Archive for the 'IP Law' Category



Business Week on DRM

Business Week’s David Holtzman has written an excellent article about the DRM debacle entitled, The DVD War Against Consumers. Here’s one of his suggestions for Hollywood:

Fuggetaboutit. It’s true that lots of people download movies off the Internet or buy bootleg copies, but how many adults will sit in front of a computer screen and watch a pixilated movie or be content to watch a DVD where someone’s head keeps blocking the camera every few minutes? The kids who download movies off the Net can’t afford to buy a real copy anyway. Stopping them from downloading and watching a movie doesn’t translate into an extra sale.

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Effects of the DMCA

The EFF has updated their list of unintended consequences of the DMCA. It’s truly scary to see these all on one page.

My Outlaw DVD Player

Looks like Samsung is being sued for the HD841 DVD player, which can be hacked to disable HDCP. I bought this player a couple of months ago, and blogged about it.

I’m increasingly frustrated by expensive products which I own but do not control. I hope Samsung wins the lawsuit.

(via Engadget)

Microsoft Donates to Creative Commons

Microsoft has donated $25,000 to the Creative Commons, according to Larry Lessig, CEO of the non-profit organization.

Microsoft deserve serious kudos for this. It’s this type of Slashdot-head-exploding action that can save them from their current reputation. For an encore they should open-source something.

Guitar Tabs Illegal?

Are guitar tabs illegal? The Music Publishers’ Association thinks so:

MPA president Lauren Keiser said he wanted site owners to be jailed. He said unlicensed guitar tabs and song scores were widely available on the Internet but were “completely illegal”.

(Source: BBC News)

OK here’s the thing: I could argue that fan-contributed tabs are legal under US copyright law, but it would be moot. The only two facts that matter are:

  • Laws exist to serve the common good
  • The world thinks that sharing Tabs is OK

End of discussion. Seriously. Don’t empty your lobbyist piggy-bank for this one, Keiser. Its a lost cause. There’s a reason why your quote has spread like Internet wildfire: it betrays a point of view so jaw-droppingly out-of-sync with the rest of us, it’s laughable.

s/major label/internet/g

I fantasize that, once upon a time, publishers helped to find talented musicians, distribute their art, and get them paid. These days, they manufacture marketable acts, engage in rampant payola to get air play, and then screw the artists out of every penny.

Now they’re installing viruses on your computer and calling it DRM.

I guess this is what happens when the Internet obsoletes you.

HDCP Free

I bought an HDTV years ago, before DVI or HDMI were around, so I’ve got it hooked up thru some quality component interconnects. Recently my old Toshiba DVD player died, so I needed to find a replacement. I started poking around to see what, if anything, had happened to DVD player technology in the last 3 years. The short answer is: not much.

One minor improvement is that many DVD players can now upsample the DVD video to HD resolution (720p or 1080i). Just to be clear, a DVD only contains 480 lines of pixels, so this is interpolation. A decoder chip looks at neighboring source pixels and more-or-less guesses the additional pixels. You might ask why anyone would do this, and it would be a fair question. There are a handful of reasons, but lets just take it for granted that some people would prefer 480i upsampled to 1080i, over regular 480i.

Getting to the point, the DVD Forum decided that they needed to make some rules to protect their copywritten works. One rule they made was that any digital output at HD resolution should be encrypted with HDCP. Of course, their evil customers might just grab the analog signal, so they made another rule: analog outputs should be capped at 480 lines of resolution.

So lets recap:

  • My TV is an HDTV that supports 1080i.
  • My TV is 3 years old, and only has analog component inputs.
  • Modern DVD players still have component outputs.
  • Modern DVD players have built-in scalers that upsample to 1080i.

I want to upsample to 1080i, but…

  • …the DVD Forum thinks I’m probably a criminal, so…
  • …DVD players prevent high-def analog output, however…
  • …I’m not a thief, I just don’t feel like buying a new damn TV yet.

It’s worth repeating, here, that the original source resolution is 480i. No matter how you interpolate, a DVD is not an HD source. This detail was apparently lost on the DVD Forum who weighed the utility of my expensive TV against the cost of movie piracy, and — not surprisingly — decided my needs were less important then theirs.

There’s a punchline to this whole thing:
After about 20 minutes of Googling, I discovered that some Samsung DVD players have a (not-so-secret) secret code that both disables HDCP, and enables high resolution output over the analog outputs.

I bought one.

As I used to say back in my gaming days: owned.