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The Customer is Always Wrong 539

McSpew writes "Hackers author Steven Levy so far is the only person in the mainstream press to pick up on the the travesty of the SSSCA hearings. He points out that only the media giants could be so stupid as to think treating their customers like criminals will increase sales." Steven's a very smart guy - and very well said on this issue.
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The Customer is Always Wrong

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  • "Always Yield to the Hands-On Imperative."

    Thank you, Mr. Levy, for giving me, in Hackers, the words to express what I already knew to be true.

    "Bite my [shiny metal] ass, Eisner."

    OK, so my computer's version's not as eloquent. I think it gets the point across, though.

  • by bani ( 467531 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:26PM (#3107603)
    ... they can build their own!

    The SSSCA is just the result of a lazy slob MPAA/RIAA executives who want the PC industry to build them tailor-made-to-order PC technology to their exacting specifications, without having to invest a single penny or lift a single finger of effort. Oh, the industry won't play along? Let's pass legislation REQUIRING them to.

    The MPAA/RIAA are so used to having their way with consumers, that they now believe they can hand the jar of vaseline to the PC industry and have their way with them, too.

    And the scary bit is that for the most part, they're right...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:32PM (#3107669)
      The interesting thing is that if the MPAA built their own movie-playing hardware and only released titles that played on that machine, they'd likely be ruled a vertical monopoly as they were when they owned the theaters [cobbles.com].

      But if they accomplish the same thing via legislation, it's perfectly legal. Go figure.
    • by $carab ( 464226 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:43PM (#3107779) Journal
      Okay, a couple of points on this... The RIAA, and perhaps soon the MPAA, are looking at a generation of people who have NEVER paid for their products (I've never bought a CD, for instance, but my music needs are met just fine). The RIAA is trying, desperately, to stop the problem as soon as possible, so the next generation of potential clients won't think their products are free (as in beer). The SSSCA is a findamental part of their plan, because the only way to shut down a P2P network is to kill off all the peers.

      Secondly and most importantly, I don't think people realize just how big the SSSCA is. If it passes, all of these wonderful OSS initiatives will die off. This is the real deal people, so stop whining about Slashdot subscription services and start writing to your Representatives (Don't e-mail them, write them a real letter). A few well-reasoned and insightful letters will enlighten our elected officials, hopefully. This is a direct and fundamental threat to a good deal of the /. community, and this is the time to fight it.
      • Secondly and most importantly, I don't think people realize just how big the SSSCA is. If it passes, all of these wonderful OSS initiatives will die off.

        OK, pardon my ignorance here, but it needs to be asked. Why? Why does SSSCA pose a thread to open source development? What exactly is the problem under this law if I want to run Linux instead of Windows XP? I hear a lot of people saying that this will kill Open Source, but I'm not convinced. Could someone explain this to me?

        • What exactly is the problem under this law if I want to run Linux instead of Windows XP? I hear a lot of people saying that this will kill Open Source, but I'm not convinced. Could someone explain this to me?

          It's very simple, really.

          The SSSCA requires every digital device to have copy protection measures in it, referred to as Digital Rights Management. Guess who now holds a patent on a Digital Rights Management Operating System? Microsoft.

          And guess what OSes would become illegal if the SSSCA passed? Anything but Windows. Do you think Microsoft would license their patent to Linux? Do you think Linux distros could afford to buy it?? No. MS would become a government-mandated monopoly as the only OS legally allowed by federal law.

          Yes, the SSSCA *IS* that far-reaching. This isn't just about our eroding fair-use rights, its about MS/Disney/MPAA/RIAA putting open-source out of business. If you hack code for Linux for a living, enjoy OSS, or just don't want to use Windows for the rest of your life, I HIGHLY suggest you tell as many people as possible about this.
          • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @06:32PM (#3108793) Homepage
            The SSSCA requires every digital device to have copy protection measures in it, referred to as Digital Rights Management. Guess who now holds a patent on a Digital Rights Management Operating System? Microsoft.

            That is actually the least problematic of the patents. There are hundreds of DRM patents. Intertrust has one (of many) that is over 100 pages long with a thousand odd claims. I doubt anyone has ever read all the claims, certainly I find it hard to believe the examiner would have.

            The real problem is that there is no way for the SSSCA requirements to be met without trusted hardware that will only load a trusted O/S. Trusted in this context means 'RIAA approved'. There is no way that Linux could meet that criteria.

            I am much less bothered about the SSSCA than most. We in the computer industry can buy more politicians than the RIAA and MPAA put together. The only reason why Hollings is holding hearing is massive campaign contribribetions.

            Furthermore folk should be raising issues about the stupider aspects of the Bill. The computing industry is given 12 months to deploy a technology that does not exist and whose sole purpose is to protect profits. The car industry was allowed decades to deploy safety features such as seat belts and air bags that were designed to save lives. The auto industry execs should probably ask themselves if they want a 12 month precedent to be set.

            Even if passed the SSSCA would likely have no effect since there is not prospect of the 12 month schedule being set so the decision would fall to the dept of commerce which would then be besiged with lawsuits and various patent holders trying to peddle their snake oil. They certainly won't come to a decision in 2003, 2004 is an election year.

            Given that the RIAA and MPAA people were doing their best in 2000 to get Gore elected and are almost certain to be doing their best in 2005 to make sure their is an administration change in 2005 it is most unlikely that govenor Bush will be signing anything into law to favor their interests (unless they come up with a couple of million in hard money contribribetions).

            • by David Gould ( 4938 ) <david@dgould.org> on Monday March 04, 2002 @11:53PM (#3110410) Homepage

              he real problem is that there is no way for the SSSCA requirements to be met without trusted hardware that will only load a trusted O/S. Trusted in this context means 'RIAA approved'. There is no way that Linux could meet that criteria.

              Just in case this needs extra clarification: these protection schemes rely on "trusted clients" (which is the motivation for the bill in the first place -- outlaw all untrusted clients), meaning that you have to be able to count on a piece of the user's equipment (hardware, software, or whatever) to obey the rules, not because it has to, but because it agrees to (or, rather, its manufacturer agrees to make it function that way).

              It's not that a regular Region 1 DVD player doesn't know how to play a Region 2 DVD; it just refuses to do so. The discs are encoded the same way, so the player's circuitry is capable of decoding it; it's just that the format includes a message that politely asks "please don't play me unless ..." and the control logic is set up to respect this. (Unless the player was built by one of the terrorist organizations that are trying to destroy American society by making noncompliant players, but for theoretical purposes those don't count.)

              The problem with Free/Open software meeting the criteria is that no piece of software for which the source is readily available can ever possibly be a "trusted client", since any user could modify the program to disable the protection mechanism (probably by commenting out a single line, but in any case, it would almost surely be trivially easy).
        • by Anonymous Coward
          I think the concern is that if the SSSCA passes, then every electronic device that can play media must have built in content-control technology.

          The thing is that much of this technology is patented by some companies...such as Microsoft, who can determine who is permitted to license it. Not only are particular implementations of content control closed, but so are general patents for concepts related to content control. An anti-GPL company (such as Microsoft) would likely restrict licensing of its SSSCA-mandated technlogy to open source projects, effectively destroying or crippling their capability.

          If the SSSCA passes, all open source software (and open hardware for that matter) would have to accomodate the content-control requirements of the law. Any open source stuff that's inherently "free" (as in speech) or meant to support and encourage free use of media would also have to accomodate the law.

          Furthermore, if hardware locks are used to restrict a user's access to certain files, open source software run on that hardware could be unable to tap into the full functionality that some hardware supports. (We see this already with DVD-playing support because of the DMCA). The SSSCA would make the same artificial limitations on open software even more pervasive.
      • Secondly and most importantly, I don't think people realize just how big the SSSCA is. If it passes, all of these wonderful OSS initiatives will die off.
        No, they won't die. They'll just move out of the USA (and likely become contraband within the US, where they'll need illegal modules to be able to run on the crippled hardware that'll be available).

        The yankees will have killed it's only innovative industry at the whim of bullshit producers, thus proving the rest of the world that they are really as stupid as they are perceived to be...

