The DMCA versus Computer Hobbyists

by on January 31, 2006

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.

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