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Re: [dvd-discuss] Digital Rights Management GedankenExperiments
... I'm replying to myself (tacky, tacky, tacky) -- but here is the text
of a letter I sent to Lawrence Lessig that states my case that the
"quintessential devil" (c.f. Star Trek IV) in all of our issues is the
long copyright term -- in a slightly different form of the arguement
I greatly appreciated your article on the corrosive effect of the
copyright industry on technological progress -- specifically broadband
key issue for roll-out is the percieved value of the broadband --
driving adoption where available and driving roll-out where not. The
key to percieved value is free (or advert supported) content -- the
"killer app" for the WWW.
As a strategist in the information technology industry it is a perenniel
worry on the caustic effects overweaning, arbitrary copyright industry
interference on emerging technologies. Today this impact is treated
like the weather, with nothing (apparently) to be done about it.
Non-hypothetically, the DVD chipset business has be decimated by the
simple fact that everything legal to implement is implemented -- leaving
only price as a differentiator. Not a winning business model as Cyrix
(and others) price-only competition with Intel showed.
Strangely I was just having this conversation with a colleague this very
morning. My candidate for leading culprit (and best lever) -- long
copyright terms. If copyrights were 28 yrs (max) as the founders
created (and I think intended) then every television show through 1974
would be available freely -- imagine the low cost subscription and
sharing service that could be created and the demand (insatiable thirst)
for bandwidth it would create. The ability to legally share all pre
'74 music would further drive bandwidth demand.
These long copyright terms are disastrous in several ways. First it
guarantees that all even moderately contemporary (and thus in demand)
works are under the control of some (paranoid and control freak) rights
holder (reducing supply of the free works that create value for the
internet). Second, the absences of a relevant public domain decreases
competition to todays works (increasing prices, and reducing quality).
Third, the monopoly rents inflated by the lack of a relevant public
domain support substantial lobbying efforts far out of proportion to the
value of industry to the economy. Fourth, the lack of meaningful public
domain format in modern media (music, video, film, television) enables
the rights holders overt and covert control over the standards and
technologies that prerequiste to the use of these media. Finally, the
absence of modern media in the public domain (a century after the
introduction of those media) means that courts and legislators see the
impact of controls-technology as a "by-and-by" future hypothetical -- at
least three degrees of separation from reality.
I've thought long about what it would take to best attack the beast of
copyright bloat. I'm convinced that if technology companies could be
made to understand the depth to which the copyright companies are
"picking their pocket" (to quote Scrooge re: Christmas) they would be
the strongest advocate of the restoration of sane and balanced
copyright. Further, they have the lobby and "good for General Motors is
good for the USA article" seeing that technology sneezed and the economy
caught cold -- and the movie industry is having and banner year and it's
paltry $10B in theatre ticket is having no effect to lift us out.
Frankly (and without resorting to "scapegoat logic") we should be able
to spell out in clear and certain terms. No only has the demand for
broadband been slowed, but the demand for higher power computers. Today
the most processing I need (and can use legally) is to MP3 my CD's.
Were I able to legally play with my DVD in like measure the processing
and memory demands (and the demand generation for upgrades) would be
orders of magnitude higher (a PC that can rip MP3's at 10x can only RIP
DVD's to MPEG4 at .05x (a factor of 200 difference!). Perhaps working
with some of the usual suspects from the OpenLaw or other fora (Felton
et. al) we can put together this story. Finally is the impact on
exsisting (DVD) and emerging market on the differentiation and
value-proposition before and after the gutting by the copyright
We have the tail not only wagging the dog, but slapping it into the
walls -- time to stop the enchanted harp and wake-up "Fluffy" (the
cerberus or Harry Potter fame).