DCE: Digital Consumer Eradicator?

Since the beginning of the digital revolution, content creators have invested millions of dollars in the development of technologies to preserve their rights. The public first tasted this with DVDs and their anti-fair use copy-controls CSS and Macrovision. In the time since, the RIAA has attempted to install similar technologies onto CDs, many of which backfired (e.g., Sony Rootkit). As we enter the rich-media internet age more of these Digital Restriction Management technologies appear on content. Whether or not society values DRM the media does enjoy it and lobbied the government to pass laws making it illegal to circumvent these technologies (e.g., DMCA). Just as the public starts to get a bad taste for DRM, the media tries to disguise the technology by playing word games. This past week in Los Vegas the National Cable and Telecommunications Association held their annual Cable Show. During one of the panel sessions, one HBO’s COs revealed the next stage in the anti-consumer name game.

In his infinite wisdom, HBO’s CTO Bob Zitter proclaims that DCE—Digital Consumer Enablement—more accurately represents what is known today as DRM. Under the impression that DRM allows consumers to do things they could not in the past, Zitter feels the term’s inherently negative focus restricts adoption. Contrary to Zitter’s beliefs, DRM technologies do not enable new freedoms to consumers1. While Zitter claims that DRM allows consumers to enjoy TV content and movies on DVPs (e.g., ZEN Vision, iPod with video, etc.), consumers could do this before DRM if they so pleased. This previous ability falls under the legal category of fair use, as it simply employs time shifting (the same thing a DVR like TiVo does). The difference between the previous method and the ‘new’ method is the DRM. Before DRM the content was platform agnostic; with DRM the content effectively gets tied to specific ‘authorized’ platform. Apple does this with Fairplay, forcing their customers into the iPod/iTunes platform with little chance of escape (legally that is)—anything purchased from the iTunes Music Store can not be played on any non-authorized device (any DAP or media player that is not an iPod or iTunes/Quicktime).

What this entire DRM name game leads to is a society of consumerism without thought. During the days of tapes, the more the tapes were played, the more the quality suffered. The media loved this, because the consumers would have to rebuy the product they purchased over and over again if they wanted to keep it. With the advent of digital mediums, this no longer occurred until disk-rot was discovered forcing the consumer to fall into the trap that the analog age faced. As content moves off of physical mediums as its primary means of distribution, DRM becomes the new disk-rot. Since platforms are not permanent—few people still use OS/2—and DRM ties the user into a platform, every time a user adopts a new platform they will have to repurchase rights to the content they already own rights to. Platform changes could occur according to dictation of the media (Microsoft and Apple are already ‘in bed’ with the media), allowing them to force users to perpetually repurchase content due to the selfishness of the media. There are already automatic updates for many software platforms ranging from cable modems to Windows, whats to stop these automatic updates from ‘breaking’ the platform. Overnight once playable content is forever locked out without paying another fee.

Do no be an ignorant consumer, do not fall for the DRM name game, do not purchase any DRM-infected content, and do not let DRM and DMCA stand in the way of your rights. Want to watch the DVD you bought on your Linux computer, go ahead use the illegal prime (DeCSS). Oh, you have an HD-DVD, well use the second illegal number—that nice Hex number AACS LA claims to own (let me know where I can claim a Hex number of my own). Today may be a good time to cancel the HBO subscription and write Mr. Zitter reminding him who pays his wage.

-John Havlik

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  1. Dickson, Glen. “NCTA: HBO’s Zitter Says DRM Is Misnomer.” Broadcasting & Cable. . . http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6440876.html

Sammy’s Banished

Sammy Kamkar, the one who over a year ago unleashed an exploit on MySpace that caused anyone who viewed his profile, or his friends’ profiles to automatically request to be his friend. MySpace filed a civil suit against Kamkar, who plead guilty and is now banished from the Internet for a classified amount of time. The plaintiffs claimed that they are “committed to protecting our community from any abusive misuse of the site.”

Frankly, after reviewing the code and reading the explanation of his method, the hack only worked for IE and certain versions of Safari. In reality the exploit was of both the browsers and MySpace, his code should never have executed in the browsers. News Corp. should go after Microsoft as they are equally responsible for this exploit. Regardless, it’ll be interesting to see how they will go about keeping him off the Internet.

