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.

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