      • Honestly, 80 percent of the people who dont buy CDs and download stuff from the net, wouldnt buy CDs.

        I mean really, if you wanted CDs you'd buy CDs. If you want music, you'll listen to the radio, you'll record it on a tape cassette and you'll have music.

        Now wait, you'll say the quality of the cassette isnt the same as CD, but thats what people did before they had the net, they'd tape stuff on cassettes.

        Its like saying by law all VCRs should remove the ability to record because you might record a movie from cable or satelite.

        Thats just bullshit.

        Its also bullshit to say that every movie you'd record from satelite you would have paid to go see at the movie theaters, thats bullshit.

        Most movies arent worth paying to go see, but most movies that are halfway decent are worth recording on a blank VHS tape.

        I go see maybe a few movies per year, sometimes i dont see any movies for the year.

        When i go see a movie, i'm not paying to "see" the movie, I'm paying for the atmosphere, the ability to see the movie on the big screen, to have surround sound, to see the movie immediately.

        Just like the movie theater vs the VCR, people will pay to get music immediately, waiting for it to be spread throughout the net is not going to work if you want the music now.

        People will have to buy the music or else it wont spread throughout the internet, all the music companies have to do to make people buy their CDs, is to slow the spreading of the music, this can be done by making the CDs more difficult to crack and pirate.

        Its fine to sell copy protected CDs, i dont like copy protection but I'm fine with this because the movie people have a right to do this, just dont buy their CDs if you dont want it.

        As far as controlling how we use our computers, this is a totally diffrent issue, no one should have the right to control how we use our computer, NO ONE!

        This is as important as our right to freedom of speech.

        Tell me, 20-30 years from now, when we have some sorta brain to computer interface, Will thoughts be under copyright? By sharing illegal thoughts with someone else will you go to jail? Think about where this is going, technology should overrule copyright. Someday technology is going to be so advanced that to enforce copyright would require mind control and render us total slaves to these people so they can protect their secrets and make money.

        Some things in life are more important than money, Freedom is more important than money, the USA, was it founded on capitalism or on freedom? You all have to decide, because if we keep going in this direction will we be giving up our freedom for capitalism. All the talk about communism and facism, well just wait, capitalism is going to lead to the same thing.
  • Nothing New (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:26PM (#3107608) Homepage
    As always, its the "Music industry has head stuck up ass. People will be mad. News at 11."


    It's a shame people dont have the time or money to care until it actually happens.
    • It's a shame people dont have the time or money to care until it actually happens.
      Not to excuse procrastination, but we couldn't afford to act on every single injustice that takes place with regard to law. Eventually, we have to rely on our elected leaders to do what we elected them for.
      • Re:Nothing New (Score:3, Insightful)

        by scott1853 ( 194884 )
        Unfortunately, we only elected them. We aren't the ones paying them the majority of what they receive in a given year.
      • That was my under-the-table meaning. :) I'm a firm beliver that each new innovation decreases our ability to keep 'track' of our world, and make sane decisions on how we feel it should be run under a democracy. In short: there is so much shit, no one can know it all, and thus the axioms of the free-market and democracy fall apart. Scary.
  • by saintlupus ( 227599 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:27PM (#3107618) Homepage
    only the media giants could be so stupid as to think treating their customers like criminals will increase sales.

    Hrm. I wonder if Microsoft will be able to license their Activation Code technology to the good people of Vivendi Universal.

    "We're sorry, but someone is already listening to this pressing of the Britney Spheres CD."

  • by 0WaitState ( 231806 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:27PM (#3107620)
    It's not about piracy--its about destroying fair use and moving America to a pay-per-use business model. The whole piracy thing is arrant bullshit--content will still be created regardless of copying. After all, it's done pretty damned well even after 30 years of rampant analog copying.

    The whole scare over "digital copying" is a red herring--what the RIAA and MPAA are trying to do is use this new-fangled technology thing to get rid of this profit-limiting concept of "buy once, play (or read) many times."

    Get that message out there folks--its not about piracy, its about pay-per-view everywhere.
    • by moncyb ( 456490 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:43PM (#3107781) Journal

      I also think it should be emphasized that this law will affect more than just the entertainment cartel's content.

      It could very well destroy the common person's ability to create their own content. Want to create a home movie? You'll have to buy a $10,000 device. Want to record your daughter's piano recital? You'll have to pay $100 in patent fees to some company.

      Not only that, it will probably go beyond audio and video. Want a choice of OS? You get Microsoft bloated unstable unsecure ass-fisting Winders 2004 or Sun Microsystems really expensive server OS. Want to send an email with an attachment (such as a spreadsheet)? Sorry, unless it has the proper content codes, you're not allowed to do that. Want to edit an essay you wrote pre-SSSCA? Sorry, that isn't copy controlled.

      All of the news media stories I've seen don't even seem to mention this. That and calling it "security" really confuses the issue, so that the average person doesn't understand the true implications.

      • by JordoCrouse ( 178999 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:54PM (#3107890) Homepage Journal
        It could very well destroy the common person's ability to create their own content. Want to create a home movie? You'll have to buy a $10,000 device. Want to record your daughter's piano recital? You'll have to pay $100 in patent fees to some company.

        Yes! Exactly! Bravo! ** applause **

        This will prevent my neighbors garage band from creating and duplicating their CDs for distribution amongst their friends. And it will prevent their friends from duplicating and sending to *their* friends. Making a digital quality demo tape on the latest hardware will go from an easy to use program on a PC to thousands of dollars in equipment just to encode the right security codes.

        If we were lucky, this would go back and bite the RIAA in the ass. Less garage bands distributing demo CDs means less bands for the RIAA members to sign and rip off. And that might also mean more independent labels playing some kick ass music and playing more than 30 days worth of concerts every 5 years.
      • Sun Microsystems really expensive server OS

        Beware, Solaris no longer costs an arm and a leg. Try downloading it for free [sun.com] or purchase the media kit [sun.com] for <$50US.

        Solaris gets expensive only when you set up an SMP server. Generally, the licensing fee is included in the invoice for the hardware. Even then, it really isn't hard to digest.
    • by lgraba ( 34653 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @05:13PM (#3108096)
      I think its even worse for the record companies than you say. People are gradually coming to the realization that musicians don't really need the record companies in order to get their record (CD) recorded. If many bands don't make their money off CD's, but off touring, the important thing for them is to get their CD's out there so that a lot of people will want to see them in concert. It is not the case now, but it may be in the future that the internet is just as effective as radio stations at getting a band well known, and it may be easier for unknown bands to get known, since they don't have to get discovered by a record producer first. THIS scares the record companies because it endangers the sweet deal they've got going. They may actually have to work for a living!
  • by Violet Null ( 452694 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:29PM (#3107648)
    Then there's the impact on the electronics industry. If new computers, CD-DVD players and personal video recorders are hobbled, consumers will hold on to their pre-Hollings machines. As Intel's Leslie Vadasz warned the Commerce Committee, "[Your legislation] will substantially retard innovation ... and will reduce the usefulness of our products to consumers."

    I own an Archos jukebox. Me buying music is dependant upon whether I can rip it to mp3 and put it on my jukebox. I'll happily wager that I'm not alone in this.

    Force American companies to hobble their electronics, and you're just making it more tempting to buy an import. Think about what happens to sales when it's discovered this or that DVD player has a way to override regional controls. If this happens, some shop in Taiwan or Hong Kong is going to start making a killing.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "No outlaw service can ever provide consumers with the deep libraries at guaranteed high quality that content owners can deliver. And if media companies adopted a perfectly feasible system of "digital-rights management" that allowed music fans to make a few copies for personal use, most people wouldn't bother to do the pirate thing."

      But the outlaw service does provide the high quality service now.

      If only I could Buy and DL music that was encoded at something higher then 128kb.. That is what really pisses me off, I gota pay sometimes even more to buy MP3's that are encoded way to low..

      If i'm buying them, there is no reason why I shouldn't be able to get them in 3-4 different bitrates.

