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Remember the "Hollings bill" back from 2002? It was a bill that would essentially put a copyright cop in your consumer electronics and PCs--to ensure you didn't do anything with content that wasn't authorized by the content industry. The bill put copyright owners in control of innovation.

Here's the US Senate Draft of the "Digital Content Protection Act of 2006." Look familiar? It may go about it differently--but the DCPA is essentially the Hollings bill, only in pieces-parts. Instead of saying "one mandate to rule them all," the controls split into different proceedings at the FCC:

  • One that requires the FCC to adopt the broadcast flag, and amend it in anyway it sees fit (including total reconsideration and rewrite of the rules!!!)

  • Another that requires the FCC to adopt a radio flag for both over the air and satellite digital radio transmissions..."to prevent the indiscriminate unauthorized copying of copyrighted digital audio content transmitted by its licensees and the redistribution of such copyrighted content over digital networks."

We all understand the implications of the regular digital TV broadcast flag, but what about this version of a radio flag? At first glimpse, it may seem like there are aspects to like about it:

(d) to the extent that such regulations cover devices, cover only devices that are capable, without any hardware alterations or additions, of receiving digital audio signals when such devices are sold by a manufacturer.

and

(b) [Regulations shall] permit customary historic use of broadcast content by consumers to the extent such use is consistent with applicable law;

And, thankfully, "public interest organizations" are permitted to submit proposals.

But, reading those parts alone does not give you the full picture. There's a little slight-of-hand going on here.

First, the bill says that the FCC regulations are only to cover devices that are capable of receiving digital audio signals. But if that's the case, why does the FCC need to develop "Secure Moving Technology"? Read here:

(B) objective criteria for approval by the Commission of methods of recording and Secure Moving Technology for material covered by the Broadcast Flag;

and here in the definitions section:

b) "Secure Moving Technology" is a technology that permits content covered by the Broadcast Flag to be transferred from a broadcast receiver to another device for rendering in accordance with customary historic use of broadcast content by consumers to the extent such use is consistent with applicable law and that prevents redistribution of copyrighted content over digital networks.

So which is it? Is the FCC only permitted to regulate digital radio receiving devices, or do they get to regulate every device that touches a digital radio receiving device? Why does it matter? Well, it's the difference between the regulations only changing the design over digital radios, versus regulating iPods, PSPs, computers, cell phones. Am I missing something, or does this regulation gives FCC control over anything "that permits content...to be transferred...to another device"? My reading of that might even include the crude recording method of putting a microphone up to speakers (note the "Secure Moving Technology" doesn't include the word "digital").

Second, the bill says that the FCC's regulation had to "permit customary historic use of broadcast content by consumers to the extent such use is consistent with applicable law;". But isn't that given--it's that pretty much one of the FCC's roles in protecting the public airwaves? When PK's and numerous public comments asked the FCC to protect our fair use rights, the FCC declined to design the broadcast flag to respect copyright law. Unfortunately, there's little in this bill to ensure that our fair use rights aren't cast aside.

What's not in this bill compared to Hollings '02? Closing the analog hole. Well, don't worry, that's already been introduced over in the House.

The fact remains that the main issue here is not about piracy, it's about control. The content industry needs a congressional mandate to control the functionality of consumer electronics and PCs, and in turn, what consumers can do with the devices and content they legally obtain.

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Google’s comments on “Broadband Extortion”

January 19, 2006

In case you haven't been reading the Breaking News clips, let alone this blog, you may have missed stories about broadband providers wanting to charge companies like Yahoo and Google for using the broadband bits.

Essentially, folks like SBC, Bell South, and Verizon have said that they want to put a toll on those who transmit data over their pipes.

If comments like that don't tell you why principles of net neutrality must be codified, then I don't know what will. Thankfully, the other side of the argument is starting to speak up.

Google finally spoke up against what some are callling "Cyberextortion." You can read more about what Google had to say here. The essential quote, which was specifically in response to Verizon's comments made at CES 2006 (thanks to Om Malik for getting that straight), is this:

We believe consumers are already paying to support broadband access to the Internet through subscription fees and, as a result, consumers should have the freedom to use this connection without limitations.

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The DL on DTV

January 17, 2006

Engadget has a great rundown of all the DTV technical jargon. It's a good read and really helps you understand all the technical lingo. It's just "Part 1," so make sure to check back soon.

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DRM != Security

January 13, 2006

I just found (thanks Slashdot) an article on Groklaw titled "Some Safety and Reliability Questions About DRM" by Victor Yodaiken. Mr Yodaiken opens his article with:

Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies are supposed to protect digitized "content", like movies and musical performances from being illicitly copied or used. DRM technology is sometimes described as security technology when it is really licensing technology -- something very different. In fact, DRM may decrease security and reliability.

and then presents several scenarios of how the insidious nature of rights-management systems can affect the systems we rely on to keep us safe. Give it a read. If it makes you queasy like it made me, give your representatives a call and let them know!

