Thursday, December 6, 2007

The copyright police are all over the place

First of all I can not believe how much attention goes to copyright as opposed to war mongering in Iran. It is all out of proportion.

So there is a house bill "The College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007" Which got some play in the tech-press
here and here. But this was actually a sad sort of spin off of a different weird and totally wrong idea. Which was on the mp3 insider podcast in late summer 2007 as a rumor. The rumor was that the RIAA would get government to force the makers of mp3 players to pay a fee to the RIAA. (sort of like what the BBC does in the UK where everyone who owns a TV is supposed to pay some fee annually.)

The COAA even got on to some academic news with Digital Campus Episode 16 - Steal This E-Book. But there is a real war going on. Today Declan McCullagh writes about a second piece of legislation.

A couple of things about my media. I own and iPod and a Samsung Yepp 256mb mp3 player. I spent a month ripping CDs to the iPod format. But have listened to maybe 4 hours of music on these players ever. I use my players for playing free (but yes they are copyrighted) podcasts and material from iTunesU. With TV I don't watch commercials but with the iPod I do (hey HP the commercials for the Blackbird on Webb Alert really got my attention). Come to think of it I only watched about an hour of TV in the last two weeks. If I had to pay some fee when I bought these players to the RIAA or the MPAA it would have been extortion.
I also Pay for some content as a full subscriber to Air America Premium and until recently a subscriber to TimesSelect A not on times select the most valuable feature was the podcasts but my wife and I had decided over the summer that we would not renew even before the cancellation of the service (why because the NY Times does such a lousy job).

Speaking of Webb Alert there was an item this morning about Nilsen selling some sort of files for use in digital fingerprinting. And then there was

Steve Jobs pitching "premium," iPod-loadable DVDs on Boing Boing.

None of this will of course compare to the attention devoted to the kindle. Or for that matter the faux format war between blu-ray and Hd-dvd.

And then there are the triumphalists who say that DRM will soon be gone. They are wrong. DRM will continue for many years to come and we will find that it invades more and more of what we do. If the technology gets better and interferes less with what they want us to do then it will expand and expand. Think about the Marlin initiative. They have a spec and some diagrams. I am doubtful that anyone will ever be able to make software that can talk to so many devices in such a complex way.

And there is the rub. There are so many legitimate uses of content, and so many devices to play/read content on, that DRM is always software blocking legitimate use. And then there is service to history. In my professional life my customers are librarians and archivists. And they know the importance and the challenges of being able to access digital content even when there is no DRM. Formats evolve media degrades. Software becomes incompatible and obsolete. Throw in DRM and their jobs are a nightmare.

Let's think about major league baseball for a moment.