      Until i can buy mp3's at something higher then I will keep borrowing/ripping and downloading(stealing)
    • by Znork ( 31774 )
      Enter Customs. The pressure will be on customs to reject any imports that dont conform. And when you come walking through that gate, the friendly (terrorist threat funded) customs officers will gladly compare your import against a list of (obsolete since three years) legal players and decide yours isnt on it, so you get to watch as they run it through a metal compressor.
    • by Azog ( 20907 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @07:14PM (#3109060) Homepage
      I feel prophetic...

      If the SSSCA passes, I expect to see a huge, short-term surge in hardware purchases as geeks and other informed people stock up on the last generation of unrestricted CDRs, DVD burners, MP3 players, computers, sound cards with controllable SPDIF in/out, CD players with digital outputs, stacks of big hard drives, and other useful equipment.

      This surge of hardware purchases will end when the restricted equipment enters the market.

      At that point, many people will stop buying new hardware - after all, most people with a computer purchased in the last two years already have more power than they need. People will refuse to upgrade their Microsoft operating systems too, as the "upgrade" will remove functionality they currently enjoy. This will have interesting side effects for MS stock prices and computer security.

      Free software which ignores copy restrictions will gain in popularity, and there will be ugly legal fights over the legality of open source software. Many software developers will leave the United States for free countries.

      Vintage audio, video, and computer hardware will become much more popular and expensive, until it is made illegal (and goes underground). A black market of vintage, modified, and new unrestricted hardware will develop, along with a wave of "cracking" software tools which work around the copy protections. There will be a resurgence of popularity of older music - 80s, blues, big-band, punk, grunge... Unfortunately this will include disco.

      More people will go to jail for writing software. Indie media will go into decline as garage bands and filmmakers cannot afford to buy the new, "pro" equipment which allows authorized content production.

      It could go two ways from there.... If the alleged "content companies" are successful and "win", the Internet, hardware, and software industries in the US will be crippled. New music and movies will be controlled by the MPAA and RIAA monopolies, and quality will continue to slide downwards towards the least-common-denominator Britney clones, movie sequels and remakes, and other trash. In that scenario, the US becomes a cultural and technological backwater within a decade, as China, India, Scandanavia, and other areas become (even greater) hotbeds of cultural and technological innovation.

      Or, instead, the whole thing could fall apart. The SSSCA and DMCA might be found unconstitutional, and/or the MPAA / RIAA might be eliminated through antitrust legislation or maybe just market power. America wakes up from the propaganda of the "content" industries and realizes that people will always make music, movies, software, and books just because they want to. And, enough people are happy to support the creators of good entertainment, (even if they could rip it off) that talented content creators can make a living at it.

      And we all live happily ever after, except for Hillary Rosen, Jack Valenti, and the rest of the greedy, money-leeching, content-filtering, power-hungry, control-freak crowd... they'll be looking for new jobs. Yay!

  • by TrollMan 5000 ( 454685 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:30PM (#3107657)
    True, the ease of making and distributing digital files will always present a challenge for the labels and studios. But it's also a potential gold mine: an instant, ultra-low-cost delivery system and a targeted marketing vehicle.

    The problem with this is twofold:

    First, the labels will not pin a price that is reasonable compared to the cost of production.

    Look at CD's, despite falling from $6 to about $.50 to press, why haven't CD prices fallen as well? Besides, they make a lot of money selling 1 to 3 good tracks bundled with 10 tracks worth of filler.

    Second: Unfortunately, there's a mindset that people will not pay for something that they got for free previously, despite the quality guarantees that a pay service might have. This explains why Napster's pay service is not rolling out as expected.

    The result is the survival of a music distribution model with too many hands in the till.
    • there's a mindset that people will not pay for something that they got for free previously, despite the quality guarantees that a pay service might have

      Hmm.... You mean like a subscription-based slashdot?
  • Thankyou! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mlknowle ( 175506 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:31PM (#3107661) Homepage Journal
    What a fantastic piece!

    Arguing against those who favor copy protection measures extreme as these can sometimes be difficult for people who arn't particularly technologically inclined; that's why we always see anologies to Ford making cars whose engines need updgrades like Windows does. This article does a good job of making the electronic freedom arguement without resorting to such sillyness by pointing to the underlying economic reality: treating your customers like theives will never increase sales.

    Let's hope this is just the first in a long line of articles making a sensible arguments against Disney et al., and their handpicked legislators.
  • by Gedvondur ( 40666 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:31PM (#3107664)
    Specifically in the area of digital music, if this had been done right this would not be a problem. Music companies offering their catalogs for say .25 or .50 cents a song with a fat pipe and guaranteed quality would have been popular. I would have considered it myself. I would have download from them regardless of the availability of other sources such as the Gnutella network. I would have been happily legal, with clean, correct copies of my music. I think that many people would have also.

    Sure, there would be quite a few people still pirating the content, but for audiophiles it would have been a no-brainer. Legal, fast, and clean would have been the watchwords. How many MP3s have you downloaded only to find out that it's a bad rip that took you an hour to get? Misnamed songs, misnamed authors, and things like that would have been things of the past. But no, we have to have paranoia, fear, and mistrust.

    A company that would trust its customers a little bit could reap huge rewards. There will be piracy regardless of what they do. If it was created by man, it can be broken by man.

    The first company to engender a little trust and lay on a little guilt "If one of your friends wants this song, send them to us so we can continue to offer you this premium service" would have made them money.
    • by Lahjik ( 181864 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:56PM (#3107915)
      One company that is doing this right is eFolkMusic [efolkmusic.com], a collective of folk, celtic, bluegrass, and other musicians. They offer free downloads [efolkmusic.com] of mp3s in addition to other mp3s that you can buy. All of their free music is 100% legal because they and the artists have realized that giving away a few tracks will get me hooked and cause me to buy more cds or mp3s. I also know that when I buy an mp3 from this site, the artist is getting 50% of the price. They even offer mp3 "multipacks" [efolkmusic.com] wherein you prepay for mp3 credits at a price of 20 downloads for $14.97. I would be much more willing to pay $15 for a 20-track album that I create! Granted, this only works if you like more traditional music...but I offer up the site as a great example of a rather large and well-functioning music distribution model.
      • Cool. I will check this out.

        I think this genre is a natural place to start this kind of thing, because unless I am mistaken, most of this kind of music is in the public domain. Mind you, I could be completely off base about that.

  • Media (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blkros ( 304521 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <sorklb>> on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:32PM (#3107670)
    ...Steven Levy so far is the only person in the mainstream press to pick up on the the travesty of the SSSCA hearings....
    Uhmm...am I the only one who sees how obvious it is that mainstream media, controlled by the companies that are backing the sssca, wouldn't be reporting on it? Unless it wasn't going their way, that is.
    • Re:Media (Score:3, Informative)

      by Winged Cat ( 101773 )
      Err...Dan Gillmor writes for the San Jose Mercury News, and I'd call that rather mainstream. He's been hitting on this issue extensively.
      http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/b us iness/columnists/dan_gillmor/ejournal/
  • I won't repeat the tired "Boycott the Music Industry!!" since the entire population of /. could to no ill effect. I believe a boycott could do some damage if the 12-18 age group was educated and organized. Every N*Stink and Britney Spears album that is purchased contributes to the Industry's cause. If you have a younger brother, sister, cousin, nephew or niece, please educate them! They'll listen if you take the time to explain. Something like the 'truth' campaign, but focused on the Industry. Don't buy music! (I could also use this opportunity to educate them on why the music sucks, but one battle at a time.. ;)

    Just a shot in the dark...

  • It's really quite simple - the only right of a consumer is to buy stuff, so if you are doing anything else, you must be an evil, un-American, commie bastard criminal. Since people obviously aren't playing along and sending all of their money to groups like the MPAA, RIAA, etc. in small, unmarked, non-sequential bills left under the third tier of the right field bleachers at the high school at precisely 6pm, they have no choice but to have all of their rights removed. We didn't bow down to our lord and god Big Business, paying tribute to its greatness with gifts of gold and promises of eternal servitude, so it shall smite us with the sting of a thousand legal restrictions. It's really quite fair when you consider that we've been given such wonderful gifts as the opportunity to pay for Britney Spears "music" and cinematic gems like "Super Troopers." So get out your checkbooks and bend over America, it's time for your medicine...
  • ... they're always saying "content holders"? Or content providers?

