Where’s My Video Jukebox?

by on January 9, 2007 · 36 comments

Over at the EFF blog, Derek Slater makes an excellent point:

Great gadgets for your music collection are all over CES: servers that stream to devices throughout your house, slick portable players and music cell phones, place-shifting software that lets you–and your friends–hear your collection from any computer, and much more. But if you want to do more with your DVD collection, you can basically forget about it.

The reason why is, of course, the DMCA. While anyone can build a device that rips music CDs and make use of your MP3s, no one can build a device that unlocks the DRM on DVDs without getting Hollywood’s permission first. Sure, you can find software online to help you rip your DVDs and put them on your iPod, but you won’t find such features built into consumer products on display here. (Kaleidescape, which offers a high-end multi-thousand dollar DVD server and got sued for it, is the exception that proves the rule.)

This fact is even more striking in light of all the emerging video delivery system here, including Microsoft’s IPTV system, cell phone video services, and movie downloading systems. You don’t have to look hard at CES to find a product that aims to help consumers acquire video on the device of their choice. Yet DVDs remain just as limited as they ever were.

I’ve made this point before. I always get really frustrated when DMCA supporters assert that the DMCA has been on the books for almost a decade and no harm has been done. It’s impossible to predict which specific devices would have been invented without the DMCA. But there’s obviously a Kaleidescape-shaped hole in the consumer electronics market, and I’m having trouble thinking of another explanation.

  • Doug Lay

    But you miss the point, Tim. To hear DMCA supporters like Solveig Singleton and Bruce Boyden tell the tale, it is a GOOD thing when innovations are pushed out of respectable venues like CES and onto disreputable Internet sites that can only be accessed by those elite hackers who have achieved a basic understanding of how to use Google.

  • Doug Lay

    But you miss the point, Tim. To hear DMCA supporters like Solveig Singleton and Bruce Boyden tell the tale, it is a GOOD thing when innovations are pushed out of respectable venues like CES and onto disreputable Internet sites that can only be accessed by those elite hackers who have achieved a basic understanding of how to use Google.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14019452 Steve R.

    Tim: I totally agree with you that “… when DMCA supporters assert that the DMCA has been on the books for almost a decade and no harm has been done.” The consumer has been harmed, the problem is that this “harm” has yet to be fully articulated and is consequently overlooked. The “harm” of DRM technologies is slowly surfacing. Many of the Zune player reviews pointed out that the DRM technology severely limits the utility of this device and your citation to Peter Gutmann’s article “A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection” points to a growing recognition of this “harm”

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Tim: I totally agree with you that “… when DMCA supporters assert that the DMCA has been on the books for almost a decade and no harm has been done.” The consumer has been harmed, the problem is that this “harm” has yet to be fully articulated and is consequently overlooked. The “harm” of DRM technologies is slowly surfacing. Many of the Zune player reviews pointed out that the DRM technology severely limits the utility of this device and your citation to Peter Gutmann’s article “A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection” points to a growing recognition of this “harm”

  • Anonymous

    The answer to the video jukebox problem is a device that holds 200-300 DVDs. CD jukeboxes were on the market several years ago. I don’t know how successful those models were, or if they are still available. But if it could be done with CDs, the same concept could obviously be implemented with DVDs.

    I don’t like the DMCA any more than you, but there is a simple mechanical workaround for the jukebox problem.

  • Anonymous

    The answer to the video jukebox problem is a device that holds 200-300 DVDs. CD jukeboxes were on the market several years ago. I don’t know how successful those models were, or if they are still available. But if it could be done with CDs, the same concept could obviously be implemented with DVDs.

    I don’t like the DMCA any more than you, but there is a simple mechanical workaround for the jukebox problem.

  • http://www.techliberation.com Tim Lee

    Well, sure you could build a mechanical DVD jukebox, which would have many of the features of a digital DVD jukebox. But it would be a lot more expensive, it would take up a whole lot of space, and it likely wouldn’t work as well.

  • http://www.techliberation.com Tim Lee

    Well, sure you could build a mechanical DVD jukebox, which would have many of the features of a digital DVD jukebox. But it would be a lot more expensive, it would take up a whole lot of space, and it likely wouldn’t work as well.

