TiVoToGo and CableLabs

Many people have been wondering what exactly happened to TiVoToGo in the new Series3 models.
bq.In the “Plug and Play” proceedings, the FCC required all cable companies to make available CableCARDs, which enable anyone to offer an alternative to set-top boxes. The CableCARD is slotted into a compatible device like a TV or a DVR, and then that device acts as a set-top box. Inter-industry agreements force anyone who wants to create a CableCARD-compatible device to get licensed through a private organization jointly run by cable companies called CableLabs. Unfortunately, Hollywood intruded into the FCC’s proceedings in order to ensure that CableCARD-compatible devices incorporated DRM. With the FCC’s blessings, CableLabs’ license can require DRM. And that’s how TiVoToGo for Series 3 HD met its maker. As TiVo’s website suggests,18 CableLabs has yet to permit TiVo to implement TiVoToGo in the CableCARD-compatible Series 3 HD. – “Electronic Frontier Foundation(Who Killed TiVoToGo?)”:http://www.eff.org/IP/pnp/cablewp.php Unchecked big business can be bad for everyone. Unchecked government can be bad for everyone. But the absolute worst thing is when big business and government work together. The thing is, I haven’t even used TiVoToGo very often. It is slow and clunky and a hassle to work with the files once you got them transferred. But it was nice to have the possibility of doing something with them. I guess this means that TiVo owners will just have to stick with downloading copies of their favorite shows from BitTorrent sites. And wondering exactly what benefit they get from paying the cable company each month?

The Danger of DRM

bq.The danger with DRM is that it gives corporations the power to change the rules of the game anytime they think it will benefit their bank account, even if that means zuning your music library. There’s no better illustration of this than when the world’s largest technology company curtails support of their OWN technology abandoning their hardware partners, music stores and most importantly customers they convinced to use Plays for Sure. Microsoft will surely claim that they’ll continue to support Plays for Sure, but their actions speak louder than their words – it won’t even play on their own music players! Plays for Sure is dead for sure and it’s going to its grave with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of music fans’ digital music crammed into the coffin. – “Michael Robertson(Getting Zuned)”:http://www.michaelrobertson.com/archive.php?minute_id=219 If Microsoft does refocus their efforts on the Zune and away from the PlaysForSure DRM that enable libraries to offer products like “OverDrive(Digital Library Reserve)”:http://www.dlrinc.com/ and “NetLibrary(eAudiobooks)”:http://www.oclc.org/audiobooks/ Audiobooks, I wonder who will actually benefit? I can’t really think of anyone.

The DRM of Zune

Remember the recent discussion about Apple allowing PlaysforSure on the iPod?
bq.If SpiralFrog is successful, maybe Apple will cave in and allow WMA files to be played on their devices. – “Tom Peters(The DRM of SpiralFrog)”:http://www.libraryplanet.com/2006/09/14/spiralfrog This morning I have a different question.
bq.So they’re two complementary solutions — not everyones gonna want Zune and not everyone’s gonna want PlaysForSure. They’re different paths there, and we’re okay with both of them. – “J Allard(The Engadget Interview: J Allard, Microsoft Corporate Vice President)”:http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/14/the-engadget-interview-j-allard-microsoft-corporate-vice-presi/ If SpiralFrog is successful, do you think maybe Microsoft will cave in and allow WMA (aka SpiralFrog PlaysForSure Protected WMA) files to be played on their Zune devices?

The DRM of SpiralFrog

bq.For starters, SpiralFrog will use the WMA audio-file format developed by Microsoft, which will not play on the iPod product line. WMA reportedly has strong DRM [digital rights management], but there have been reports recently that it too has been hacked. WMA also is the file format used by OverDrive and NetLibrary for their downloadable digital-audiobook services, the two major services of this type for libraries. This may be a self-serving reason to root for SpiralFrog. If SpiralFrog is successful, maybe Apple will cave in and allow WMA files to be played on their devices. – “Tom Peters(SpiralFrog and the Gyres of History)”:http://www.techsource.ala.org/blog/2006/09/spiralfrog-and-the-gyres-of-history.html I play WMA files on my iPod all the time. I just use iTunes to convert them to MP3 first. Then they play just fine.
bq.The (big) downside here is that the music at SpiralFrog will be wrapped in strange DRM that requires regular logging in the the ad driven SpiralFrog service in order for the music files to continue playing. Standard DRM of limited devices, copies and Windows only applies as well. Some people say it’s still a big step because it’s free music, I (and others) question the technical coercion and wish there was some better way to do it. – “Marshall Kirkpatrick(More mostly free music: EMI to partner with SpiralFrog)”:http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/09/05/emi-to-add-free-music-to-spiralfrog/ Of course, I can do that because none of the WMA files in question are locked with DRM.
bq.What bitrate is high enough for you to accept DRM from a vendor who locks you, the listener, to its own platform? For me personally the answer to that question is: none. I don’t care if I could close my eyes and swear that I was in the same room with the LSO while God himself played his heart out on first chair violin, the trade-off for platform evangelistic DRM isn’t worth my time. – “Grant Robertson(Is SpiralFrog an end run around royalty payments?)”:http://digitalmusic.weblogsinc.com/2006/08/30/is-spiralfrog-an-end-run-around-royalty-payments/ It isn’t Apple that we need to cave. It is the content companies that still insist on treating their customers like criminals.