    Nothing is going to change until the content producers -the artists - rebel. Nothing short of a mutiny by the bands and filmmakers will get the industry to change.

    There have been attempts. The Offspring come to mind, with their pro-Napster stance. (Question: are the still pro-p2p? Are they still a BAND?) But their rebellion was too early, and they were "just a punk band" so I guess few listened.

    Until you have Ms. Spears do a press conference stating that she is not going to sign with [whomever] when her contract gets renewed, because [whomever] only produces copy-protected CDs that her lil' girlfriends can't listen to on their Nomads or iPods, and other artists follow suit, there willbe no change. I hate to say it but this is one fight where drastic change is going to need a little violence, if only in the legal sense.
  • Here's yet another reason why increasing the size and power of Government will only deteriorate the rights of the common man. These anti-speech measures will only increase in number as long as the average person votes for the three parties above.

    Advocating liberty means supporting the decrease of big government. Stop asking for handouts, no matter what type (corporate subsidies, welfare, social security, etc) because those handouts come with reductions in our rights, like the big corporations want. If you want to end these ludicrous and obviously unconstitutional laws, then vote for the only party that advocates disassembling any law that is unconstitutional: the Libertarian Party [lp.org].

    I hate being a broken record, but ALL these laws (SSSCA, DMCA, etc) are unconstitutional, but as long as Congress is more powerful than the Constitution allows, they will never be repealed.

    My view on copy protection: let manufacturers make an unbreakable copy protection scheme if they want. Let hardware developers get in bed with software developers. But DO NOT LET THEM have laws that prevent reverse engineering. Do let the free market consumer power choose between an encrypted uncopyable format, and possibly an open format advocated by another group of software publishers.

    As long as we allow the RIAA and MPAA and other large organizations lobby Congress to overextend Congressional power, we'll always be victims. The free market works, but only if you get government out of it.

    • Hear Hear!

      I voted Libertarian last election, and everything I see happening on the political front does nothing but continue to solidify my belief that the Libertarian Party really has the right idea about the _real_ issues.

      What I continue to find sad is when I'm with a group of people fussing about taxes, or laws, or governmental intrusion, all I have to do say "If you vote Libertarian, then all that has a chance of coming true. If you don't then you're doing nothing more than whining while at the same time contributing to the problem." All of a sudden I get looked at like I just landed from Mars.

      I'm still an optimist from the standpoint that I truly believe that eventually people will see that the path that's being followed is _extremely_ hazardous to our basic freedoms, but sometimes it's hard to stay upbeat. Especially when I see big players in Industry and Government repeatedly and unabashedly squelch the freedoms and liberties granted by the Constitution.
    • by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @05:12PM (#3108080) Homepage
      Yes, laws being put forth are indeed unconsitutional. However, they have nothing to do with the 'size' of government, and everything to do with the 'size' of companies who can bribe the government. Reduce the amount of money any particular group of private interests can make, and you reduce the likelyhood of 'purchasing' laws. Of course, Disney has been doing this for years, but we're really approaching some sort of 'make-or-break' point here. I've never really been interested in living in the US, but these days, the very thought sends shivers down my spine. I don't think its your government, I think it's the size of your companies, the size of the pot of gold to be won (tho I think that the pot of gold is largely imaginary, part of the mystic prize of unmitigated free-markets), and the complete lack of any kind of regulations banning private influence on government.

      Incidentally, you might be interested to know that the closest thing to total-free-market libertarianism that has occurred so far in western society (UK, 18th century) resulted in MASS poverty, and the price of bread rising above levels the vast majority of the population could afford. Under totally free markets, people 'compete' until there is no time/money left over after production to inject back into the economy or use to enjoy said fruits of the system.

      Most countries that have seen their GDP rise over the last 10 years (India, Japan) have done so using decidedly anti-free-market tactics (choosing and awarding development to oganizations that are more likely to help the economy in the long run than provide the 'cheapest and best' in the short run), and of all the countries in the EU that have been placed under WTO sactioned IMF reforms, where everything has gone free-market, only Poland has seen their GDP rise slightly. All other 12 countries have seen their GDP fall under true freemarket reforms; even the WTO admits nothing has worked out as planned in their 2000 annual report ....

      So where does that leave you? With a decent system, some things to fix, and a immediate need to cleanse your political system of big business brown nosers. Life wasn't so bad in the mom'and'pop days, no matter what these huge corperations want you to believe. If you can find a non-violent way to restore your government to being more pro-people than pro-business, and temper your fears of market regulation (you dont want total regulation, of course, that doesn't work, but 'checks and balances' when things (read: MS, or RIAA) get out of hand, much like the checks and balances that supposedly prevent any one political body from owning all political decisions), you might have the greatest chance of stabilizing the situation.
  • What makes this all totally insane is that Internet file sharing is not necessarily the foe of copyright holders. True, the ease of making and distributing digital files will always present a challenge for the labels and studios. But it's also a potential gold mine: an instant, ultra-low-cost delivery system and a targeted marketing vehicle. No outlaw service can ever provide consumers with the deep libraries at guaranteed high quality that content owners can deliver. And if media companies adopted a perfectly feasible system of "digital-rights management" that allowed music fans to make a few copies for personal use, most people wouldn't bother to do the pirate thing.
    Sorry, but I don't really see this guy saying anything that hasn't been said a dozen times. In the words of one of my favorite enemies of Fair Use: "I can see your lips moving, but you ain't saing a M-F thing." What's this "perfectly feasible system of digital rights management" he talks about? Cuz nobody in the DRM industry has ever shown me one. There's a lot of movement toward such a system, but nobody has actually managed to come up with an effective one yet.

    So here's Mr. Levy being bothered by the SSSCA, which could allow the intellectual property industry to force consumer electronics manufacturers to include copy prevention technology in their products. And yet he still chooses the cop-out of saying that digital downloads aren't bad because somebody could come up with a "feasible" DRM system. Hello -- am I the only one who sees the contradiction? Move along, folks, nothing to see here...

  • Ok, so the only real way that a consumer has of telling the RIAA & MPAA how they feel is with their wallets..

    So, short of not buying any more music or seeing any more movies, what are my alternatives?

    Where can I find movies and music that don't grease the MPAA and RIAA wheels?
  • by swagr ( 244747 )
    The ONLY reason why any form of exchange/barter/loan/transaction works, is because both parties end up in the plus. I want CD abc more than I want $20. The label want's $20 more than that copy of the CD. We go through the transaction and we're both better off. Hence these exchanges, when executed properly, are not a zero sum game.

    Many industries have taken the perspective that exchanges should be zero sum. i.e. Screw your customer for your own good. When that doesn't work, screw them more. Now even cockroaches learn quickly from negative re-enforcement. How does the record industry expect us to behave?
  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:42PM (#3107775) Homepage
    Business-school professors could feast for years on the unintended consequences that come from treating Britney Spears tunes like nuclear secrets.

    So we might have Britney Spears tunes locked up with only a select few authorized to listen to them? Maybe there is a upside (albeit a tiny one) to this after all.
  • Check out this log [instapundit.com], and search for Hollings. The main point from the BlogSphere is that Hollings, the committee chairman, is bought and paid for by the entertainment industry, and why would the same industry give themselves negative press?

    The good news is that the "evil" republican House seems to be willing to tell Hollings to take a leap.

  • by Badgerman ( 19207 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:44PM (#3107793)
    The truly ridiculous thing about this is that, simply, implementing what the Big Media Whiners want is essentially impossible.

    First, Linux and other technologies become illegal. Right. Good luck with that.

    Additionally, kiss exports by-bye and say hello to foreign competition - or barring foreign imports. Nice job of foreign relations there.

    But before that, imagine creating a standard that'll work and that people can agree on. No chance.

    However, before that, you have to deal with the legal challenges that will come up. If some bill is passed, it's going to go into the courts faster than anyone can imagine.

    And, finally, foremost, this will blow up in the faces of the companies. People are used to this technology. Most are using it for understandable purposes, and almost none are evil, drooling, anti-american criminals. They will NOT be happy.

