This Means War!!! . . .

About a week ago, I wrote something about HDCP.

The responses I got pretty much boiled down to “you’re wrong because this will never come to pass. We won’t allow it.”

This attitude is pretty much summarized by this rant for an HD boycott.

It’s written by a former director of video product marketing for Apple (which sold video editing programs like Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro and iDVD). Since effective protection would severely crimp the style of many who use such programs (and the gentleman believes that it will), he is mucho against this.

In his responses to comments on the article, he makes it clear what he thinks about laws that cramp his style:

“I view the DMCA as a criminal conspiracy that should be prosecuted under RICO statutes, but of course it won’t be, as the conspirators are in charge.”

It goes on in the typical old “Geeks rule!” as do most of the responses to it. But not all. Someone asked:

Given that copies of digital music/movies are perfect, how are we as a society going to protect intellectual property? This is tricky time in history. Never before have we been faced with a problem where pretty much anyone can steal copyrighted material so easily. Just a click of a few buttons. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. Copying a few songs is generally accepted by the public at large.

Too many people just don’t want to face up to reality. If we want to have a society where artists can make money from their creative talents, we must have a solution for copyright theft that is a deterrent to most people. If you think that all information is free, then you should never watch any movie that wasn’t made to be freely distributed, because the only way it is made is as an investment. Take your beliefs to their logical conclusion. “What if everyone believed as I did?” Would there be big budget movies? Do I want artists to be able to make a living creating? Although you think you are targeting greedy corporations, the artist eventually gets it because shit always rolls down hill.

What is your solution for protecting copyrights in a digital age? If you don’t think we need one, I think you are mistaken.

No one answered that; one even suggested the writer quoted above lived “in lala land.”

And that’s the problem. You see, this is war, a cold war in that people aren’t going to be killed left and right, but still a war.

On the one side, we have the content providers, who want to get paid as much as possible for their work, and have maximum control over its distribution.

On the other side, we have a cyberculture that thinks that information should be free (or at least payment-optional) and they should be free to use it any and all ways they damn well feel like.

Neither position is going to work in a functional digital world.

Is Hollywood going too far? Sure, they’re trying to lock the door and throw away the key. But put yourself in their shoes. Pretend for a moment that it’s your stuff other people want to copy for various reasons. Can you blame them given how little the other guys think about your rights?

Do copyright laws need to be rewritten for the digital era? Sure, but who is going to do it? The legislators are clueless, the owners are looking out for Number One, and the geeks don’t think any laws they don’t like apply to them.

All this reminds of a recent event outside the technical realm, the recent confirmation of Justice Samuel Alito to the United States Supreme Court.

If you went to certain political sites, you saw tons of posts that in spirit were identical to those you see about DRM: No, no, no, we don’t want him, and if we yell loud enough and call him enough nasty names and throw up enough sensational charges with the slightest tenuous touch with reality, we will defeat him.

Didn’t happen, did it? I’m not at all trying to say that you had to be irrational to oppose Mr. Alito, but you don’t effectively oppose him by being irrational.

And if you don’t or won’t answer that question mentioned earlier in the article, “What is your solution for protecting copyrights in a digital age?” you’re not being rational.

As Lawrence Lessig once said a few years ago, if the choice is between total control and no control, total control will win, and on the government level, that was, is and will always be true.

The battle in the trenches is a different matter.

Both sides have a lot at stake in this war. Hollywood fears, with good reason, that if the other side wins, that will be the end of their business as they’ve known it. The cyberinsurgents fear, with good reason, that if the other side wins, that will be the end of their culture as they’ve known it.

The Alito nomination was a binary decision: Yes or No. Copyright in the digital era is not; there’s a huge amount of middle ground between the two extremes.

Do I think an HD boycott will strangle these protective technologies in the crib? No, and for the same reason Mr. Alito is now Justice Alito; there are other players in this game, and they outnumber the insurgents.

But, like another insurgency, that one in Iraq, they can cause a lot of trouble for a long, long time.


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