A Demilitarized GPL

Someone has come up with a new version of the General Public License that includes a new proviso.
bq.GPU is a Gnutella client that creates ad-hoc supercomputers by allowing individual PCs on the network to share CPU resources with each other. That’s intriguing enough, but the really interesting thing about GPU is the license its developers have given it. They call it a “no military use” modified version of the GNU General Public License (GPL). Tiziano Mengotti and Rene Tegel are the lead developers on the GPU project. Mengotti is the driving force behind the license “patch,” which says “the program and its derivative work will neither be modified or executed to harm any human being nor through inaction permit any human being to be harmed.” Mengotti says the clause is specifically intended to prevent military use. “We are software developers who dedicate part of our free time to open source development. The fact is that open source is used by the military industry. Open source operating systems can steer warplanes and rockets. [This] patch should make clear to users of the software that this is definitely not allowed by the licenser.” So you penalize the military organizations that respect your wishes and can do nothing against those who do not (unless a second Nuremberg is held for GPL violations)? Personally, I think this is the most clueless application of an open source license I have heard of. And I hope people will rightly shun the product (as I am going to do) in order to hasten the death it rightly deserves.

Threats to DRM

bq.My local public library has a pretty extensive collection of CDs available for loan. – “Beck(Latest Threat To The Music Industry: CDs)”:http://techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20060803/0812248#c2 And if they slam the door on that, there are still “other ways(Digitize your LPs and tapes)”:http://playlistmag.com/features/2005/05/digitize/index.php…

Pournelle v. Doctorow

I have been a big fan of “This Week in Tech(This Week in Tech)”:http://www.twit.tv/ since the very beginning. Having never had the opportunity of seeing Tech TV back in the heyday, I have enjoyed it immensely. “This week’s episode(TWiT 64: Chaos Theory)”:http://www.twit.tv/64 was interesting for another reason: for the first time ever, I had met three of the partcipants, Chris Pirillo, Doug Kaye, and Jerry Pournelle. At one point, Leo Laporte suggested having Jerry and Cory Doctorow on as guests to dicuss their differing views on Copyright. The odd thing, even though I have never written about it, I once witnessed that very debate. Jerry and Cory were both guests at the first (and unfortunately last) “Dreamcon(Off to Dreamcon)”:http://www.libraryplanet.com/2004/06/11/dreamcon. And during one of Cory’s presentations, Jerry came in and sat on the front row. Unfortunately, though, Jerry came was arguing a whole lot of points that were largely based on the past. One I specifically remeber was the idea of increasing demand for a work by deliberately allowing it to go out of print. Cory didn’t really argue the point but it was rather obvious to me that in the days of Amazon and WorldCat there just isn’t such thing as the unobtainable book (at least for an author as widely published as Jerry). You can always find some place to get a copy somewhere. Jerry didn’t seem too thrilled by the idea when Leo brought it up. But personally, I would love to have a chance to see what would be a rematch for me.

Listen Like Thieves

Even for technically-inclined users, managing PlaysForSure subscriptions can prove to be quite a challenge.
bq.Here’s the problem I’m now running into: I’ve currently got a subscription to Napster, a trial account with Rhapsody, and another trial account with MTV’s URGE. That’s three separate subscriptions I’ve got floating across all my systems. Now, I’ve already downloaded Pearl Jam’s new album through Napster. I can’t listen to it in either Rhapsody or URGE. I’ve paid for it already! So, let’s say I turn off Napster and switch to URGE. I’d have to download the album again. What’s more, Windows Media Player / Windows Explorer doesn’t tell me where the album came from – I have to guess. I have to play (by trial and error) to see which albums are supported by which service. THIS IS MADNESS! – “Chris Pirillo(Why DRM Sucks)”:http://chris.pirillo.com/2006/05/28/why-drm-sucks/ Surely iTunes users don’t have problems like that.
bq.If I had like five computers and six ipods-let’s say-and I need to get songs I *paid* for off one and on to the others what software could I buy to do this? I can’t believe that I’ve bought over 10 ipods in my life, and spents thousands on music, only to have to jump through hoops to move my music around-it’s a disaster. This DRM stuff hurts the best paying cusomters most… I wish Steve Jobs would just un-DRM the whole darn thing and let me move my music around. – “Jason Calacanis(Best DRM cracking software for iTunes/iPod on Windows?)”:http://www.calacanis.com/2006/07/09/best-drm-cracking-software-for-itunes-ipod-on-windows/ Well, perhaps we can look to the entertainment industry to improve things.
bq.Protecting intellectual property is a legitimate goal for Congress – after all, the Constitution called on Congress to give authors and inventors exclusive rights “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.” The task has grown more urgent with the emergence of an Internet-fueled global information economy. But what the entertainment industry is seeking in this year’s proposals isn’t merely protection from piracy; it’s after increased leverage to protect its business models. – “Los Angeles Times(We aren’t all pirates)”:http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-piracy10jul10,0,2000938.story Perhaps things will get better eventually. But it is going to take a good long while before that happens.

Owning the Public Domain

One part of the business model that “old media(Gnomedex comes to the 91505?)”:http://blackrimglasses.com/archives/2006/07/10/gnomedex-comes-to-the-91505/ has always relied on is the fact that they can sell you things more than once. Watch it in the theater, buy the dvd, watch it on broadcast… there are all sorts of ways to continue to derive income from something they produce. Or in some cases, make sure something is only available once; that way they don’t have to compete against their own product. Controlling scarcity looked like it would work forever, and may would have, if video services like YouTube had not “got in the way(Reynolds, Jarvis, Wood On Youtube, Viral Video)”:http://www.exposetheleft.com/2006/07/09/reynolds-jarvis-wood/. Another thing you don’t want to have to compete with if you are a content producer is the public domain. There is still one scarce resource and that is time. If people are finding other things to watch, that is not a good thing. So, is it in your best interest to “make it hard for Google(Google vs. Publishers vs. Us)”:http://www.libraryplanet.com/2005/10/21/google to make books searchable? Of course. Is it a key strategy to make copyright so onerous that “YouTube accidentally removes things(YouTube removes public domain cartoons)”:http://ipaction.org/blog/2006/07/youtube-removes-public-domain-cartoons.html that are no longer under copyright? You bet. As clueless as we all like to think “old media” is, I really wonder sometimes if we don’t underestimate them.

When Free Isn’t

When is free not inexpensive enough? When it comes to downloadable music. It seems college students are not interested in the DRM-laden offerings that their colleges are offering. But I also found this part was worth noting.
bq.There’s also the problem of compatibility: The services won’t run on Apple Computer Inc. computers, which are owned by 19% of college students, according to a 2006 survey of 1,200 students by the research group Student Monitor. In addition, the files won’t play on Apple iPods, which are owned by 42% of college students, according to the survey. I don’t know how many “people at Gnomedex(Gnomedex 6)”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/kk/183880568/ had a Mac sitting in front of them like “your humble correspondent”:http://www.libraryplanet.com/2006/06/19/mac), but I have no doubt that there was a disproportionate number over their “regular market share(Low market share is badge of honor, as far as Mac faithful are concerned)”:http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/business/14191452.htm. It seems to me the more technically inclinded population (both geeks and college students) are headed in a certain direction that Microsoft has cause for concern. If “all the messages(Antivirus company suggests home users switch to Macs)”:http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060706-7204.html get through to the public, a tidal wave could start. And then there is the issue of the iPod. Until the music industry quits insisting on “treating their customers like thieves(France and DRM)”:http://www.libraryplanet.com/2006/03/22/france, or until Microsoft achieves the “stranglehold(Microsoft’s iPod Killer Plan)”:http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/ZDM/story?id=2165024 they have “long sought(Microsoft’s iPod killer?)”:http://news.com.com/2100-1027_3-5183692.html, people just aren’t going to put up with these sort of restrictions. It isn’t free when you invest time and energy into something only to watch it evaporate when you graduate.