The DMCA versus Computer Hobbyists

by on January 31, 2006 · 16 comments

Ars highlights an interview with Microsoft executive Jim Allchin about how computer hobbyists are being frozen out of access to the next generation of digital video:

Although as a platform Vista has been approved by CableLabs at this point, an important step that will still be necessary for the PC/CableCARD reality is CableLab’s approval for finshed individual OEM PCs as well. Although Vista has been approved, OEMs will in fact still need to get their individual machines certified by CableLabs as well.

What that means in plain English is that if you want to view cable TV content on your computer, you’ll need to choose a computer model that’s been individually inspected by cable labs. What if you assembled your own PC from scratch? It’s a safe bet that CableLabs won’t consider it worth the time to talk to you.

This is a problem that will only get worse. What the DMCA is doing, in essence, is making users of non-proprietary hardware and software systems second-class citizens. Already, most DRM schemes exclude open source operating systems like Linux. Now, they’re beginning to exclude custom-built hardware as well. That might not seem like a major loss to the lobbyists who got the DMCA enacted–most of whom have probably never written a line of code in their life. But for those of us who enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being able to tinker with our hardware and software, it’s a major loss.

Update: Boing Boing has more.

  • http://metapundit.net/sections/blog metapundit

    Both those links go to a login page… You wanted http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060131-6081.html

  • http://metapundit.net/sections/blog metapundit

    Both those links go to a login page… You wanted http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060131-6

  • http://www.binarybits.org/ Tim

    Fixed, thanks!

  • http://www.binarybits.org/ Tim

    Fixed, thanks!

  • http://tieguy.org/blog/ Luis Villa

    See also these notes on a MS VP’s talk in London, where apparently the MS rep said that DRM will be licensed only to major players: “We don’t want this technology to be available to every hobbyist. We need to keep the number of licensees down to a manageable number. We charge a license fee to keep the number of people we have to deal with down to a level we can handle.” It is clear that DRM (both from MS and Apple) is an anti-competitive device for hardware and software makers as much or more so than it is an anti-competitive move on the part of the entertainment industry.

  • http://tieguy.org/blog/ Luis Villa

    See also these notes on a MS VP’s talk in London, where apparently the MS rep said that DRM will be licensed only to major players: “We don’t want this technology to be available to every hobbyist. We need to keep the number of licensees down to a manageable number. We charge a license fee to keep the number of people we have to deal with down to a level we can handle.” It is clear that DRM (both from MS and Apple) is an anti-competitive device for hardware and software makers as much or more so than it is an anti-competitive move on the part of the entertainment industry.

  • naiserie

    Yay, more reasons not to use MS!!!

    Seriously though, very few people will bend over for this sort of thing. Who is going to drop money on a brand new machine immediately simply because it’s “certified”?

    Moreover, it’s only a matter of time before the protection is cracked…someone somewhere will code the bios/firmware enabling those of us who prefer to continue using XP or *nix to view/record despite the DRM. Then we’ll get more of the same “piracy is bankrupting hollywood” drivel.

    As evidenced by reactions to this story (and the ongoing DRM drama generally), I don’t think this sort of strategy from MS will payoff in the long run. Consumers want flexibility with their content, and one way or another (“illegally” if need be) most of us will have it. Statements regarding restricted usage from MS and others are direct challeges to teh haxxors out there, and more often than not, teh haxxors win.

  • naiserie

    Yay, more reasons not to use MS!!!

    Seriously though, very few people will bend over for this sort of thing. Who is going to drop money on a brand new machine immediately simply because it’s “certified”?

    Moreover, it’s only a matter of time before the protection is cracked…someone somewhere will code the bios/firmware enabling those of us who prefer to continue using XP or *nix to view/record despite the DRM. Then we’ll get more of the same “piracy is bankrupting hollywood” drivel.

    As evidenced by reactions to this story (and the ongoing DRM drama generally), I don’t think this sort of strategy from MS will payoff in the long run. Consumers want flexibility with their content, and one way or another (“illegally” if need be) most of us will have it. Statements regarding restricted usage from MS and others are direct challeges to teh haxxors out there, and more often than not, teh haxxors win.

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  • http://dir.yahoo.com/Computers_and_Internet/Internet/ Phillip
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  • Stan

    Couple of points.

    CableLabs will consider any product for certification, the requirement is that you need to supply nearly 30 copies of the product and pay a significant (read, multi 10′s of k $$) fee.

    Consumers will need a certified PC *if* they intend to legally use the PC as their cable STB.

    -s

  • Stan

    Couple of points.

    CableLabs will consider any product for certification, the requirement is that you need to supply nearly 30 copies of the product and pay a significant (read, multi 10′s of k $$) fee.

    Consumers will need a certified PC *if* they intend to legally use the PC as their cable STB.

    -s

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