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CES 2006: The Year Content Showed Up

January 12, 2006

When asked what was big this year at CES, if you saw any of the keynote addresses, I think your answer would have to be Content: both with deals uniting tech and content companies, but also tech that used an intranet or the Internet to deliver content to consumers wherever they were and whenever they want.

Bill Gates from CES’ webpage At Bill Gates’s Keynote, he talked about how Microsoft software seamlessly transfers content to wherever the consumer wants to view it: whether two feet away on a computer display, ten feet away on a television display, or six inches away on a mobile display. He also introduced a new partnership for music (and assumably video) distribution called URGE with MTV, VH1, and CMT.

Sir Howard Stringer from CES’ webpage Sir Howard Stringer’s Keynote stressed how Sony was in a unique position being both a technology and content company. He discussed a handful of different segments of Sony’s business that united the two parts of the company—introducing a number of famous artists (Dan Brown, Ron Howard, Tom Hanks) to explain how technology empowers them. He ended his keynote with the following quote:

“Content and technology are strange bedfellows. We are joined together. Sometimes we misunderstand each other. But isn’t that after all the definition of marriage?”

Terry Semel from CES’ webpage Terry Semel’s Keynote promoted ideas of mobility, but more so from the vantage point of the consumer / creator, and how the Yahoo! Go technology would aid in that. With a Yahoo! account, photos taken on a camera phone would instantly show up on a computer or television display. A TiVo user who didn’t want to miss a show but had already left the house only needed to select the show from her mobile phone, and the Yahoo! Go system would ensure it was recorded. He also stressed that for all these technologies to work together, standards must be open, just like the Internet. He closed by saying that the walled garden approach won’t work anymore.

Larry Page from CES’ website The last of the keynotes was delivered by Larry Page in a way that only Google’s Co-founder could present it. He addressed the first half of his keynote to innovators, asking them to examine everyday problems that had little to no relation his company, but would benefit the industry and the public at large. Later, of course, he discussed Google Video, which had up ‘til then provided anyone with a free online content distribution. At the keynote, he talked about how it could now be used by anyone to earn revenue, including big name partners like CBS and the NBA. Additionally, Google’s system can be formatted for download to popular consumer devices like the Apple iPod and Sony Playstation Portable (PSP). At the end, he stressed that the Internet was built and has grown to be a place of amazing innovation because of its openness.

Of course, this theme did not end at the keynotes, it was carried out in devices and technology on the floor of the show.

Slingbox Sony Location Free TV SlingMedia and Sony showed similar technologies that enable consumers to send television from their home to a remote laptop, cellphone, or PSP over the Internet.

Tivo-to-go TiVo previewed a TiVo-to-go update that recorded analog television and provided playback on the ever-popular Apple iPod and PSP.

Digital Deck device ports on Digital Deck device

Independent developers like DigitalDeck and NewSoft showed devices that enable consumers to view content from their analog consumer electronics (DVD, VHS, cable boxes, etc) sent over the home network to other rooms of the house. They did this at a fairly low price because they built to industry standards and used off-the-shelf software and hardware.

Inno XM2go

XM introduced the Inno XM2go, a portable satellite radio with Pioneer at the show that allowed paying subscribers tag favorite songs and shows to “TiVo” at later times. The recorded music can only be listened to on the radio itself, but when connected to a computer, XM teamed up with Napster to provide music downloads based on the tagged content on the radio.

All of this new innovation and tech/media convergence rely on two things: marketplace (not government mandated) rights management and net neutrality.

What would happen to any of the great new technologies with an imposed broadcast flag? HD Radio protection? Or Analog Hole corking? None of them currently comply, and to reengineer them and submit them for government approval would be extremely costly. The smaller independent developers would likely close up shop. Consumers would have to pay an arm and a leg to upgrade and get the new devices to work with their current technologies. In the process, most aspects of these new innovations would be lost.

For the devices that connect to and send information over the Internet, their function relies on the ability to connect any device to the network. Their success depends on an unencumbered Internet that permits applications to work or content to flow freely over a consumer’s Internet connection. As Larry Page said, that’s the way the Internet has always worked. Despite comments made by broadband providers, hopefully the telecom policy will maintain this innovation-enabling net neutrality.

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More Silo Talk

January 12, 2006

Erik Lagerway, by way of Om Malik has a great post on the trouble with regulating application by application instead of maintaining a neutral pipe. Check it out here.