    Ultimately, the companies involved have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot. They're running out of feet.
  • by 2Bits ( 167227 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:44PM (#3107794)
    that everyone here was talking about? People were talking about creating a grass root movement to boycott the RIAA/MPAA. So where is that?

    I've not watched any TV for the last 2 years, I don't own any DVD products (disc, or player), I stop buying music CDs, I stop going to movies (last film I've watched in theater was The Matrix, and yes, I've not watched The LoTR!), I stop renting movies from Block Buster or Hollywood. In 1998, I spent about $3000 on music/movies (not including different players, discman, cables, figurines, posters, live concerts, etc). Not that big a sum, but that's the money those RIAA/MPAA fat folks do not get from me anymore on a yearly basis.

    People complain, and then rush to give their money to those RIAA/MPAA monsters and witches. No wonder they get more and more powerful, and keep bullying the consumers, coz that's easy money. And for all the complaints that people have made, how does that affect their revenue? None! Au contraire, their pocket seems to get fatter, just look at every new hit. Every year is a record breaker in terms of box office and albums sold.

  • by Refrag ( 145266 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:48PM (#3107833) Homepage
    On MSNBC, you can rate the article is you scroll to the bottom. Please rate this article so that it may gain position in the "top ten articles page" and more people may read it.
  • by brad.hill ( 21936 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:49PM (#3107843)
    I'll repeat what I said on the MSFT thread since it's relevant here, too.

    The fundamental problem behind many of the current threads here is the kicking and screaming refusal of industry to acknowledge the economic concept of a public good. (not good in the moral sense, but as in "goods and services") Public goods are those that are non-depletable, i.e. my using it doesn't hinder anybody else's use of it or make it unavailable to them, and they are non-excludable, i.e. anybody can get and use them. Digital media of any sort, including software, fits this description ideally.

    Yet Microsoft, the RIAA, the MPAA, etc.. are all fighting for their lives on this last point. If they can create a non-depletable good with high value that is excludable, they've got an obvious gold mine. The problem is that this is VERY hard (if you believe Schiener, impossible). So they're trying to hijack governmental policy in an attempt to enforce excludability at a greater technical, social and economic cost than the goods themselves are worth to anybody but the current owners.

    Ignoring the cost to consumers, simply consider the cost of using the mechanisms of government -considerable resources of the executive and judicial branch- to enforce ever stricter copyright laws currently being broken by millions of citizens. Isn't it very possible that this will be higher than the taxes collected off the sale of copyrighted material? Doesn't this amount to a public subsidy of an economically unsound business model? Somehow I doubt we'll hear this argument come up from the "free-markets, smaller-government, deregulation-is-good" types.

    If the cost is foisted off on the hardware industry, then this represents an illegal transfer of wealth from these companies to copyright holders. If this cost is eventually foisted off on consumers of the hardware (who will ALSO pay more for the copyrighted material in such a regime) then there must be economic justification that this cost is less than the cost to the public of not having new creative material available that would only be produced under these strict legal regimes.

    Given the immense creative urges inherent in humanity, our demand for new entertainment and the many possibilities for external compensation for creative works, it is a very difficult case to make that there would be great negative externalities and public harm if the current control on nearly all copyrighted material by a few large coporate interests were weakened.

    The US Constitution explicitly states that government sanctions temporary intellectual property rghts only as part of a social contract to benefit the public citizenry. If the benefit of these laws is accruing to private corporations at the public's expense then these laws are unconstitutional.
    • Public goods are those that are non-depletable, i.e. my using it doesn't hinder anybody else's use of it or make it unavailable to them, and they are non-excludable, i.e. anybody can get and use them. Digital media of any sort, including software, fits this description ideally.

      Wrong. A public good is something like an ocean or a park or a streetlight. These are things that are both non-depletable and non-excludable. A "tragedy of the commons" can only apply to a public good.

      How could you argue digital media is non-excludable? I can easily exclude you from reading my online-book by simply charging more than you can afford. If you copy it illegally, well, that's illegal -- you do not have the right to buy my book and copy it for your friends who can't afford it. The law should protect me and my copyright.

      Just because the marginal cost of Microsoft a (physical) copy of Windows 2000 Server is near zero, there still is a cost. Off the top of my head, there's R & D costs, marketing costs, manufacturing costs, accounting profit (but not economic profit -- eg, monopoly profits).
      • If you copy it illegally, well, that's illegal -- you do not have the right to buy my book and copy it for your friends who can't afford it. The law should protect me and my copyright.

        The economic argument about public goods is not concerned with your "rights" or the legality of your activity. It is simply concerned with whether or not you can be prevented from accessing said good.

        In the default case, with software and music on a public network, the answer to that has proven to be a resounding no.

        Now, efforts can be made to enforce excludability. Partial success at this does not necessarily remove the characteristics of a public good from something. Some roads are toll roads. However, the cost of controlling access to every road is too high to justify, so they are mostly treated as public goods.

        Just like toll roads, some software will continue to be sold for profit and excludability enforced even if things like the DMCA and SSSCA are not passed.

        I do believe that content publishers should have every right to build whatever copyright control mechanisms they want into their products, so long as fair use rights are preserved. The costs of this and the effect it has on the salability and vale of their goods will be borne by them alone.

        The problem comes when they try to use legislation to remove free market choice and force the cost of making a their goods excludable onto others. (the taxpayers for enforcement of these laws, hardware mfrs for implementing these measures, consumers who must pay more for goods with less value) It's a bit like road builders asking for the government and car owners to pay for tollbooths in every driveway and taxi meters in every car so they can charge for the use of the street system.

        If we are to legally mandate this kind of subsidy and transfer of wealth then I feel there should be srong justification on why this is in the public's interest. I have seen no such justification, just panicky FUD spread by those who feel that in the face of evolving markets they should be able to "grandfather" economic inefficiencies they happen to find profitable.

  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:52PM (#3107876) Homepage Journal
    I guess ALL innovation comes from the halls of corporations. We don't need no steenking startups. If you *think* about what's really needed to implement the SSCA as currently envisioned that's what happens.

    If our government thinks we're in a hi-tech slump now, just see what happens if SSCA passes. Just watch the US fall on the wrong side of the digital divide as innovation moves elsewhere.

    As others have said, it's not just hardware, but software, too. You can add all the DRM hardware you want, but unless you've got a DRM OS with signatures, security, and verification everywhere, it's broken. An OSS kernel is dead in the DRM age, and userspace may well be in trouble, too. Imagine SSCA-certified compilers that guarantee the 'DRM Devices' are only used properly.
    • This is, unfortunately, utter bollocks.

      Where the US leads, others will follow. In some cases, the US is lagging behind other countries (Australia, for instance) but ultimately if the US mandates it, the western world will fall in line.

      The next step after mandating these changes is to set up trade barricades on any incoming non-compliant hardware. Two months I thought that this was a thought-experiment to see where this could eventually lead. Now I think we can almost write a timetable for it.

      This will not hurt the US economy--it'll trash the world's belief in freedom.
  • "War on Piracy"

    I know it has been said and batted around, but sooner or later some a-hole politician is going to "officially" coin the term.

    And it will put a stop to "piracy" just like the "War on Drugs" put a stop to all drug use in the US.

  • A real world example (Score:5, Informative)

    by corren ( 559473 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:54PM (#3107891)
    I hate to use Adult industry examples, but there is a very good example of taking advantage of a market instead of trying to shut it down.

    Playboy Enterprises, Inc. was probably one of the most pirated companies in the history of media when it comes to original content. I don't know about you, but I've read hundreds of articles talking about Pamela Anderson or whoever being #1 on most search engines, etc etc.

    So what did PEI do? They capitalized on the market. They didn't try to prevent you from copying JPG's and MOV's. They gave you a service so killer that it's not worth the time trying to pirate it. Most adult companies try and charge like $30 a month for a crap ass website with lousy content and slutty women.

    Not Playboy. They charge like 6 bux a month. The price of a paper magazine. All of their playmates in an online archive. HUGE libraries of content. New features weekly if not daily.

    Playboy recognized it could benefit from a potential source of huge revenue or it could be like the RIAA and MPAA and try to prevent it's content from being copied. By providing a service with such value at such a reasonable price point, I'm quite sure Playboy is making a killing.

