Wendy Seltzer and Jason Schultz from the EFF gave a great presentation at eTech this afternoon. Many electronic and software gizmos are being squashed by old dinosaur companies who haven’t figured out how yet to prosper in these modern times. Examples:
MythTV: home-brew Tivo.HD-Myth threatened by the controversial FCC broadcast flag. No high-res output from new devices after 1 July 2005. There is a legitimate question as to whether the FCC has regulatory rights over this domain; it’s in the courts at the time of this writing.
Tool used to customize game characters under fire because some players model their characters after copyrighted superheroes.
Tivo for radio under fire for the ability to save radio broadcasts for future listening.
How about a 27,000$ movie jukebox? It digitizes the movies one owns (licenses?) for future playback without the need to touch the disks in the future. It’s another example of a product that is tied up in the courts.
Songwriters v. Player Piano
Vaudeville v. Radio
Universal/Disney v. VCR
RIAA v. MP3
MPAA v. cable TV
This is an ongoing conflict between entrenched parties and new technologies. In the past, reasonable compromises have always been reached, such as ASCAP licensing, etc.
Today, industry is apparently trying to completely remove the concept of fair-use. Read more about the DMCA, the Hollings bill, the Induce Act and so on to learn more about these draconian approaches to digital rights management. Digital restrictions management, actually, to be precise.
Because of these threats, entire avenues of innovation, technological “species” if you will, are being cut off. Choices are being restricted even before all considerations are evaluated.
EFF has created an extinct an endangered species list, so I won’t list them all here.
In summary, if you are concerned about your future ability to create and use tools of your choice, as you see fit, understand that this is a very real threat. Learn more and encourage your friends and colleagues to pay attention to this subject, write your representatives, and don’t let your favorite technical gizmo become extinct!
Oh, and a final thought: remember how the studios sued to prohibit the VCR? Well, they lost, and video tapes turned into an entire industry. If we stop these technological extinctions we are actually doing a favor for the content owners who don’t yet have a clue.