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Copyright & Digital Rights

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US Copyright Czar Says She's an Unwired Luddite

Copyright protection and fair use of intellectual property isn't one of the things that immediately springs to mind when you think about HDTV, DVD or home theater. But that issue holds the long-term potential to be central to our home viewing experience, because Hollywood and the recording industry are on a myopic mission to limit how consumers use the content coming into our homes, whether its over the airwaves, in disc format or via online downloads.

Digital Fingerprinting: Hollywood's New, Better Mousetrap?

The film industry lost the plot on piracy a few reels back. Despite more than a decade of foiled anti-piracy solutions based on ever-more-complex systems, the industry trundles on in search of that no-copy Holy Grail. It seems like a classic illustration of that old nugget about "the triumph of hope over experience."

The newest Great Anti-Piracy Hope is digital fingerprinting, and today the New York Times web site files a progress report on current Hollywood efforts to deploy that type of system against Internet file-sharing sites:

RIAA Wins First File-Sharing Jury Verdict in Federal Court

The recording industry strategy up to now has been to sue file sharers and then settle out of court at lower cost than the penalties available under copyright law. But one defendant decided to opt for a jury trial and that looks like maybe not such a wise decision.

Golden Goose Genocide: Hollywood Guns for DVRed PPV

Broadband Reports is carrying a story this morning detailing a new policy that DirecTV will be imposing on customers who record pay-per-view programming via the company's DVRs:

DirecTV users tell us that the satellite provider has sent them an e-mail saying that effective April 15, DVR recordings of pay-per-view films will only be available for 24 hours after purchase. Apparently users who like to watch films over a few day span will be out of luck. Not exactly the smartest move from an industry that's keen to put a dent in piracy by offering a robust, consumer-friendly product. From DirecTV's website:

Effective April 15, 2008, DVR recordings of PPV movies will be available for 24 hours of unlimited viewing after purchase. Major movie studios have required that satellite and cable providers alike may no longer allow their customers to view these recordings for longer than 24 hours. During the 24 hour viewing period, you will continue to enjoy all of your DVR features such as pause and rewind.

It seems clear that Hollywood has completely lost any sense of proportionality and is determined to alienate paying customers through any and all of the substantial means at its disposal. There can be no logical rationalization for this sort of draconian measure, particularly after a customer has paid for a program he plans to view later. Why should the owner of the content care how long the recording program sits there prior to viewing? Or even if it's viewed hundreds of times before being deleted?

Does anyone really believe this is going to enhance sales or revenues of "protected" content?

It's news like this that makes me want to stand up and applaud when a company defeats Blu-ray's BD+ DRM less than 6 months after its rollout, particularly after some leading security experts estimated that it would take at least 10 years to crack BD+.

The bigger the target, the bigger the effort that will be undertaken to obliterate it.

Movie Studios Ask FCC for Help in Making Riskless Profits

First the DVR-bashing MPAA came for our pay-per-view (Golden Goose Genocide: Hollywood Guns for DVRed PPV), and not too many people noticed. Now those troglodytes at the MPAA are looking to block the DVRing of recently released movies appearing on subscription HDTV services.

Are we paying attention now?

ars technica reports:

At the request of theatrical film makers, the Federal Communications Commission on Friday quietly launched a proceeding on whether to let video program distributors remotely block consumers from recording recently released movies on their DVRs. The technology that does this is called Selectable Output Control (SOC), but the FCC restricts its use. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) wants a waiver on that restriction in the case of high-definition movies broadcast prior to their release as DVDs.

This is all about the various "release windows," where Hollywood films start their commercial sojourn in the local cineplex, and eventually work their way to DVD, cable/satellite and network TV. The MPAA says its request for the do-not-record exemption is being made in order that it can provide these movies to satellite and cable sooner, without the risk that DVR usage will eat away at subsequent DVD, Blu-ray or download sales. Once those other releases take place, the MPAA says the do-not-record blocks would be lifted.

Uh huh.

Does anyone really believe this nonsense? If the movie studios are interested in releasing their products to the cable and satellite distribution chain earlier, it's not about altruism -- it's because they believe that doing so means there could be some extra money to be made. But clearly, the Hollywood bean-counters have done their risk analysis and they've determined that while there's definitely money laying unclaimed on the cable/satellite table, there's a possibility that taking this cash could mean less money from DVD/Blu-ray/download sales. So, blocking the use of DVRs with these early releases provides some protection.

A decade or two ago, Hollywood running to Congress asking for protection from itself would have been laughable. Today, it's business as usual -- and it's pathetic.

Michael Masnick has more on this story over at Techdirt. Check it out.