Collecting movies

Mark Cuban has an interesting post on the legalities of collecting movies and how perhaps Hollywood might consider some changes in release schedules.

So Hollywood has a choice. They can change their businessmodel of windowed distribution of movies and significantly impede any potential impact of camcordering and internet downloads. How ?

They can release DVDs day and date with their theatrical release. Let the customer consume the movie exactly the way the customer wants to get it. What a concept. Shocking isnt it.

Or, they can keep the status quoa and spend lots and lots of taxpayer dollars filling up our courts suing websites and kids. Of course suing and complaining means there is always going to be an excuse if business doesnt go well. [Blog Maverick]

The Broadcast flag striking your DVR soon…

Get ready for the suck. It’s no secret that the Broadcast flag is coming and that your cable DVR (probably Sat) and Tivo will all quietly start erasing things you thought you had indefinitely saved for later…

Time-Warner is arm-twisting cable companies into agreeing to a scheme to automagically erase your saved episodes of Six Feet Under from your cable-company-provided PVR after a month or so. This is the danger of sucking up to the studios in the first place: they say, “Suuuure, we’ll ‘let’ you build a PVR that will tape the shows you cablecast to your customers, but that permission is contingent on our ongoing goodwill. So if in the future we decide, for example, that your PVR can’t record certain shows, or can’t skip certain commercials, or can’t store certain recordings for more than a few days, you’d better implement it. Or else. So what if your customers can’t figure out why their PVRs don’t work properly? That’s your problem, pal.” [Boing Boing]

Tivo signals the official change

I already blogged the move by Tivo today to add advertisements within the fast forward interface, and I’ve also noted additional moves announced by Tivo to upgrade your box in the future to block recording and storage of certain programming like HBO and the NFL… HD is most likely seriously impacted by this as well if people actually pay for those boxes.

The sad part of all this is that there is seemingly anything that can be done to prevent the “inevitable suck.” I was reviewing a demonstration video for the Microsoft Foundation TV platform last night – the very same system being tested in Seattle at the moment and I have to say I was not really impressed by what I saw. Sure the features are there, DVR, (I think) 2 tuners, HD and VOD. The presentation was very flat though and I don’t just mean the movie which while educational was a real sleeper.

I use the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000HD DVR. Say what you want about the box – I’ve had my own issues as well including replacing the box twice. It’s FREE, only requires a $9.95/mo fee through Time Warner here in NYC and is able to display all known HD formats – though it really prefers straight 1080i. I can do digital optical audio out in addition to viewing an enhanced picture and for the most part I am very satisfied with the system…

So what’s the rub? Well for starters, I am completely locked out from using the material I record, whether its a PBS (free for anyone) program or something from HBO. The only way I can archive things is to first pass them through analog and then re-encode back to digital with a piece of equipment or system of sorts I’d have to purchase which would only get close to reproducing the original. There was previous mention of the Scientific Atlanta box with a DVD burner which would allow theoretical archival, but would most likely follow the strict broadcast flag restrictions and would have the same blocks soon to be imposed by Tivo.

I have no idea really why there are such intense restrictions placed on video vs audio content, but it’s pretty amazing when you really think about it. Archiving a DVD is possible, but is not a process a computer can do without the help of certain software tools not usually found on the average user’s machine. You cannot copy a commercial DVD without these same tools or converting to a lesser standard first.

The only future I see at the moment is one where we are forced to enjoy video content on somebody else’s rules.

Strike 2 for Tivo

As if blocking the recording of certain programs was not bad enough… commercial blocking is next. No word on when this will come through on cable company DVR boxes but from this tip at Engadget it might soon effect us all. Certainly seems like the perfect time to build your own DVR. You can even still purchase an HDTV card which ignores the broadcast flag — at least for now.

Once the bane of advertising for its ad skipping feature, TiVo, will redeem itself in the eyes of marketers with a new feature set to launch next March. Tivo will introduce a feature whereby advertisers can purchase a billboard which will appear on screen when a user fast forwards through an ad. The billboards will allow advertisers to make offers and link to other ads, most likely residing in TiVo’s Showcase – home for long form commercials. If a viewer opts in to the ad, their personal info will be sent to the advertiser enabling further direct marketing.

While advertisers will rejoice over the introduction of this feature, a consumer revolt is likely to occur. Upon introduction, TiVo gave consumers control and now it is taking it back effectively having tricked consumers into buying a product that will now serve to more finitely market to them. It will only be a matter of time before hacked products arrive eliminating all TiVo functionality aside from its hard drive based recording abilities. While we are sure patents are in place, an enterprising manufacturer could make a killing offering a simple TiVo-less “ad free” hard disk recorder. But, at least for now, the control pendulum has swung back to the advertiser. [Adrants]

Get your vote on!

We voted before lunch today and I was pleased to see a good crowd all doing their part. Nothing too major to report on the line, it was not a big deal and only took a few minutes… be sure to do your part today!

Eminem on SNL

Call me crazy, but I think Eminem was reading from a teleprompter during his performance of Mosh to keep up with his lipsynching… There were definitely a few out of sync moments.

I like the song, the video and the message, but it was still a surprising reveal.

Hollywood is Trying to Kill Betamax

It’s not what you might think from the title of this post… the format has been long gone for consumers. This is about the INDUCE act which seeks to block things like TiVO, your iPod and many other technological advances in how we choose to consume media.

The Betamax ruling is the only thing that protects your right to own a VCR, tape recorder, CD-burner, DVD-burner, iPod, or TiVo. It’s that important. But new legislation that’s being pushed through the Senate by lobbyists for the music and movie industries would override the Betamax decision and create a huge liability for any business that makes products which can copy sound or video. This legislation (formerly known as the INDUCE Act) would essentially give Hollywood veto power over a huge range of new technologies. And if they get this power, they’ll definitely use it: just as they tried to stomp out the VCR in the 70’s and 80’s, the music and movie industries want to force all content to go through their own restricted channels. [Save Betamax]

Safety First

I was just sent a link to Pentagon Strike which is both disturbing and angering… We are coming up on the 3rd anniversary of 9/11 and there are still entirely too many questions to be answered.

Keep in mind our current administration is way too busy with distraction and scare tactics to really give us the answers we want and the security we deserve:

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday warned Americans about voting for Democratic Sen. John Kerry, saying that if the nation makes the wrong choice on Election Day it faces the threat of another terrorist attack. [AP News]

After watching the video linked above, I can’t help but wonder who’s doing the attacking?

Your vote counts… use it wisely.

P2P Services in the Clear

Peer-to-peer file-sharing services Morpheus and Grokster are legal, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday. The decision is a blow for record labels and movie studios which sued the peer-to-peer operators claiming that the services should be held liable for the copyright infringement of their users. [Wired News]

Skype Me!

I used Skype for the first time today and thought it was pretty cool… I’d used Voice Chat apps before (iChat, AIM etc…) but was wondering what the big deal with Skype really was until just now when I read a post from Dan Gilmore who was commenting on the FCC’s declaration and vote to tap VOIP lines like my Vonage line as they can with landlines…

This is a stunningly bad decision, and it is going to take us down a road we’ve already traveled.

It ignores reality. Consider Skype, which encrypts calls from end to end. It runs on peer-to-peer networks. In other words, law enforcement can’t eavesdrop — because VOIP is, for all practical purposes, a software application.

Unless we have new laws banning the private use of strong encryption, the FCC/FBI alliance here just means the bad guys will move their communications — if they haven’t already — to services that can’t be tapped. Then, only average folks will be monitored. [Dan Gillmor’s eJournal]

So obviously I don’t like the FCC decision (perhaps not so obvious to you new visitor), but the capability to encrypt my discussion through a P2P network is pretty slick and though I had read that when I first learned of Skype it was lost in time as I waited for a Mac version…. still waiting on the Mac version, but the PC version is here now and works quite well. Makes me think that it might make a better choice now than a softphone from anyone else especially given the encryption angle.

Ron Reagan in Esquire

Politicians will stretch the truth. They’ll exaggerate their accomplishments, paper over their gaffes. Spin has long been the lingua franca of the political realm. But George W. Bush and his administration have taken “normal” mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on. [Esquire]

Homeland Security planning possible delay of elections

You might want to stop and think about this one for a second.

