it up to Linux since Hollywood doesn't want to support it? Too bad. That's a crime.

I feel like I'm in the former Soviet Union more and more every day. A centralized design committee declaring that consumers have no rights to change what they buy. Not for safety reasons (like you shouldn't use rat poison in cooking or to make bombs), but because the committee feels it is against their interests.

The good news is, any device that uses the Internet to tattle tale on you can be thwarted by having something listening for its outgoing signals. But if Hollywood gets to build the "uncopyable" DVD player, that doesn't mean we have to buy it. If they want to cry "Oh oh, we're losing so much money because the DVD spec before was so easily copied", and then turn around and make more profit in DVDs over the last several years than regular movies, I couldn't care less. I'll go on renting Netflix until they require me to let my DVD player tattle tale on me.

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posted by Brian at 11:42 AM

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