  • Doug Lay

    What problem would a mechanical jukebox solve? Anyone building one would still need a DVD-CCA license, which means they still need Hollywood’s sign-off on any proposed features. Heck, Kaliedascape HAD a DVD-CCA license, which they’ve been sued for violating the terms of.

  • Doug Lay

    What problem would a mechanical jukebox solve? Anyone building one would still need a DVD-CCA license, which means they still need Hollywood’s sign-off on any proposed features. Heck, Kaliedascape HAD a DVD-CCA license, which they’ve been sued for violating the terms of.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    To those who assert that the DMCA has done no damage, I would simply remind all of Dmitry Skylarov, whose experience of the USA was one of oppresion, not freedom.

    Why does the damage done to our First Amendment never get discussed here as a loss?

    Is the only measure of a loss in the marketplace, or doesn’t anyone value the First Amendment any more.

    This ignoring of the loss of a basic freedom is distressing to me.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    To those who assert that the DMCA has done no damage, I would simply remind all of Dmitry Skylarov, whose experience of the USA was one of oppresion, not freedom.

    Why does the damage done to our First Amendment never get discussed here as a loss?

    Is the only measure of a loss in the marketplace, or doesn’t anyone value the First Amendment any more.

    This ignoring of the loss of a basic freedom is distressing to me.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Enigma, how exactly does the DMCA affect the First Amend. I’ve heard some arguments, but not yours.

    What does everyone propose we do with the DMCA? These criticisms I see are so general, but don’t mention specific provisions. Repealing the DMCA seems overboard unless you disagree with every single provision… IMHO.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Enigma, how exactly does the DMCA affect the First Amend. I’ve heard some arguments, but not yours.

    What does everyone propose we do with the DMCA? These criticisms I see are so general, but don’t mention specific provisions. Repealing the DMCA seems overboard unless you disagree with every single provision… IMHO.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Noel, I think I’ve made it pretty clear what my position is: I think the anti-circumvention provisions (i.e. section 1201) should be repealed. In my opinion, the Boucher bill is a reasonable way to do that.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Noel, I think I’ve made it pretty clear what my position is: I think the anti-circumvention provisions (i.e. section 1201) should be repealed. In my opinion, the Boucher bill is a reasonable way to do that.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Regarding 1201. Your argument indicates that you find 1201(f) inadequate. You may say that its vague, but your writings seem to imply that its bad for innovation because it is too narrow by not exempting violations of traditional copyright law (i.e. interoperable programs having too much in common with the orginal program) or not giving enough clear guidance on what its exempting from the rest of 1201 (i.e. defeating the purpose of DRM).

    So why not expand 1201(f) to cover more ground rather than repeal the whole DMCA?

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    Regarding 1201. Your argument indicates that you find 1201(f) inadequate. You may say that its vague, but your writings seem to imply that its bad for innovation because it is too narrow by not exempting violations of traditional copyright law (i.e. interoperable programs having too much in common with the orginal program) or not giving enough clear guidance on what its exempting from the rest of 1201 (i.e. defeating the purpose of DRM).

    So why not expand 1201(f) to cover more ground rather than repeal the whole DMCA?

  • http://www.techliberation.com Tim Lee

    Noel, I wrote a whole paper on this subject, it’s not something I can easily summarize in a blog comment. In a nutshell, I don’t think it’s possible to come up with a coherent distinction between reverse engineering (“good”) and circumvention (“bad”). And I’m not convinced that 1201 serves any useful purpose in the first place, so I’m not especially motivated to salvage it.

  • http://www.techliberation.com Tim Lee

    Noel, I wrote a whole paper on this subject, it’s not something I can easily summarize in a blog comment. In a nutshell, I don’t think it’s possible to come up with a coherent distinction between reverse engineering (“good”) and circumvention (“bad”). And I’m not convinced that 1201 serves any useful purpose in the first place, so I’m not especially motivated to salvage it.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    I still think your policy recommendation over-reaches your goal. I’m as big of a supporter as reverse engineering as you are (and apparently so is Congress because they included 1201f), but somewhere our analysis diverges.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    I still think your policy recommendation over-reaches your goal. I’m as big of a supporter as reverse engineering as you are (and apparently so is Congress because they included 1201f), but somewhere our analysis diverges.