Newsweek reports: “American counterterrorism officials, citing what they call “alarming” intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall, are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of such an attack… The prospect that Al Qaeda might seek to disrupt the U.S. election was a major factor behind last week’s terror warning by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge… Ridge’s department last week asked the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to analyze what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place.” []

Do you think the Republican party is nervous about the new Dem ticket or what?

While I’ve got your attention, you should definitely consider watching Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Sure it’s one sided, but the facts are true (at least to the best of my ability to tell) and the events discussed are simply amazing. Personally, it’s an opinion maker. Time Magazine had an excellent cover story in case you missed that as well.

Amazing But True

This is actually quite sad. I wonder it it’s just an oversight or if all MS Reader content gets this protection regardless of what it is.

I don’t know whether it is a MS policy, but I’ve downloaded a good number of free Palm Reader e-Books that were free from protection because they were either promotionally free or within the public domain.

In this case, our Constitution is not only not free to download, but you are not free to read it how you like.

The madness continues. From Larry Lessig: At, you can purchase an electronic version of the Constitution, fitted very nicely to a Microsoft Reader (not Mac compatible), and protected quite completely with DRM. The description says you%u2019re not permitted to print it. [JD’s New Media Musings]

Wireless Unleashed

Daily Wireless called my attention to a new group blog from Kevin Werbach, David Isenberg, Andrew Odlyzko, and Clay Shirky. Looks like a good one…

Current wireless regulation actually prevents communication from taking place. Even in prime low-frequency spectrum, vast amounts of capacity lies idle due to old rules and old thinking. With the support of Microsoft, we have come together to advocate freeing up this un-used capacity. Over the next few weeks, this site will serve as a sounding board for ideas and discussion. [Wireless Unleashed]

We need to Open Source the Music Industry

Reading this article (below) from Rolling Stone really just pisses me off and makes me want to find other more direct ways to support artists I like rather than going through the main commerical channels. Somehow, Clear Channel’s moves are not considered anti-competitive or under any anti-trust scrutiny, but this move is clearly a way for them to control every aspect of the music experience — radio airplay, concerts and now live recordings.

The music industry needs an open source solution to enable real-time recording and burning of music so that artists can profit from touring the way they should, rather than continue to be crippled by ridiculous regulations like this. With the appropriate software and hardware, perhaps off the shelf systems bands or venues would be able to produce rapid copys of performaces for fans to buy on their way out the door.

The more we go forward, the the more the recording industry goes backward… I can’t understand why you would limit access to a product from people who not only are interested in purchasing, but are actually right there with money in hand!!

I thought that Phish had a system to do just this, but apparently not in real time… recordings produced a few days later are ok according to CC…

In the past few years, fans leaving some concerts have discovered a souvenir far better than a T-shirt: a live recording of the show they just attended. Bands including the Allman Brothers, moe. and Billy Idol have sold instant concert discs, and the Pixies and the Doors plan to launch similar programs this summer. The recording-and-burning company DiscLive estimated on April 12th that it would gross $500,000 selling live discs this spring alone.

But in a move expected to severely limit the industry, Clear Channel Entertainment has bought the patent from the technology’s inventors and now claims to own the exclusive right to sell concert CDs after shows. The company, which is the biggest concert promoter in the world, says the patent covers its 130 venues along with every other venue in the country.

“We want to be artist-friendly,” says Steve Simon, a Clear Channel executive vice president and the director of Instant Live. “But it is a business, and it’s not going to be ‘we have the patent, now everybody can use it for free.'”

Artists net about ten dollars for every twenty- to twenty-five-dollar concert CD that’s sold, no matter which company they use. But with Clear Channel pushing to eliminate competition, many fear there will be less money and fewer opportunities to sell live discs. “It’s one more step toward massive control and consolidation of Clear Channel’s corporate agenda,” says String Cheese Incident manager Mike Luba, who feuded with Clear Channel last year after promoters blocked the band from using CD-burning equipment.

The Pixies, who are booking a fall reunion tour with several probable Clear Channel venues, say Clear Channel has already told them DiscLive can’t burn and sell CDs on-site. “Presuming Clear Channel’s service and product are of equal quality, it may be best to feed the dragon rather than draw swords,” says Pixies manager Ken Goes. “Still, I’m not fond of doing business with my arm twisted behind my back.” []

Thanks for the Tip JD!