    I wish the RIAA and MPAA could pull their heads of out their respective a$$es and open their eyes to the REAL market they COULD capitalize on without screwing things for us: the consumers.
    • Good analogy - unfortunately Playboy is losing money [yahoo.com]. The labels have a good thing going and it's going to take a pack of wild horses to drag them away from it. CD production costs are low, artists are the next best thing to free labor, and there's no competition driving down CD prices (something I think the DOJ Antitrust division should take a look at -- oops, I forgot, the DOJ no longer has an Antitrust division).
    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @12:21AM (#3110505) Homepage Journal
      Here's a business model for the **AA to kick around:

      Get yourself a fat pipe and fast servers (and make sure you support resuming and are dl-client friendly). Trust me, it'll pay for itself. Get yourself a good login and automatic billing system that doesn't charge the user's account until the download is confirmed complete. Make the download catalog easy to use (workable in any browser and no damned javascript), searchable, and as complete as possible.

      Offer MP3s as follows:

      64 kbit mono -- no charge. Okay for previewing stuff to decide whether you want to buy it or not, but not really good enough for cuts you want to keep and play a lot. (And will prevent complaints and billing disputes about songs that suck too much to pay for.)

      128 kbit stereo -- 25 cents each. Good enough for most people and not too much of a bandwidth hog.

      360 kbit stereo -- 50 cents each. (Or, since this system obviously will have login and tracking of purchases, just 25 cents if you already downloaded the 128kbit version -- effectively a discounted upgrade price.) This satisfies the more-devoted audiophile's need for better sound quality.

      If you want to make sure no one avoids billing by stopping the download with 2 seconds to go (since incomplete MP3s *do* play), ZIP 'em, since that will largely defeat people who try to cheat the system. NO ENCRYPTION or "phone home before it can be played" crap, tho.

      Yeah, people will still trade MP3s, but why should I spend hours searching for and dragging home unreliable files from some slow cranky server, when I can cough up 25 cents and get the same material, in guaranteed quality and complete condition from a fast reliable server, at the very moment I decide I want it?? Hell, for that price it may beat the bother of ripping my own.

      I'm sure a similar model could be developed for downloadable movies -- a highly-compressed 320x200 preview copy for little or nothing, and a top quality copy for a buck or two. Why spend all night dl'ing an AVI that proves to be someone's grainy screencam when for a couple bucks I can get the same thing in close to DVD quality?

  • Worst case scenario: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:55PM (#3107904) Homepage
    Msft gets off scott free, able to leverage one monopoly into as many as they can grow tentacles (buy one, you have to buy them all! No "mix and match" no mo...) but hardware companies like WesternDigital, Maxtor, IBM etc. are required by law to put secret undocumented protection features in their products to give Msft unlimited control over distribution, installation and use ("Please enter your 24 digit auth code to begin performance of this content, or contact your vendor for assistence in obtainly a copy authorization code.").

  • I've seen it in MS's Product Activation. I've seen it in the creation of Copy-Protected CDs. A customer is now seen as the enemy of the company selling it's goods and not a friend. This is a completely backwards view. These companies (MS, MPAA, RIAA, and others) don't see the customer as someone who's plunking down hard-earned money to use something they created (using "created" in the loosest sense with the RIAA/MPAA), but as someone who might pirate their work and deny them additional sales.

    They will regularly trot out "how much we're losing" piracy figures. (Nevermind that some users who pirate software would do without before paying the inflated price for a legal copy.) They assume that they have a right to sell their product to everyone, charge whatever they want, and tell the user exactly how they can and can't use the product.

    I imagine in their perfect world, there'd be a RIAA/MPAA/MS computer-chip implanted in everyone's brain calculating how much we use their product (so we can be billed by the hour, rounded up of course), stopping us from doing things they deem "illegal" (I'm sorry, you can't rip that. After all, you paid for it, but we still *own* it.), and turning us in the police if we persist.

    If I could sit in a room with them and say one thing it'd be: "You're in for a serious wake-up call. People do not like being treated like criminals. They take offense to it. You exist to provide a service to the public (and make some $$$ off of it), the public doesn't exist to send money to you." Of course, I'd probably be branded a criminal by those statements and be shipped off for a "special" brain implant.
  • by Dr. Awktagon ( 233360 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @04:59PM (#3107959) Homepage

    I have the solution to the "Piracy" which should make everyone happy. The problem is not in the technology, it lies in the simple fact that the content providers actually give consumers the first-generation copies in the first place, which facilitates second-hand copying. This practice needs to be stopped.

    The solution is deviously simple: when a someone goes to the record store and buys, let's say, the hot new Alicia Keys CD, they should only get a copy of the liner notes, not the easy-to-copy CD.

    Voila! No original, no copies, and the problem is solved. You can't pirate a CD that you don't have. Sure, album reviewers might have a harder time with this scheme, but your average Britney Spears-listening vegetard won't know the difference. They'll still be a part of the excitement as they clutch their empty CD case, their small, vapid minds unaware of the change. Since most pop music is brand and marketing, the music studios could concentrate their efforts more efficiently.

    It will save money on studio and recording fees as well.

    Someone get Sen. Fritz Hollings on the phone, if he helps set this plan into motion, there's a nice vacation condo waiting for him!

  • Stop the SSSCA Bill (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rune69 ( 244519 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @05:01PM (#3107979) Journal
    This bill is a major blow to our civil rights.

    For those who are unfamiliar with the details of the bill, you will find them here [stoppoliceware.org]

    Also, please sign the online petition that is posted online here [petitiononline.com]
    It would also be good if you write your elected officials, but at least add your name to the petition.

    The future you save just might be your own...

  • Smart Story Poster (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lkaos ( 187507 ) <{sw.yeknomedoc} {ta} {ynohtna}> on Monday March 04, 2002 @05:02PM (#3107987) Homepage Journal
    I know I'll get mod'd down for this but I just had to point it out.

    The guy who submitted this story included a link to purchase the movie 'Hackers' from Amazon.com (as opposed to the movie's website which would seem more logical) as part of the stories description.

    I was curious about this for a minute until I released that he included a referer ID in the URL so as the URL gets /.'d and people purchase the movie (which is bound to happen), he will get a percentage from the sale! Talk about using the /. effect to one's advantage.

    Capitalism is wonderful, isn't it? I'm amazed that the editors let that slip by. I think this is a whole new category of karma whoring...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      While I'll ignore for a moment that this is offtopic (thus the AC response) I should point out that you shouldn't knock it until you've tried it. While I agree that the post itself probably shouldn't contain a referrer link, its not like SlashDot is a charitable organization. They depend on ad revenue just as the guy who posted the referrer link does.

      Personally, I put an Amazon link in my sig, and whenever applicable within my post. The revenue generated is just barely above infinitessimal, but hey, you gotta pay for that new SlashDot subscription somehow.

      You should have been here back in the days of of those MLM type programs that paid you for running banner ads and recruiting new people to run the ads. Or the early days of PayPal where you earned a $5 commision for signing-up new members, sigs back in those days were targetted at revenue generation a good percentage of the time. And how is any of this different than just including a link to one's own website if that site has some for profit aspect to it?

      • The guy who submitted this story included a link to purchase the movie 'Hackers' from Amazon.com
      1. What do you care?
      2. Any reason you think that's the submitter's referer ID and not a Slashdot editor's?
      3. Uh, wait, scrub #2. These guys would post a goatse.cx link unless you rammed it down their throat, so to speak.
  • Levy's Newest Book (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cy Guy ( 56083 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @05:03PM (#3107995) Homepage Journal
    Levy's newest book Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government Saving Privacy in the Digital Age [amazon.com](*) helps demonstrate one of the key hypocrisis in the mind of the common SlashDotter (like I picture myself). Which is that while we respect (even worship) the ownership of data when it comes to privacy considerations, we abhor that very same ownership when it is expressed by others (like the RIAA & MPAA) in the form of copyrights. The very same poster can easily find himself posting in one thread that users need good encryption technology to protect their personal data; then later that same day argue that tools that break encryption in the form of DeCSS etc. are our God given right to own and use as we see fit to break the encryption of other people's data.

    Before you flame me, I realize there is a distinction in that supposedly you paid for that DVD you only want to make a backup copy of. But if the seller of the DVD and law say that is not what you paid for, then why are you arguing with the seller? You should only be arguing with law.

    So maybe that's the commonality of the two opinions, both advocate that the law should be changed in the consumer's favor. One to allow consumers access to strong encryption, one to to allow consumers the common law right of fair use to DVDs they have purchased.

    * BTW, Why hasn't SlashDot reviewed Levy's new book [amazon.com] yet? It's been out for two month's now.

  • Why is it... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Snowfox ( 34467 ) <.snowfox. .at. .snowfox.net.> on Monday March 04, 2002 @05:05PM (#3108015) Homepage
    I'm curious about an inconsistency...

    Why is it that the software industry can have suffered from piracy for longer than most of you have been alive, but just a few years of Napster warrant stepping all over our freedom and forcing us to lose control of the hardware we purchase?

  • by Kallahar ( 227430 ) <kallahar@quickwired.com> on Monday March 04, 2002 @05:09PM (#3108054) Homepage
    The music/movie/software/everythingelse industry is not interested in spending a lot of money to completely eradicate piracy. What they want to do is to prevent casual copying (ie napster) and distribution. If they put out crippled CD's that can't be copied by the common person, then the volume of piracy will go down. Similarly, if they go after the major file sharing networks then they make it harder for the _average_ person to pirate their goods then the volume of piracy will go down. People like me (and most of slashdot) will always have the skills to get things for free, but if most of the rest of the population doesn't know how then the losses due to piracy are far lower.

    Some people equate digital copying with analog copying, but the primary difference is the volume of piracy, and that's what they're scared of.
    • People like me (and most of slashdot) will always have the skills to get things for free, but if most of the rest of the population doesn't know how then the losses due to piracy are far lower.

      Would it not be impossible for one of us to write a nice, easy user interface to that ubergeek filesharing method?

      I remember when computing and networking in general were reserved for the most thick-glassed of nerdian illuminati. Things will always move on.

  • ...especially if you just happen to be purveyor of old, unencrypted hardware (just like the stuff I'm using now). For these people, all the MPAA/RIAA bullshit will be a godsend as the market for old used equipment skyrockets. So, don't throw out that old PC or Mac folks, they might be the only way you can keep your freedom.
  • by MattRog ( 527508 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @05:11PM (#3108069)
    The RIAA and all the lawyers in the world will never be able to completely stop pirating. Look at how much money the feds throw at drugs and the number of addicts on the street. If enough people want something, they'll get it.

    To put an interesting spin on it, what if the RIAA were to attack the source of the MP3s.. Not so much trying to force Morpheus or whomever out of business, but to taint their supply of MP3s? I know one of my chief frustrations is to search for a song and either have it incomplete, or be of poor quality (e.g. pops or other defects) or to simply have it not be the same song that I downloaded. If I could search for a song, pay a penny for it and download a 'known perfect' copy at my choice of bitrates (e.g. 128, 160, etc.) then sure as heck I'd do it.

    In that vein, what if RIAA / third party went ahead and started 'poisoning' the well? Started distributing broken or otherwise junk MP3s? If they could find a way to diminish the signal ratio by spewing so much junk I'd have no other choice but to find alternate means of obtaining the mp3, be it buying the CD, obtaining it from a friend, or buying the mp3 online.

    Now, before you say 'That's impossible!' consider the following little scheme:
    1) Entity (be it RIAA or some 3rd party company) contacts recording studio and asks "Which song/artist would you like us to poison?"
    2) Record company gives them a list, and a certain amount of money (e.g. the Entity charges on a per-song or per-artist basis).
    3) Entity floods the Napster / Morpheus / etc. community with junk MP3s.

    Now this would take an enormous amount of bandwidth, so said Entity would have to have some sort of agreement worked out with ISPs and a mass-content provider, say Akamai. Akamai has tens of thousands of servers located in hundreds (if not more) of ISPs throughout the nation. I think on peak usage they're pushing out 100 GB/sec. in the US (if not more). Simply say "Ok Akamai, can we buy 10GB on each of your servers and push all these MP3s out?". Then you write a gnutella client for each box which offers all the MP3s up for distribution.

    I can't remember how the gnutella protocol works but I think it broadcasts search requests to the nodes who store a cache of what they have and what their neighbors offer and then can pass the request off. Have your client log all the requests (so you can tell the record companies which songs were requested more) and of course offer up your files when requested. If you do this with 10,000 boxes full of identical content chances are you're going to drown out any signal out there.

    If you're really tricky, you can even have the client 'fake' files so you don't actually need to have the file on the box; you could send a pre-existing obfuscated file.

    Of course, all of this is moot if you still don't have a very easy, cheap method of offering MP3s online for the mass public. You could pitch it like this "Yeah, so you won't make much money off of offering a penny for each MP3. But you're a fool if you think simply shutting Morpheus off will result in even 10% of the Morpheus users buying the actual CD or using a painful, userUNfriendly pay-per-MP3 system. However, what if we have a method to net you 20 or 30% of users who wouldn't pay you anyway?" So the pitch would be "We can't get you all of them, but our method would give you more than you're getting now!". Frankly the people who post on SlashDot (from the very negative response to the Subscription model) are not a good cross-section of the vast majority of internet users out there :).

    So in your obfuscated file you have it play maybe 20 seconds of the file and then say "Sorry, this is a copywrited file. Pirating files costs artists money. If you want to buy this MP3 for a penny, please visit http://www.somestore.com. 80% of every penny earned will go directly to the artist."

    It gives them a reason to buy it - not only do you have SomeStore.com very easily accepting payment of the penny, but you ACTUALLY PAY THE ARTISTS A MAJORITY OF THE MONIES EARNED! So it can quell the naysayers who say "Well the artist wouldn't receive anything anyway!" (rant: but who are you hurting more, the billion dollar-industry or the Artist who NEEDS even the small cut they receive from each CD sold?).

    Some drawbacks could be of course that someone writes a 'detector' to find and ignore the invalid MP3s, or they block the IP addresses of the servers, etc. but that is easily fixed. Most non-power users (e.g. the great and huddled masses of the internet) don't want to update their Morpheus client every time a new version is released. Heck, even programs which offer hassle-free updating (e.g. antivirus, windowsupdate.com) very rarely are by the majority of internet users. Also, you'd work out the server IP settings with the ISP so that they would rotate to a random IP in their pool - since most of the servers are located in most ISPs you couldn't ban the single IP but perhaps a subnet. But since the IPs are in the ISP, you have now banned a large chunk of users. If they are in every ISP, you will have to ban every ISP (see the problem in banning IPs?). You could also use the EVIL RAW SOCKETS (sorry had to poke fun at XP haters ;)) in XP to fake the IP address and have it ban the hapless 'regular' user in the ISP.

    So, to boil it down to a few bullet points:
    *Poison the well
    *Have very easy-to-use, hassle-free, cheap, reliable, etc. method for users to buy MP3s and they WILL.
  • by mcc ( 14761 ) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Monday March 04, 2002 @05:11PM (#3108076) Homepage
    Seriously.. i was a macworld subscriber back when they were GOOD, and i consider steven levy to be one of if not the biggest badasses in computer journalism. And this article is just about perfect-- i would have emphasized the anti-competitive nature of the RIAA middlemen, and maybe put in something noting that the sssca effectively illegalizes computer engineering research (the copyright protection-in-everything rule does not have an exception for test models, last i checked.. no?), but i can forgive that.

    But the question comes up of how much help his support is. This is being printed on msnbc.com.. which is a step removed from, say, slashdot, true, but not a huge step. If someone is reading msnbc.com, there's an excellent chance they're aware of the SSSCA. These are not the people who we need to reach. The people we need to reach are the random uninformed trailer trash and soccer moms.

    My question is this: this piece is copyrighted by newsweek. Is it being printed *in* Newsweek? If it is, i'm overjoyed, because that gives this issue the kind of public exposure it so violently needs. People read newsweek. Like, mass numbers of people who are not already relatively in touch with the slashdot groupthink.