  • Doug Lay

    It’s not just about reverse engineering. It’s about consumers’ ability to time-shift, space-shift, format-shift, slice, dice, remix, to generally engage in “read-write” culture.

  • Doug Lay

    It’s not just about reverse engineering. It’s about consumers’ ability to time-shift, space-shift, format-shift, slice, dice, remix, to generally engage in “read-write” culture.

  • eric

    Look up the Pioneer DV-F727 301-Disc DVD Changer on amazon.com. $476. It holds 301 CDs or DVDs. I think Sony also makes one that is discontinued but is still available. The video jukebox already exists.

    OK, I’m not arguing that a hard disc-based unit wouldn’t be more flexible. It would. Although at 8GB per DVD, to store 300 DVDs would take up to 2400 GB of hard disc space. Such a jukebox would probably cost more than the mechanical solution of making a big DVD changer.

    Mind you, I am on your side in the revolution. But if you want a video jukebox, one is available now.

  • eric

    Look up the Pioneer DV-F727 301-Disc DVD Changer on amazon.com. $476. It holds 301 CDs or DVDs. I think Sony also makes one that is discontinued but is still available. The video jukebox already exists.

    OK, I’m not arguing that a hard disc-based unit wouldn’t be more flexible. It would. Although at 8GB per DVD, to store 300 DVDs would take up to 2400 GB of hard disc space. Such a jukebox would probably cost more than the mechanical solution of making a big DVD changer.

    Mind you, I am on your side in the revolution. But if you want a video jukebox, one is available now.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Noel:

    I am sorry, but it so clear how the DMCA works against the freedom of speech, that I am surprised that you are not familar with either the Skylarov or the Felten case.

    DMitry Skylarov discovered how to circumvent the copy protection on Adobe e-books, and was arrested when he gave a talk about how to do this at a conference. His speech should have been protected, but it wasn’t.

    Ed Felten wanted to present a paper at a Scientific Conference and was threatened with prosecution if he did.

    The Diebold company also used the DMCA to try to stop the publication of nternal leaked memos.

    All examples of Corporations using a law that had been designed to give them excessive poor to oppress natural persons.

    The letter sent to Ed Felten can be found here:

    http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA/Felten_v_RIAA/20010409_riaa_sdmi_letter.html

    “A THREAT TO FREEDOM ANYWHERE IS A THREAT TO JUSTICE EVERYWHERE” –MLK

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Noel:

    I am sorry, but it so clear how the DMCA works against the freedom of speech, that I am surprised that you are not familar with either the Skylarov or the Felten case.

    DMitry Skylarov discovered how to circumvent the copy protection on Adobe e-books, and was arrested when he gave a talk about how to do this at a conference. His speech should have been protected, but it wasn’t.

    Ed Felten wanted to present a paper at a Scientific Conference and was threatened with prosecution if he did.

    The Diebold company also used the DMCA to try to stop the publication of nternal leaked memos.

    All examples of Corporations using a law that had been designed to give them excessive poor to oppress natural persons.

    The letter sent to Ed Felten can be found here:

    http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA/Felten_v_RIAA/200104

    “A THREAT TO FREEDOM ANYWHERE IS A THREAT TO JUSTICE EVERYWHERE” –MLK

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Eric, that’s a great point. I didn’t know that DVD-changers like that were so cheap.

    However, I didn’t mean “DVD jukebox” quite so literally. What I had in mind was an application that could do for DVDs what WinAmp and iTunes did for CDs–allow me to rip, catalog, space-shift, and stream my movies the same ways I can now do with my music.

    Also, it seems likely that if digital movie jukeboxes were legal, the first ones would probably use highly efficient, lossy compression to allow you to squeeze a movie into a lot less than 8 GB, just as low-bit-rate MP3s allowed people to trade music over dial-up connections. For some consumers, obviously, only the full DVD quality would do, and those people wouldn’t buy such devices. But for a lot of others, the flexibility of having all your movies on a hard drive would outweigh the quality loss.

