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

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.

TOPICS: Malware

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.

Topic: Malware

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  • The best part of all...

    ...not only do they want to sell us locked-down inferior products that do less than what we have now, they want to charge us even higher prices for this shoddy merchandise. Just say no.

    Here's another great quote from Doctorow on what all this DRM is about:

    I once attended a DRM negotiation where an MPAA vice-president said, "Watching a show that's being received in one room while you're sitting in another room has value, and if it has value, we should be able to charge money for it." Siva Vaidhyanathan calls this the "if value, then right" theory -- if something has value, someone must have a right to sell it. So while you might be accustomed to extracting unexpected value from your old media -- ripping a CD to play it on your iPod, copying a cartoon and sticking it on your fridge, taking your books with you when you move overseas -- forget about it from now on.

    Every conceivable source of value for DRM digital movies is now potentially for sale. I've heard proposals for "discounted" movies that you can't fast-forward ("discounted" in the sense that products you buy with a store loyalty card are "discounted" -- they raise the price unless you use the card). Prepare for the future where every button on your remote has a price-tag on it.
    tic swayback
    • Gasoline on fire

      Piracy is just a little flame right now. Pulling something like this would like pouring gasoline on flame in an attempt to put out the fire. It might work but more than likely you'll just burn down the nieghborhood.

      I'd say if this occurs say good-by to copyrights in general. There will be a backlash and when it's all done there won't be copyrights anymore. No one will follow those laws or respect them.
      • at least for movies and music, probably...

        it's been said that the best way to get rid of something which is illegal is to legalize it, and then regulate it to death (see cigarettes and alcohol...)... the thing with this is, while they are trying to do that, they're meeting the brick wall of customer demands. the customer demands total freedom, and isn't getting it. This creates the black market.
  • Traditional media ...

    ... is just a bunch of control freaks fighting against the inevitable.
    P. Douglas
    • I believe it's referred to ..

      as dinosaurs mating.

      Funny how, wherever these big dinosaurs are (entertainment, telecom), there are regulations and laws nearby to prolong the death.

      • The industry is sick

        [i]Funny how, wherever these big dinosaurs are (entertainment, telecom), there are regulations and laws nearby to prolong the death.[/i]

        The problem with entertainment companies, is that they act like oligopolies. They kick around their customers, and they audaciously solicit the government to pass laws against its citizens. I have lost almost all respect for them; and certainly don?t trust them. What I think the computer and telecom industries should be doing, is creating huge broadband pipes into homes and offices that would obviate the need for cable, telephone and similar services per se.

        This would break the stranglehold these utilities and the entertainment industry have over consumers, and consumers would have a huge number of services to choose from via the Internet. This would allow e.g. a tiny company that initially puts out shows on a shoe string budget, to compete head to head with established media. Traditional media would have no choice but to do what customers demand.

        It is utterly sickening and arrogant the way traditional media repeatedly try to force its customers into doing what they want. The entertainment industry is very, very sick.
        P. Douglas
        • Which industry is sick

          There is little difference between the large computer players and
          the entertainment industries. Often their largest customers and
          partners are each other. The entertainment industry has the
          content while the computer industry has the infrastructure. That
          division of value and service has begun to disappear due to
          consolidation and new business models, but neither side is able
          to function without the other. At least not easily. It is true that
          the entertainment companies behave as though they are
          oligopolies, but what about the telecoms, cable companies (local
          monopolies) and Microsoft or even Google? Each achieved
          dominant market positions through different means and each
          seeks continued protection or advantage through favorable
          legislation. Although some seek government help more than
          others. However, much of the so-called de-regulation
          recommended today has anything to do with a level playing
          field, for instance, the constant refrain from the NAB to eliminate
          the ownership cap for their members. But returning to your
          point, the competing industries you name are not likely to follow
          a strategy that depends on the consumer responding directly to
          their services. It's much easier to create deals with each other. In
          the case of the broadcasters, this may be due to legacy
          regulation of the spectrum (which gave the spectrum to a few
          large players in the late 1920s and sealed the deal in 1934. At
          the same time, the telecoms (ATT&T) managed to receive
          extremely favorable legislation in a similar time frame. Industry
          is more responsible for regulation than big government liberals,
          and it would be nearly impossible to manage the rights of the
          states, pole rights and many other property issues without
          regulation. What actually happens most of the time is that large
          companies have the lobbying muscle to have favorable
          legislation passed, usually with some quid pro quo involving the
          public good. However, since little of this receives much public
          attention the public good typically turns out to be a poor deal
          for the public. Large industries are much better at deal making
          thean elected officials acting outside the view of the public. The
          public good ends up being the smallest thing industry can
          stomach, but still good enough so that legislators can claim
          victory for the voters. I'm afraid the action you are suggesting
          that might benefit the public -- huge broadband pipes -- would
          have little support other than consumers. To extract value from
          that proposition is less efficient then creating value through
          scarcity and making deals with competing industries. I'm not
          saying it's a good solution, but Reed Hunt a recent Chairman of
          the FCC suggested that the government should just build out a
          100Mbit pipe to everyone. Not a perfect solution, but than
          neither is the free-market.Or, the government could allocate
          some of the wireless spectrum to public use (instead of the
          garbage spectrum that will be used for Wifi) so that local
          municipalities can provide serious bandwidth for free. This
          could also be provided in such a way that the unafilliated non
          profits could provide local wireless broadband. There are many
          other options that are not big government or that encourage
          smaller local solutions or a hybrid system that does not turn
          encourge a telecommunication/entertainment complex that is
          anything but a result of ?market forces.?
  • DTV

    The current FCC rules don't require them to broadcast in HDTV nor allows enough bandwidth to broadcast in HDTV.

    It should be more technically called DTV which is SDTV, EDTV, and HDTV. Many stations will be broadcasting SDTV. In otherwords we will get the broadcast flag without even getting HDTV.
    Edward Meyers

    DRM is regulation therefore all regulation is CRAP. Wrong answer. We need regulations...we do not need DRM. Our (s)elected representatives are regulating the people (who they swore to represent) instead of the media (who they are financialy beholden to). Vote 'em out!