    We don't need a scattered collection of geeks with excellent philosophical, moral, and constitutional arguments against the SSSCA. We need a large body of uninformed persons who, while they may not be able to understand what "DeCSS" is even if you explained it to them, understand vaguely what the SSSCA is saying and understand *EXACTLY* what its repercussions would be. The congresscritters aren't afraid of lone gunmen with weblogs. They're afraid of herd behavior-- afraid of anything that the uninformed voter mass begins to do en masse that they aren't either in total control of or able to escape blame for. If a lot of people start asking questions about the SSSCA and have begun to realize an answer like "Congressman R. J. Theonomist has a tough anti-piracy stance and is pushing new digital encryption technology to help e-commerce and fight copyright theft" is just dodging the question, the congresscritters will spook and skitter away from the SSSCA like roaches when you turn on the kitchen light, trying to make sure they're not identifiably supporting the SSSCA in any way when the common voter figures out the people supporting the SSSCA are trying to take away consumer rights.

    Again, it takes a lot for people to understand what DeCSS is, it takes a lot for people to understand what the DMCA does, and it seems to take a hell of a lot for people to begin to consider source code as "speech". It takes a lot to get people to the point that they understand that napster workalikes do less hurting of the revenues of the music industry than guns do killing people, much less to decide considering the first illegal and the second legal is absurd.. so there may not be hope for the DMCA anytime soon. But the SSSCA is simple to describe-- It makes it illegal for your teenage son to wire together circuitry in your garage because of the possibility your teenage son could potentially be making devices that have the effect of enabling people to listen to music without paying!-- and so there may be hope in stomping it down forever, if the steven levys of the world can bring it up to enough people..

    In the meantime, i'm wondering if there's anything we can do to help that process along. Maybe starting a mass movement for computer-savvy geeks to start emailing to their less computer-savvy relatives URLs to news articles explaining what the SSSCA does would be a good idea?
  • I was watching meet the press [msnbc.com] this past Sunday, Sens. Tom Daschle and Trent Lott were on and there were discussions about how to eliminate US dependency on Iraqi oil.Daschele apparently wants to force auto manufacturers to change the average fuel efficiency for automobiles (which I think is a good thing) in order to reduce importing "about two million barrels of oil per week."

    Interestingly, or not, Trent Lott, said, rather predictably I suppose, "I guess there's some people that think we ought to all be driving Honda Civics." His point, and he went on to say, as part of the Republican creedo, we don't need government in our lives to dictate how and what we should drive.

    The point being, it is very interesting that people who would be on the side of government installing some sort of copy protection are the Dem's and it follows almost from their ideology, it would seem. I would be interested if Lott, and his ilk, would stick to their ideology in saying that govt shouldn't meddle in this. In fact, it is other people like Bob Barr (and let me say I find Lott and Barr as a particularly vile strain of politician) who speak out [house.gov] against surveillance cameras.

    It would be interesting to know, or to hear some of the "keep govt out of my life," "let the market rule" Repub's speak out on this issue. Especially if Hollings keeps this up. Maybe it is just in my mind that I still imagine Dem's as being progessive, but the truth is that people like John Perry Barlow and Lawrence Lessig are more Liberterian than anything. The dem's are poised to lose a lot of consumers/citizens on this one, via pissing off the voter. I wonder if any of the other party's are poised to pick it up and run with it?

  • by Lonath ( 249354 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @05:19PM (#3108147)
    ...only outlaws will have CD burners.

    And the funny thing is the record industry will STILL have CD burners. I wonder how they'll get around that little problem. If all CD burners have to be crippled so that they can't copy protected content, how the fuck is the record or movie industry going to produce its product?

    Answer: They will have CD burners that aren't crippled. But won't that be illegal?

    Answer: Obviously not. So, the SSSCA is even worse than these bastards wanting to cripple all of the electronics in the country...they want to cripple all of the electronics in the country EXCEPT FOR THEIRS BECAUSE THEY NEED FUNCTIONAL ELECTRONICS TO MAKE THEIR PRODUCTS!!!

    In fact, I might support the SSSCA if it would apply to everyone, since that would fuck the content industries, and I could live without CDs or movies for a few years before things get straightened out.

    When you're writing about the SSSCA to your congressmen, please point out this little piece of hypocrisy. The fact that the industry will keep for itself functional devices and deny these same devices to everyone else. If they can't trust us, why the fuck should we trust them?

    Or, maybe I could declare myself to be a record or movie company and get the "privilege" of obtaining the uncrippled devices.
  • I think they realize that people who are capable of breaking security will keep doing it, but they also know that the vast masses are just consumers afraid of getting in trouble. The average person will simply tolerate whatever inconveniences and costs are imposed by copy protection, and blame it all on those damned hackers. People may grumble about things they don't like, but mostly they don't do anything about it. And if they have no choice, thanks to our bought-and-paid-for Congress, well... problem solved.
  • All this bull-shit is counter productive. Try to imagine what will happen to the so-called "country of oportunities".

    Imagine there's no garage development, imagine there's no Apples, and no Suns. Imagine a country that the simple fact of develop your own way to connect your VCR to your home computer is a federal crime.

    Most of American's biggest technology companies has born in garages, with small projects becoming big. All this will never more happen again.

    Who will win? India, Israel (if they don't kill themselves in their own war before), Brazil, China. Countries that produces big minds and today export them to US. They will not be exported anymore to US, they will build their own worldwide technologies companies in their own country. And then US won't have big technologies companies anymore. Everybody will have to use their 10-year-old DVD player bought in 2003 because brand new technologies produced in other countries do not fit into SSSCA!

    Who wants this? RIAA/MPAA don't care about this, when US becomes a technologic dead country they will leave and find another country where they can win more money! The same applies to big technologic corporations, they will leave US and will go to other countries where technology development is cheapper and most of all possible.

    I'm not american, I should be favorable to SSSCA, but I'd like my country to grow for their own credit. The only who have to care about this is American people, nobody else needs to worry about this.

  • I think this issue really depends on where you stand when it comes to intellectual property or the lack thereof.

    Theres the record companies and the 4 letter acronyms on one side saying "If you take anything its bad bad bad.."

    Then you have the /. crowd and the normal people saying or atleast mostly thinking "If you copy something for yourself then no one has actually lost anything"

    The articles says something like 10 million people 'steal' things from the internet. If 10 million people think sharing music is OK, does that make it OK? In this case, I think it does. As a society, we are saying to the recording artists of america and everyone else that we don't feel you can stop of from sharing music just by virtue of the fact that you technically 'own' it or own the 'rights' to it.

    This isn't like murder, where its most definately wrong in the eyes of everyone. This is an issue that doesn't necessarily have a clear moral standing you can cling to. If everyone thinks music should be free.. then perhaps shouldn't be free.

    If this means some musician might have to cut back on the drugs and underage groupie sex, does that mean its wrong? Maybe society is saying that playing music shouldn't be something you are allowed to make your living off of. Maybe society is saying musicians should get real jobs and just play music for the sheer joy of it.

    Who knows.. but this definately raises some questions that people need to decide for themselves.. but if 10 million people want music to be free, then who is the united states gov't to tell them otherwise? It didn't take 10 million people to decide they didn't like paying taxes on tea to change the world.
  • by ZaMoose ( 24734 ) on Monday March 04, 2002 @05:51PM (#3108419)
    Weird how the universe works. Today's Foxtrot [ucomics.com] knocks the CD copy protection garbage.

    Sometimes I wonder if Amend is a /. reader... His "UNIX Underpinnings/UNIX Underpants" [ucomics.com] strip really makes me think so...
  • 1) On the SSSCA front, it's been reported that the House of Reps isn't too happy about this type of legislation. Part of it is sane thinking ("Gov't has no right to be intruding into this area"), with a dash of "what's good for the goose" politics: specifically, because Hollings will most likely defeat Tuazin-Dungill single-handedly, the House will frown upon anything that Hollings is a major contributor on. (Story is at DSLReports and Wired)

    2) Make sure you read today's Foxtrot (3/4/02, should by on United Media's site in two weeks for those without paper version), which refers to copy-protected CDs. Bill Amend, what's your slashdot handle? :-)

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN