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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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September 1, 2004

HDTV: Engineering for Incompatibility

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Posted by Wendy Seltzer

Even as the FCC and consumer electronic companies try desperately to push Americans toward HDTV, one Washington Post reviewer joins the crowd throwing up hands at the complexity of it all. Parts don't interoperate well, even once you've upgraded for high-res, and worst of all, that's on purpose:

[T]he link from cable box to D-VHS remains troublesome -- by design. Thanks to an industry agreement, a high-def program can be copied from Comcast box to D-VHS only once. If you stop halfway and try again from the start, a "copy flag" prevents it.

In other words, consumer electronics manufacturers have so far capitulated to the demands of greedy copyright owners that they've built extra failure modes into their devices. It's not enough that the picture might pixellate due to weak signal or bad connections, the industry must punish its best customers (those who have just spent thousands on HD-capable equipment) by breaking perfectly reasonable personal use patterns. Of course, if you're sick of being treated like a thief, you might try an open-source MythTV-based HD-PVR.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies


1. Optimist on September 2, 2004 2:20 PM writes...

Get a life!!!

All you Napsterisk generation freaks always want something for nothing! You are the guys stnading in line for the freebie T-Shirts at all the trade shows. Your DVD+/- burner yielding armies consume nothing but bandwidth 24/7 via broad band trading frenzies.

And now you just gotta have an opinion on rightful owners who want to protect their own property??? You should be so lucky to live in China or Iran and have your hand cutoff or better yet your head!!!

Permalink to Comment

2. luke on September 2, 2004 4:53 PM writes...

"All you Napsterisk generation freaks always want something for nothing!"

the industry must punish its best customers (those who have just spent THOUSANDS on HD-capable equipment)

"You are the guys stnading in line for the freebie T-Shirts at all the trade shows."

i don't even go to trade shows. i design my own shirts.

"Your DVD+/- burner yielding armies consume nothing but bandwidth 24/7 via broad band trading frenzies."

i own my bandwidth. i pay a lot of money for it. i can use it anyway i want to.

"And now you just gotta have an opinion on rightful owners who want to protect their own property???"

i work at a video editing lab. we NEED to be able to copy stuff. as to copying other stuff, i don't see what the problem with personal use is. i can already rip dvd's if i want to. there is no incentive for me to upgrade to a higher resolution format if it doesn't offer me the same flexibility.

its a good thing i read this piece, since now i wasn't sure i had to be as cautious about this sort of thing on the high-def arena.

also: there have been interoperability issues with hdtv since the start. but they've always been trying to iron them out. this is the first time i've heard of one purposefully done.

Permalink to Comment

3. Branko Collin on September 2, 2004 6:43 PM writes...

Hey Optimist, are you really the owner of, or are you just one of those anonymous cowards who likes to pass of other people's property as their own?

Permalink to Comment

4. Optimist on September 3, 2004 3:04 AM writes...

All WEAK excuses!

I work deep inside of this industry at the nuts and bolts technical design level. You guys have NO idea what's going to hit you all in the near future. NO IDEA! LOL!

Don't blame me nor the industry. It's all on guys just like YOU. You started it. You drew first blood (Napster). Now it's the industry's turn. GET USE TO IT!

Permalink to Comment

5. Alexander Wehr on September 3, 2004 1:33 PM writes...

I will resist in all methods possible upgrades to HDTV.

As long as there are digital services available i will stick to them, and keep my much cheaper services which still afford me my rights under betamax and treat me like an honest human being.

Please dont forget that a good HDTV package costs upwards of $80 a month. We bought the programming and we should be allowed to do whatever we please with it in our own homes and view it with whatever device we choose.

I'm so sorry if the MPAA is positively phobic of my personal computer. That is their problem, and if they really dont want me to record what i access, then I'll just not buy their feed and wait for independent studios who are fair to their consumers to capture the market the MPAA so hates.

Permalink to Comment

6. Alexander Wehr on September 3, 2004 1:42 PM writes...

"You guys have NO idea what's going to hit you all in the near future. NO IDEA! LOL!"

as long as malaysia , canada, amsterdam, the camaro islands, and dedicated civlly disobedient cryptographers and hackers exist it does not matter how much money, time, or technical measures are thrown at it. A black box will come about to make it null and void.

In the case of the perverse new HDTV standards, once they are set in stone they will have to remain that way for at least half a century (at least working from past developments in tv tech).

That is a full 50 years in which hundreds of thousands of professionals can chip away at it with increasingly powerful computers.
It took less than a year for apple's fairplay to be cracked. I admire apple.. their developers are absolutely second to none, but not even they could devise a drm structure that worked.

I, however, grow increasingly annoyed at the headaches i have to go through to make fair use of my products, and therefore refuse to adopt anything new until adequate drm circumvention measures come about.

In the mean time, have fun in your industry, with the stagnation in demand and revenues which will come from increasing consumer backlash, and reluctance to adopt new and extremely encumbered technologies.

P.S. I never used p2p networks in any means which were damaging or infringing to copyright owners or their revenue streams. (Did it ever occur to you that the stuff your companies dont want to sell may be valuable to small cultlike followings which only p2p can connect? ) I think it's time to stop flaming this blog and open your mind.

Permalink to Comment

7. Branko Collin on September 3, 2004 7:06 PM writes...

Alexander: "It took less than a year for Apple's fairplay to be cracked. I admire Apple... their developers are absolutely second to none, but not even they could devise a DRM structure that worked."

The irony of this is that the MPAA kick-started the cracking of Apple's Fairplay, when they went after Jon Lech Johansen for being involved in the cracking of the decss code. Just having had to sit in prison cell for one day would have given me enough hatred of the industry and enough adrenaline and drive to try and crack all DRM systems. Although Johansen did not crack Fairplay himself, he cleared a path wide enough for Real's programmers to walk through.

Interesting how what goes around comes around.

(For those who have lived on another planet the past ten years: Jon Johansen was a teenager when he was arrested for being involved in the illegal cracking of the decss lock that is necessary to give mafia-like clubs like the MPAA the right to go after infringers under the DMCA. The only problem? The DMCA is not a Norwegian law, but Johansen is a Norwegian citizen. Norwegian courts cleared Johansen on all counts. It was not illegal what he did--and what he did was for watching legally bought DVDs on his PC.)

Permalink to Comment

8. Branko Collin on September 3, 2004 7:08 PM writes...

Oops! Where I write 'decss', please read 'css'. The DeCSS tool was of course meant to circumvent CSS, to decss.

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