Tuesday, November 15, 2005

[geek][politics] Talk about bad timing...

via MSNBC's 'Clicked' column today, I caught this tidbit: Sony has been awarded a patent for technology that would disable game discs, preventing them from being played on any console except for the first one they are played on. The implications are obvious: it eliminates game rentals, such as GameFly.com or GameSpot; it eliminates the used game market; and it prevents you from bringing your game over to a friend's house to use on their console. Coming as this does on the heels of Sony/BMG music's DRM-cum-malware fiasco, this is potentially really bad news for Sony's coming launch of the PlayStation 3. Content owners and distributors are trying to change centuries of legal precedent and custom regarding (as I understand it - IANAL, so YMMV; if I've made any gross errors, feel free to let me know in the comments, and I'll try to adjust this piece accordingly) Fair Use, Personal Use, and the doctrine of First Use. Fair Use covers the circumstances under which protected material may be reproduced for non-personal use, ie. redistribution in some other form; Personal Use is just that; First Use is kind of related to Personal Use, and among other things allows you to give or sell your copy of protected material to someone else. These moves are being driven by greed and fear, pure and simple. Greed in that they're trying to maintain their hold over their material as long as possible, even if it restricts your rights to do so; fear in that the road ahead is uncertain for content owners and distributors, particularly in that business models, technology, and access to technology is changing all the time. In short, they're trying to use technology to circumvent the law (or at least to force everyone to operate in the areas where the law gets fuzzy) in order to generate the largest possible profits. In my opinion, the only thing that they are going to successfully generate is enough customer ire that they may very well sink themselves. This focus on short-term profit gain is such that they're undermining their chances of long-term survival - it's evolve or die time, and right now the Sonys of the world are looking more like dinosaurs and less like small mammals... And the spread of broadband access, inexpensive storage, and duplication technology are looking more and more like a large meteor... Sure, the initial impact took some species out, but now that the shockwaves have passed, we'll be okay. Hey, where'd the sun go? Is it getting chilly in here? And we all know how that one turned out, don't we?

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