Mac OS X Digital Rights Panel

The Mac OS X Conference thrown by O'Reilly and Associates is where I'm at, currently attending the panel on "Mac OS X: A Digital Rights Management Operating System."

Dan Gillmor, technology columnist at The San Jose Mercury News, is moderating. Hollywood sees Internet as a TV set, he says, with one button. (Tim O�Reilly interjects: not one button - lots of rollovers for products) Audience member shouts out: "Buy All!"

Dan goes on, one company said, "Rip mix burn" but staying out of the conversation is Apple. Apple, industry, Microsoft wouldn�t participate in today's panel. "Can it last? Can Apple hold out as a company that more than not is thinking about or acting in the interest of the customer in this issues."

"Reasonable paranoia": "it is not an unreasonable thing for [current major media companies] to be paranoid. They are potentially seeing the end of a business model that has been very good to them....If no one has to pay for anything that's digital, why would anyone pay for anything that's digital�

J.D. Lasica, an online journalist, says we're not all just passive consumers. He's working on a book about the issues of digital rights.

Apple gets a good score on the digital rights. He asked for an interview with Apple about digital hub rights management issues, and after several phone calls, they said they wouldn't talk to him (or anybody) about this.

"From what I've read in the press, Uncle Steve is on the side of the users." Burned by Washington developments. "To a clueless congressperson, rip, mix, burn, probably sounds controversial."

Attended Digital Hollywood a few days ago: big issues this year, how to fight piracy. VP of MPAA said, basic challenge is how to we turn "a personal computer into a trusted entertainment appliance."

Tim: They're looking for the users to trust it or the studios to trust it? (Laughter.)

JD: Not worried about movie file trading, eight hours to download a single film. But just over the horizon, terabyte hard drives, home entertainment hub/center gets turned into this machine that can make "perfect copies of digital TV, movies, and retransmitted into anyone on the Internet."

"Piracy is wrong�but there are different ideas about what constitutes piracy."

Apple made iPod so you can't copy music back and forth, but let me know if you figure it out as it would be really cool. (Laughter.)

Couldn't make a screen capture from the DVD player. Cory Doctorow: Built in feature (screen capture) that they disabled. JD: When the lawyers get involved, we know we're in trouble.

DRM = digital rights management. Notes that David Pogue didn't know the acronym this morning, which indicates we're still in an age of innocence, but all consumers will know the acronym in a few years.

Systems will prevent copying of content that's copyrighted, like digital flag. Congress is looking at a bill that would enable this to prevent any unauthorized transmission.

Suggestions: First, visit digitalconsumer.org, Google and type "copy fight" (first result), and the third is eff.org. Second, get active: write or email or fax Congress. Email Uncle Steve and tell him not to knuckle under. Third, become power users of convergence appliances or digital convergence. If we buy iTV, Philips DVD recorder, these are empowering devices for the user. The faster the public embraces these technologies harder to take away these rights.

Dan: Tim, you're a "content or copyright holder�talk about these issues."

Obscurity can be a tool. Something like 100K books published in the US. Most books are forgotten after publication. Ravening copying theft is wrong: most aren't pirated. Publishers puts book that someone sweated over for years on shelves for three months, doesn't sell, that's it, and the author has no rights. Publishers keeps rights til out of print, etc.

Oblivion is fate of most books: "Piracy would be the best thing for those books." People wouldn't pirate them in general, because people generally like to respect the rights of creators. "Piracy is a marginal act; it takes away some of the cream."

Publishing won't go away, but it will change the idea of who is a publisher. Early on in the Web, the idea was that everyone could be a publisher. The way in which Web sites interact with publishers is often very much like the way that book publishers try to get placement and position in bookstores.

Publishing is aggregation. People will re-emerge as publishers. Will Hollywood be the publishers of the future or will someone else?

Users are voting by their use of programs like Kazaa. Eventually, media companies will adopt. But if the changes are hardcoded into law, then we're stuck for a long time with "some mistakes."

Victor from El Gato: we spent time figuring out whether we could release this product and not be shut down with lawsuits. "We believe that most people who bought iTV are using it for legitimate purposes." Record TV show and watch it when it's convenient to them.

Some gamers use it to record their games while playing so they can review them later or show off their great moments.

Dan: Have you heard from lawyers? Victor: No. Dan: Does that surprise you? Victor: In a way. Dan: How about after this panel?

Cory Doctorow: EFF defends rights and actually sues people. Such as ReplayTV suit (which your transcriber here, Glenn is a plaintiff in).

By 2006, US wants digital TV (DTV). Lots of reasons, including expensive auctions of old TV spectrum. So any way to speed up adoption of DTV is good. Hollywood says no one will buy DTV sets without high-quality content.

Gibson says in Idoru: two studio executives sitting around. "Imaging something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a boiled potato�" covered with eyes, sweats constantly. Can only express mute extremes of anger and desire by muting, changing channels, and voting in presidential elections.

Interested in using TV to do all kinds of interesting things. Hollywood has convinced people that Hollywood movies will only be available to make sure that only tech that they touch can pass digital content.

Convened a broadcast discussion group, Apple was member and didn't raise objections. Microsoft did.

The broadcast flag would prevent you from having technology in a Mac, VCR, etc., without their approval, more or less. If you make tech that is on the banned list or not on their approve list, you'll violate the law.

Device must be able to call home and confirm they can still operate as designed. If not, features can be remotely turned off.

Also, bans open source because you can't write code that can be shared that meets the spec.

Computer industry hasn't been good about disputing, but computer industry much bigger than Hollywood, and tends to get its way when it raises issues.

Dan: I'd say Cory for congress except he's Canadian.

Question (by Adam Engst): Is copying a program and giving it to someone else illegal? Dan: If it is, I'm in trouble, because I'll be Hong Kong this fall and my brother is taping West Wing for me.

Tim: Advertising doesn't support programming to the extent believed. DVD sales, etc., drive the market today. Upselling from bad copies to high-quality copies.

Question: "It seems to me that you're already completely covered by the betamax case" to Cory? Cory: Lots of challenges, so would like to think so. Tim: We used to think we elected our president, too.

Continued question: "We have a previous model" which was software. Response: issues of control.

Question: Solution lies in distributed reputation. Cory is great because he blogs and is known. Buys something from Cory who signs receipt, and that pass on winds up increasing his reputation. Tim: Great sci-fi book with reputation management as part of story.

Missed a few q with network problems.

Question: Cory, what else should we do? Cory: Give us $10 or more than $10 (EFF.org that is). Visit action.eff.org, and you can find the information about your congresspeople so you can create letters to send. You can tell five friends.

There are three separate onslaughts: internationally, in Congress, and in the FCC. Technology will be destroyed by these efforts. A million Slashdot readers who actually care about is what's needed (not care about Nathalie Portman or hot grits).

Fair use has a posse.