Quite a bit has happened in the digital world in the past couple of weeks. Although you're probably familiar with several of these stories, we want to be sure you haven't missed anything, so you can remain Smartenized®.
The RIAA is preparing to sue individual file swappers after several successful trial runs against college students. They claim each song someone offers for download is worth somewhere between $150 and $750,000, depending on how much they would have been able to screw the artist out of. (They've generally settled for cleaning out the kids bank accounts.) According to numbers that are only available from them, album sales are down 14%. These weasels insist it's not because of their uninspired offerings, outdated business models, or an economy that sucks more than a Brian DePalma movie, but because those nasty file swappers are ruining things for everyone.
They never learn. This is the same industry that fought radio, VCRs, digital tape (their one success), and then watched every technology they opposed become a huge profit center. If the recording industry embraced the idea of downloading music, and put as much effort into it as they put into screwing their artists, it would have generated a billion or two by now. (Apple's Itunes has proved that people will pay a reasonable price to download quality recordings.) Instead, the technology just went deeper underground. Napster was vulnerable because it worked through central servers, and because it only dealt with music files. When the RIAA slaughtered it, downloaders simply switched to decentralized systems like Kazaa, Gnutella, and Freenet, where the participants (estimated at well over 100 million) are much harder to track down, and the offerings are far more varied. Expect the next round of swapping software to use encryption and IP spoofing to make it even more difficult to locate the swappers. Also expect to see a very few people get hit hard in the courts, before the new, more difficult to track protocols and networks are in place.
Orrin Hatch, attempting to remove any confusion over who congress works for, announced that he wants to destroy any computer used for illegal downloading. Not cripple them, destroy them. Just in case there was any doubt as to his intention, he repeated himself. (His spin doctors convinced him to tone it down a few days later.) This, my friends, is your tax dollars at work.
Here's one thing that's not foolish: Clear Channel Communications, who controls most of the radio and concert venues in this country, has introduced new technology called Instant Live which will make CDs of a concert available five minutes after the last encore. You'll be able to buy a CD of the concert on your way out of the stadium. Just don't put it on Kazaa when you get home, or Orrin will be at your door with his hatchet.
This August, Disney's Dumb Digital Department will introduce a disposable DVD. It will come in an air tight package, and start deteriorating as soon as you break the seal. It will work for 48 hours before the backing turns black and it becomes unusable. Hackers are already wondering if they can get around the limitation by storing them in a jar of water or applying lacquer to the disk immediately after it's opened.
The disposable DVDs will sell for six or seven dollars, and will contain just the movie, none of the extras that DVD collectors like. In a trade publication Disney's president Michael Eisner admitted he thought it was a dumb idea, but they were going to try it anyway, just to be sure. When you've got billions to spare, you can afford to throw any idea against the wall to see if it sticks. (Which, coincidentally, is how I check to see if it's time to wash my socks.)
This is even dumber than Divx, another attempt at disposable DVDs that is too clumsy, complicated and dead to bother explaining. (Besides, all you Smartenized® readers already know all about it.)
Just the other day I was saying, "With the DVD, VCR, Tivo and Cable, what I really need is another thing to hook up to my TV." Disney's DDD is working on that problem too. They're building a proprietary set-top box called Movie Beam. It that will come loaded with a hundred movies, and additional movies will be beamed to it through the airwaves for a monthly fee. Sign me up!
Have you noticed how many old movie titles are suddenly available on DVD? Studios are in a race to dump their entire library on the market, so us suckers will buy it up before most of us are aware of yet another new format in the works: HD-DVD. The manufactures are still fighting over the specs, some arguing for red lasers, others for blue, but they agree on two things: it won't be compatible with existing DVD players, and will be designed to prevent the cheap clone makers from getting inexpensive players on the market too quickly.
The entertainment industry thinks the general public is really, really, stupid.
Oh, wait. They're right. Good thing for them everyone isn't Smartenized®.
Musicians aren't too keen on the RIAA prosecuting their fans.
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© 2003 Dave Hitt