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About this weblog
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.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

Copyfight

« Where Does Hollywood Make Its Money? | Main | Open Source, Open Access, Open Science »

August 9, 2005

Your PC = = A Toaster

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You might imagine that copyfighters are exaggerating when they talk about technologists asking Hollywood for permission to innovate. You'd be wrong.

Over at Freedom to Tinker, Edward Felten has posted snippets from a Microsoft white paper on the forthcoming "Windows Vista" operating system. They show Microsoft giving Hollywood explicit veto power over parts of the operating system functionality. For instance:


Content industry acceptance

The evidence must be presented to Hollywood and other content owners, and they must agree that it provides the required level of security. Written proof from at least three of the major Hollywood studios is required.

What are the implications? As Derek Slater writes at Deep Links:

With its entertainment industry accomplices, Microsoft is turning your general-purpose computer into a toaster -- a content-vending appliance that obeys copyright holders, not you. As Felten explains, your PC will cost more and do less.

It will also make criminals out of more and more legitimate technology tinkerers and average users. To modify practically any part of your PC and use the software or hardware of your choice, you'll have to circumvent DRM in ways that may violate the DMCA.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's new DRM will do nothing to prevent widespread infringing distribution of copyrighted content -- the illegal activity that the restrictions are supposed to target.


So why should Microsoft give in to Hollywood's demands? According to Linux guru Don Marti, Microsoft isn't caving. It's just doing what's best for the company:

Isn't it time to drop the polite fiction that MSFT and other incumbent IT and CE vendors are only doing DRM because of big, bad Hollywood? ...[Having] "Hollywood" clamoring for harsh DRM (based on technical facts from the IT industry) actually helps the current market leaders. ...

With DRM, MSFT and Apple can keep their customers from switching back and forth (or maybe to Linux), and CE vendors can't lock out $39 Chinese DVD players, but can at least collect a tax on them.


In other words, this isn't about stopping mass copyright infringement or pleasing Hollywood. It's about keeping "consumers" locked in and people who develop potentially competing products locked out.

Previous relevant Copyfight coverage is here.

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