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CES Report 5 — over and out

January 7, 2006

Ed Whitacre finally got his answer from someone of equal stature. You may recall, and you should as we endlessly beat on this, the AT&T Chairman saying that companies like Google should have to pay something to companies like AT&T (formerly SBC, formerly formerly Southwestern Bell) to access their network.

This evening, Google founder Larry Page replied. In Q&A following his product presentations, Page was asked to respond to Whitacre. Page said that the Internet has always been about open-ness. He recalled that Google started out as a Stanford research project, which began eating up more and more bandwidth and partner Sergei Brin began developing Google. If they had to pay for all of that access, Page said, Google probably wouldn't have existed. Putting restrictions on the Internet would be "a horrible thing," Page said.

On the product side, the long-rumored didn't occur. Neither the Google PC nor the Google DRM was introduced. Instead, they produced some nifty new applications, like a Google map version for your car that can either help you get where you're going or get you killed if you watch it instead of the road.

He also announced an enhanced Google video, with real commercial content from partners like the NBA and CBS. CBS Chmn. Les Moonves was on hand for the announcement. Old Paramount shows, like Star Trek, also will be available for purchase.

The evening's entertainment came from Robin Williams, who told more jokes I couldn't remember, and even if I could, wouldn't repeat them here.

However, it was sort of mystifying that given its status as the NUMBER ONE show in America, that no one from CSI: LAS VEGAS was on hand. Maybe next year.

That's all. Goodnight and have a pleasant tomorrow.

rgds,

Art

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CES Update 4

January 6, 2006 Blog Posts, Broadcast Flag, Network Neutrality, Policy Blog

Well, here's the hot story -- Tom Cruise was hanging around in Entourage star Jeremy Piven's bathroom. But more on that in a moment.

In other news, and there wasn't that much, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said he drew a distinction between content shifted around a home network, and content shift outside, also known as piracy. In his Q&A with CEA Pres. Gary Shapiro, Martin endorsed allowing consumers to have some control over the music and other material they purchase.

Martin didn't elaborate on the crucial question of how that distinction should be made, such as does the "home" also extend to your PSP in your car, or how content should be treated differently to make sure it stays in the approved environment, but not into the non-approved sectors. In the unofficial gaggle Q&A with reporters (and other interested observers) following the event, Martin elaborated only to say that the content protection issue should be viewed in the context as a balance between the needs of consumers and the needs of content providers.

In asking Congress to give the Commission authority to reimpose the overturned broadcast flag (and we all know who brought the case that led to said overturning), Martin said he asked for authority over digital TV and digital radio because they are versions of Internet Protocol-based services and as such are sufficiently alike.

He declined to say exactly what the FCC would do with any new authority, saying the decision over jurisdiction was now in other hands, that is, with Congress.

Martin also spoke at length on net neutrality and defended the FCC's decision to have only principles enforcing the concept, not actual rules. Martin said consumers should have the ability to access any content, and service providers have the right to sell differentiated services. He said he didn't want to do a formal rulemaking in the absence of any evidence of blockage.

However, Martin didn't directly answer the question about the network side of net neutrality -- whether service providers can cut deals with network operators to have higher speeds than other similar providers. The WSJ had a good lead story on that today. He said one factor to be considered in the issue included consumer experience and expectations for the "baseline of access" that consumers now experience and went back to his baseline argument in favor of product differentiation on the consumer side.

And now to our top story. In the battle of the stars going on here, it was Yahoo! which brought out Cruise as Chairman Terry Semel exploited his Hollywood connections and they schmoozed about the glories of Yahoo! and, not coincidentally, showed a trailer for Cruise's new Mission: Impossible 3 flick coming out in May. Showed it twice in fact, responding to audience demand.

After the sessions, Cruise went out to the Yahoo! hut in the Convention Center parking lot. Among the little house on the asphalt's features is a bathroom equipped with video-display-enabled mirrors. The bathroom is a copy of one owned in real life by Jeremy Piven, one of the Entourage stars. We saw him the other night, looking quite scruffy but still recognizable. Yahoo! announced a bunch of new mobile apps in conjunction with Cingular-ATT allowing users who pay the additional cost of wireless broadband to check Yahoo! mail and other Yahoo! features.

Ellen DeGeneres did a few minutes of stand-up during the Yahoo! presentation. Noting the presence of the adult video convention at the Sands going on now, she said that the difference between that one and CES is that at CES, the emphasis is on making things smaller.

Larry Page from Google speaks later, and if says anything of interest or import, we'll let you know.

You've been a lovely audience.

rgds,

Art

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An all-Republican panel of legislators finally got to the heart of what's important here at CES. Of course, I mean fair use. What else is there, right? We couldn't find out where the Ds were.

Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Cal.), member of the House Judiciary Committee, called for Congress to enact legislation to specify what exactly fair use means. Issa said the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was flaws because it didn't make more clear the fair use concept, and created the misimpression that fair use had been taken away. The law, he said, created the odd situation in which he, personally, could use software to hack a program to make a legal copy of something, but that he couldn't use tools devised by others for the same purpose.

What's needed, Issa said, is an "acceptable, enforceable" level of fair use for today that is in line with the expectations of consumers. Congress should act on the issue "sooner rather than later" because of the speed with which consumer devices can interact and share material. "The genie is already out of the bottle with MP3s," he said. "We need to lock in something close to what the public will accept," Issa said, adding that both sides [tech and content] are losing every day as the public keeps advancing its idea of what constitutes fair use, which may not comport with what either industry had in mind.

Issa said that a fair use system could include allow "a little bit of copying" but not commercial transfers. He said levels would need to be set for fair use, but didn't offer a specific suggestion. Issa also said a software "flag" could be used to enforce the personal copying aspect of fair use.

House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), said that if the Judiciary panel got serious about a bill, his committee would take a look at it, but said also that it wasn't high on the food chain: "I don't know if the controversy can be resolved this legislative term." Among other items, the telecom rewrite will take precedence, that that will take place over the first half of the year.

The panel also tackled the issue of net neutrality, with Upton and others endorsing a market place solution. Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) in particular argued vigorously against new regulations for net neutrality or for other telecom issues, including subsidies for the DTV transition.

Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.), was more protective of rural areas, noting that in some towns consumers don't have a choice of broadband services.

Other notes: Gary Shapiro's speech hasn't been posted to the Web yet. When it is, it will be here: http://www.cesweb.org/attendees/conferences/keynotes.asp

The lights were out in the theatre during the speech, and it may be my note-taking skills are a little rusty, so check out the transcript when it gets posted.

We caught up with Verizon Chmn. Ivan Seidenberg for a couple of minutes to ask about the Ed Whitacre controversy. Seidenberg's view was that companies like Google and Yahoo "make markets for us" by increasing demand for high-speed services. However, he still expressed concern over the fact that Verizon works on a subscription basis, while Google and others have an advertising base. "That's something we need to work out," he said, ending a brief but cordial conversation. Another Seidenberg quote -- He started his presentation by noting that most people in the audience probably had at least one, and maybe more, cell phones or other devices with them, said: "Please turn them on." He likes to hear them working.

Having just recovered from seeing Tom Hanks, we were absolutely thrilled by the rumor that Tom Cruise will make an appearance on behalf of Google tomorrow. No word if true, or, if true, whether he will bring his own couch on which to jump.

rgds,

Art

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CES Update 1

January 5, 2006 Blog Posts, Network Neutrality, Policy Blog

For those of you who can't share the glory and the traffic of being in CES, here's the first of occasional updates.

CEA President Gary Shapiro opened the convention with a strong push for protection of fair use and innovation. While he said the consumer electronics industry wants to work with content providers, and doesn't favor piracy or illicit file-sharing, Shapiro said consumers must be able to retain the right to time-shift and place-shift.

He also made a strong pitch for the importance of network neutrality, saying consumers should have unfettered access to content and that proprietary systems shouldn't block access.

This is, of course, the first show in which the music industry is participating, showcasing legal download systems. And MPAA Pres. Dan Glickman and many of his senior staff are expected to come for a tour.

Meanwhile Verizon Chairman Ivan Seidenberg presented a company philosophy which generally showed a more conciliatory attitude to net neutrality than has AT&T Chairman Edward Whitacre. Whitacre famously said he was spending money to build broadband networks, and didn't see why Google, Yahoo and others should use it for free.

Seidenberg and his staff said they see their network as a platform for innovation. Adriana Rizzo, who made the presentation on Verizon's video networking and phone products, said after the presentation the Seidenberg generally takes a more conciliatory attitude toward the network. I wasn't able to catch up with Seidenberg after his presentation to ask for more details.

Sony Chairman Howard Stringer, Sir Howard Stringer to his peers, also made a strong pitch for the ability to shift music and video among devices, including the Playstation Portable. His staff shows a demonstration of devices that allow home TV to be viewed anywhere around the world.

Stringer also made a brief mention of the Sony-BMG copy protection fiasco, saying the content community and tech community misunderstand each other from time to time. But, he said, "that's the definition of marriage."

His star-studded presentation included DaVinci Code author Dan Brown endorsing the new Sony e-reader, and Tom Hanks, director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer talking about HD production of movies, including their latest project, the Da Vinci Code.

rgds,

Art

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