Doctorow: HDTV is a Trojan Horse. DRM is the payload

Summary:Cory Doctorow, who is probably the world's best communicator when it comes to the dangers of digital rights management technology, is issuing a stern warning about HDTV.

Cory Doctorow, who is probably the world's best communicator when it comes to the dangers of digital rights management technology, is issuing a stern warning about HDTV. Wrote Doctorow in Information Week:

The high definition screen has become a kind of Christmas tree, overladen with ornaments hung by regulators, greedy entertainment execs, would-be monopolists from the tech sector, broadcasters desperate to hold onto their spectrum, and even video-game companies nostalgic for the yesteryear of impervious boxes....If the studios had their druthers, they'd just encrypt high-def signals. An encrypted signal needs a key to decrypt, and you can set up all kinds of rules about when, how and who can decrypt a show by building it into the contract that comes with the key. But you can't encrypt over-the-air TV: the broadcasters get the spectrum for free, and in exchange they have to serve us. It wouldn't do to let them lock us out of the programs aired on our airwaves.... The Broadcast Flag is the law the studios came up with to square this circle. They proposed a Soviet-style planned economy (Fox president Andy Setos, who wrote the Broadcast Flag draft, referred to it as a "well-mannered marketplace") where all TV receivers would have to be built to honor the rules set down by the entertainment industry. The studios would get a veto over any feature that threatened its existing business-model, and anyone who wanted to interface with a TV receiver would have to agree to play by Hollywood's rules..... The Broadcast Flag was adopted by the FCC, and then was struck down by a DC court that told the Commission its jurisdiction stopped at the broadcasting tower, and didn't extend to your living room. But the studios and the broadcasters continue to advance their plans for a high-def universe, and they continue to use HD as a trojan horse for smuggling in mandates over the design of commodity electronics.

This is just a small collection of excerpts that werel part of a much longer must-read treatise that really gets under the fingernails of what the entertainment cartel is up to.  I get a lot of grief here on ZDNet and in my email from people who say that buyers of DRM-saddled electronics and content know what they're getting into and therefore deserve what's coming to them.  But I've disagreed, often saying that, like cigarettes in the early days, most people aren't aware of what they're getting themselves into.  But I've never articulated it as a Trojan Horse.  Two words says it all.  Thanks Cory.

Topics: Malware

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David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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