    And it’s also quite possible that once people started building these devices, they would discover new and creative uses for them. I don’t think anyone in 1997 could have predicted how radically the MP3 format would change our music listening habits. I can’t point out exactly what digital video jukeboxes could do that mechanical jukeboxes can, but I bet people would think of something.

  • http://www.techliberation.com/ Tim Lee

    Eric, that’s a great point. I didn’t know that DVD-changers like that were so cheap.

    However, I didn’t mean “DVD jukebox” quite so literally. What I had in mind was an application that could do for DVDs what WinAmp and iTunes did for CDs–allow me to rip, catalog, space-shift, and stream my movies the same ways I can now do with my music.

    Also, it seems likely that if digital movie jukeboxes were legal, the first ones would probably use highly efficient, lossy compression to allow you to squeeze a movie into a lot less than 8 GB, just as low-bit-rate MP3s allowed people to trade music over dial-up connections. For some consumers, obviously, only the full DVD quality would do, and those people wouldn’t buy such devices. But for a lot of others, the flexibility of having all your movies on a hard drive would outweigh the quality loss.

    And it’s also quite possible that once people started building these devices, they would discover new and creative uses for them. I don’t think anyone in 1997 could have predicted how radically the MP3 format would change our music listening habits. I can’t point out exactly what digital video jukeboxes could do that mechanical jukeboxes can, but I bet people would think of something.

  • matt

    a simple example of a feature that a non-mechanical video jukebox would feature is the concept of playlists. this is a standard feature of any decent mp3 player and would certainly be a baseline feature of any good video jukebox. this is not a feature that can be replicated easily or readily with a mechanical system.

    another “harm”, in terms of market innovation, would be cheaper, larger capacity hard drives. if we had all been happily ripping our dvd’s to a media player for the past few years, as we have done with music, don’t you think the market for large capacity hard drives would increase?

    right now, the only thing stopping a “media center” box from becoming the next must-have home electronics item is the inability to copy your dvd content onto the device. that is abusing a law to stifle innovation, just like those damnd piano rolls.

  • matt

    a simple example of a feature that a non-mechanical video jukebox would feature is the concept of playlists. this is a standard feature of any decent mp3 player and would certainly be a baseline feature of any good video jukebox. this is not a feature that can be replicated easily or readily with a mechanical system.

    another “harm”, in terms of market innovation, would be cheaper, larger capacity hard drives. if we had all been happily ripping our dvd’s to a media player for the past few years, as we have done with music, don’t you think the market for large capacity hard drives would increase?

    right now, the only thing stopping a “media center” box from becoming the next must-have home electronics item is the inability to copy your dvd content onto the device. that is abusing a law to stifle innovation, just like those damnd piano rolls.

  • http://www.primearray.com Mark

    We sell CD/DVD Servers for sharing CD and DVD resources over a network (usually software, manuals or data). We get hundreds of requests for a system to hold huge DVD collections. Our systems do not handle DVD movies but we would immediately jump into this if the laws changed.

  • http://www.primearray.com Mark

    We sell CD/DVD Servers for sharing CD and DVD resources over a network (usually software, manuals or data). We get hundreds of requests for a system to hold huge DVD collections. Our systems do not handle DVD movies but we would immediately jump into this if the laws changed.

  • http://www.primearray.com Mark Allen

    We sell CD/DVD Servers for sharing CD and DVD resources over a network (usually software, manuals or data). We get hundreds of requests for a system to hold huge DVD collections. Our systems do not handle DVD movies but we would immediately jump into this if the laws changed. Visit us at http://www.primearray.com

  • http://www.primearray.com Mark Allen

    We sell CD/DVD Servers for sharing CD and DVD resources over a network (usually software, manuals or data). We get hundreds of requests for a system to hold huge DVD collections. Our systems do not handle DVD movies but we would immediately jump into this if the laws changed. Visit us at http://www.primearray.com

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