In other news, Boston needs to get a brain. Overreacting to the ten or so PCBs with LEDs attached and a black plastic bag protecting the batteries was idiocy. If the police can’t tell the difference between a bomb and a LED sign, how are they supposed to do their job? Seriously the media needs to stop spreading misinformation and disinformation before the people revolt against them, oh wait that’s already about to happen (the Internet, YouTube, p2p, etc).

-John Havlik

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Why Demerjian is correct

Digg, the social/democratic news website, was arguably the best source for technology news. Naturally it had its faults and flaws, but the community was intelligent. As time progressed the bugs were squashed as more and more unintelligent beings flocked to the site. Time passed, and the story submissions became less intelligent, and more zealot content made its way to the front page, and onto comments. Now the ‘stupid and loud’ run rampant on Digg, burying anything that their zealot ideology can’t tolerate. People now submit poor quality stories and know it; they dig up stories that are almost a year old and then make incorrect connections and misinformed assumptions.

A well thought out, ten-month-old rant by Mr. Demerjian on the Inquirer, somehow made its way back to the Digg front page today. At the time Digg had some nasty issues with burying stories and the frustrated Demerjian ranted about it with some good points. Today isn’t ten months ago, and Digg has changed considerably in this time. As always ignorant diggers make uneducated assumptions, and then post boorish comments. Some, much more vocal diggers took it upon themselves to let Mr. Demerjian know what they thought of his intelligence (The assumption here is that many disregarded the article in a zealot fashion and resorted to insulting the author.) in numerous e-mails. In the process these zealots managed to prove their own lack of intelligence. Responding to this, a follow-up has been posted, taking a wide viewed stab at Web 2.0 and those who are ruining it.

Digg is becoming a wasteland.

Much like Myspace, the favorite site to pick on by most Diggers, rubbish is infiltrating Digg. Zealot articles and titles ranging from several anti-Microsoft, pro-Ubuntu, anti-PS3, pro-wii, pro-apple, anti-war, anti-bush, to anti-everything appear on the front page daily. On average three you-tube videos make it there as well. Filling in the rest of the articles are the inaccurate and lame refuse that hardly made it in the past. Truth be had, one can only consume a certain amount of Ubuntu news a day, among other things.

Uneducated diggers

Again, akin to Myspace, the variety of Digg users becomes less intelligent as each day passes. When an article makes it to the front page, and someone doesn’t agree with its message, regardless of its actual accuracy, will typically bury it as ‘inaccurate’. This is a point Mr. Demerjian expressed concern indirectly in his two articles. Others Digg solely based on the title of the article, typically if it spreads a message which the user agrees with. Once again a case arises where users digg because of personal believes rather than accepting facts, or reading the article.

Submitting a ‘splash article’

Instead of submitting the original article, users submit links to a blog entry that links to the original article. If the submitter had any sense they would skip the middleman, whom typically has a server that can’t survive the Digg effect, and link to the original article. Not only are these ‘splash articles’ annoying, they are a waste of time, and are indirectly allowing someone coping another’s works to benefit from them. It’s guaranteed that not all of the splash article viewers will go on to read the original article. In this case, the original author looses out on potential page views, which in turn could lead to decreased advertisement revenue (if applicable). The splash article author on the other hand benefits from this leeching from direct page views, and the chance for potentially large advertisement revenues, while not putting forth any effort other than a simple copy and paste and posting a link.

Don’t Digg this article. And, defiantly don’t create a splash article of this and Digg that, for that is even worse.

-John Havlik

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Games Aren’t Parenting Substitutes

Currently the local news stations are buzzing over the abilities of the PSP for playing multimedia content and accessing the internet via WiFi networks. Idiot adolescents in various middle schools are using their overly priced gaming device to watch adult content. A cow (An overweight woman who complains and/or talks too much.) is trying to blame Sony and game makers for this. Well sorry madam but if you would have done a tad bit of reading before purchasing the PSP for your child you would have realized that it can connect to the internet just as any laptop using WiFi technology. Her ignorance is what leads to censorship caused by Websense, everyone’s enemy. If reading the box before purchasing is too difficult for this woman she shouldn’t be allowed to purchase high tech devices such as a computer, internet service, or gaming devices.

-John Havlik

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