Monday, January 4, 2010

A False Choice

The New York Times reports: "Trying to Add Portability to Movie Files". Brad Stone writes in this article: "At the Consumer Electronics Show, a big high-tech gathering that will begin Wednesday in Las Vegas, Hollywood studios and consumer electronics makers plan to lay out some steps they are taking to simplify this digital future — and perhaps stem the worrying decline in home entertainment sales. ... The group is setting out to create a common digital standard that would let consumers buy or rent a digital video once and then play it on any device. It might sound technical, but it could be crucial to persuading consumers to buy all the splashy new Internet-connected gear that tech companies will demonstrate at C.E.S., like HDTVs and set-top boxes that can download TV shows and films." (Emphasis added.)

What is wrong with this? Common digital standards that simplify the digital future already exist. There is no need for a big high-tech gathering to create one.

The article is disingenuous since it implies to the consumer that a new digital standard is necessary when none is needed and fails to disclose the real reason why this new digital "standard" is being pursued. It is being pursued to develop yet another form of DRM that restricts the consumer freedom of choice.

Particularly distressing is Mr. Stones quote of Mr. Singers remark that: "“Consumers shouldn’t have to know what’s inside,” he said. “They should just know it will play.”" Translation, consumers are not entitled to know how their freedoms are being taken away by dubious business practices.

Implying, as Mr. Stone's article has, that a consumer is being provided with increased freedom of choice while actually depriving the consumer of choice, is a false choice based on the assumption that the consumer is too stupid to realize how their freedom of choice continues to be eroded.

(1/6/2010) Update: Since originally posting I had an additional thought and I ran across a couple other posts on this topic.

First, as a result of an email exchange, it occurred to me that I overlooked a deficiency in Mr. Stone's article. In his article he states how the content industry is trying to make the consumer happy by providing content that will be portable. What he fails to mention in his article is that these companies willfully designed propriety file formats to purposely prevent content portability! Now that the companies realize that that strategy was a mistake, they now purport to be consumer friendly by working on a new standard, which I have pointed out is totally unnecessary.

Fortunately this is a good lead-in for: "Will they ever learn? Hollywood still pursuing DRM". In that post, Dan Wallach writes: "In today's New York Times, we read that Hollywood is working on a grand unified video DRM scheme intended to allow for video portability, such as, for example, when you visit a hotel room, you'd like to have your videos with you. ... What's sad, of course, is that you can have all of this today with very little fuss."

TechDirt has the following article: Is Hiding A New DRM Standard Behind The Guise Of 'It Works On Any Device' Really That Compelling?

No comments: