Tuesday, January 15, 2008

DRM stops innovation

This time the predictions have turned into reality. DRM (Digital Rights Management) is stopping innovation.

The RIAA and the big music industries have been fighting a big fight against consumers, and the music companies have been realizing that fighting the consumers is not a good idea. Aligning themselves with the consumers will make everyone happy. Capitalism rules apply: if nobody wants to buy it, then there will be no product to sell.

This fight will now move to the TV realm. In one year the entire broadcast will switch to HDTV. This is being forced on us, consumers, but, unfortunately, we're not going to benefit from it.

Dozens of appliances will cease to work, or will not work correctly, and we're forced to upgrade if we want to get "any" TV. The HDTV Converter costs more than the voucher we're getting, and it doesn't allow our older appliances to work. Cable TV companies will force you to upgrade to their digital services, which are more expensive than the regular services.

In essence, we're paying, and paying a lot, for what? Many say there's an advantage to HDTV, the picture is better, etc; but at what cost?

HDTV comes with heavy DRM. Current TVs and devices will not work without a conversion box, or they have to be fitted with the CableCard. CableCard will only be installed in "select" devices, and those devices have to be approved by both the CableCard consortium and by your Cable company.

That's where the DRM comes to light. Today, with regular TVs you have your VCR, you have DVRs, and lots of flexibility with those. Many DVRs allow for you to burn your programs to DVD or even to transfer it to your computer or iPod for portability.

None of this is possible with HDTV. Just look at the Tivo HD specs. It does not support a fraction of the features of the regular Tivo. Also, the broadcast companies can lock a program from being recorded, copied, etc, adding even more DRM to it.

In essence, HDTV brings loss to all our TV watching freedom. We cannot record our shows to watch later, unless we "pay the fee" of the certified device we can use; we lose the freedom to take the TV show to other devices for watching on the road. It took us so long to get to where we are, and now we lose it all again. Watching TV in 2009 will feel like 1980's again...

So, tell me, why should I switch? In the end, I would be paying more, to have less...