"Don't Touch That Dial!" (under penalty of law):
ABC, Showtime, Paramount, UPN, and CBS have filed a joint lawsuit against Replay and SonicBlue,
hoping to block the sale of video recording devices like ReplayTV 4000
[ http://www.replay.com/partners_products/replaytv.htm ]
and Go-Video's DDV 2120 dual-deck VCR
[ http://www.govideo.com/bdyDDV2120.htm ],
claiming that these devices "enable, assist, and induce" users to make unauthorized
copies of copyrighted TV programs for the purpose of viewing shows without commercials."
(full text of article on FilmStew
[ http://www.filmstew.com/Content/DailyNews/Details.asp?ContentID=1936&Pg=1 ])
| ... their sense of total
personal fulfillment is being beamed directly into their grey cells by the High
Masters of the planet Remulak ...|
"Enable" and "assist" I can see, but "induce"? Home video equipment has certainly gotten
more advanced over the years, but I'm pretty sure that integrated electronic
mind-control capability is a feature that's not yet been incorporated into even
the most high-tech consumer electronics. If it had been, it'd be listed in big, bold
letters with a trademark symbol right on the box where you couldn't miss it.
The Go-Video deck, for example, is brightly and proudly emblazoned with its array of
trademarked features, including
"Commercial Advance®/Movie Advance® Lets You Skip Ads and Trailers"
not just on the box it comes in, but silkscreened on the face of the unit itself, just
in case you might have put the box away somewhere and forgotten.
So if any of these video recorders did feature integrated mind-control,
it'd be silkscreened on the front, too. You can count on it.
Of course the obligatory pictures of the happily grinning family staring raptly at the
VCR and TV screen could still be used without modification, whether the happy family
in question is being used to spotlight the enveloping sense of total fulfillment that comes
from the experience of carefully trademarked "commercial advance" features, or
their sense of total personal fulfillment is being beamed directly into their grey cells by the High
Masters of the planet Remulak.
Like 98.6% of the people in the entertainment industry, I've done commercials myself, and
I'm sure I've been skipped over plenty of times. (After all, why should
being on TV be different from real life, at least in that respect?)
Given my druthers, I'd prefer to deal with this by trying to make the commercials more interesting,
not by filing lawsuits against those who make it more convenient to skip over them.
That's one thing I like about the web: from the reader's standpoint, browsing the web is
(or at least should be) entirely optional. If somebody's reading one of my webpages, it's
because they choose to do so. I try to design them to put enough information
into the fragments presented in a search engine's list of results that someone would
have a pretty good idea beforehand whether jumping to that page would provide anything
useful and or entertaining. You'll also notice that there aren't ever any pop-up windows,
ads, or redirects--none of the pages trigger any actions unless they're directed to do so
by the reader.
It's not that I don't sneak in a little advertising here and there. Like anybody else, I do want
people to buy my movies, CDs, magazines, and the like. Gotta pay the bills somehow, but
I'd like to think that people buy my stuff because they enjoy it. If I had to file lawsuits
or strap my audience to their chairs to get them to take a look, then I'm probably in
the wrong business.
Besides, I know other people who do strap people to their chairs professionally. I'm sure
they do a better job of it, too.
I ran into a similar situation when designing a DVD layout the other day; looking at other
feature film titles to see how everybody else is doing it, I kept getting the impression that
a lot more time and effort goes into figuring out new and better ways to frustrate and
irritate the viewer than gets spent into making the content and features enjoyable to
use. Does anybody really need to sit through another twenty-second "FBI warning"
screen and have all their player's functions locked out until they've completed their
moment of video penance ... every single time they pop in the disk? That's a little extreme
if all you want to do is show someone a scene you liked or settle a movie trivia question.
Or, if that's not enough, how about inserting a two-minute ad for your other DVD titles and
locking out the controls until that's over with? Or following the FBI warning with an
"Interpol Warning," just for the sake of variety? Heretofore, I'd gotten the impression that
the typical DVD purchaser is paying the extra bucks for the DVD version at least in part
for the features and convience that the format is capable of ... so, why put all this effort
into deactivating or disabling the qualities that prompted the DVD purchaser to buy your
product in the first place?
For similar reasons, I had the region coding flags set to allow playback anywhere, at any
time, and had Macrovision turned off. (The signal's added by the player if the disk it's playing
tells the player to do so, it's not actually in the encoded video.)
Sure, enabling Macrovison on playback makes it slightly tougher to copy the output onto
a videotape, but it also degrades the video quality. The truth is that none of the available
copy protection schemes will slow down even a halfway competent video pirate, they
just make the product less convenient and lower in quality when used by an honest
So, FBI warnings, locking out DVD player features, region codes, Macrovision, etc., won't
stop illegal or unauthorized copying or duplication, but they do have one effect: they make
the authorized, legitimately purchased product inferior to an unauthorized copy or pirated
version that has the added annoyances stripped out. Commercially produced video tapes
and DVDs are pretty cheap; "stealing" a copy isn't going to save much over
buying one, not when you add in the cost of the media and the time involved.
But add in enough nuisances and "features" that degrade the purchaser's enjoyment
of the product to the authorized version that it becomes an inferior product to the
"stolen" one, then that might just be a real way to "induce users to make unauthorized
copies of copyrighted material"--no mind-controlling beams required.
After all, people bought DVD players and the disks that feed them because they
were willing to pay extra for the added features and quality of the DVD format; it
shouldn't be a great surprise if a lot of them are willing to devote a little extra time
and expense if that's what's it takes to "steal" back the features and quality they
thought they'd paid for.