19 July 2005

Sorry, Dave, But I Can't Let You See That Content

I hear the voice of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, refusing to obey the astronaut's command. Science fiction, right? Well, think about 2007 (or so): An Operating System Odyssey, brought to you by Microsoft, and duplicitous hardware manufacturers. According to this article at Engadget, the next version of Windows, codenamed "Longhorn," will contain a feature that checks the digital rights compatibility of the screen to decide whether or not it will permit content to be displayed. So, for example, if the content provider of a video that you have purchased wants to limit you to 3 viewings before you have to re-license the content, that can be arranged. On attempt 4 you get a blank screen, or a purchase message. Want to secure that "smoking gun" memo? Microsoft Office 200x will do the trick. Say the content vendor needs a quick hit of cash. One online connection to download the "new" licensing arrangement turns your purchased DVD with the licensed content into a coaster. Control over what can be displayed on your computer goes to the content provider.

This capability "fixes" the so-called analogue loophole of digital technology: All output eventually has to be converted to analogue form for us to see or hear it. With this innovation, the output itself can be controlled by third parties, or as a "compromise," become so degraded that it is effectively useless. The implications of this can be best understood by reading Richard Stallman's classic parable, The Right to Read.

And, if you believe that this "no you didn't purchase it, you licensed it" mentality exists only in the digital world, just have a look at this nonsense.

No comments: