Sunday, March 24, 2002

An Industry on the Fritz

A picture named hollings.jpgDoc Searls includes a number of good links to the furor over Fritz Hollings‘ latest bill, the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act.

At issue is neither the promotion of broadband access nor the conversion of TV to HDTV. The issue is really whether the entertainment industry can flex enough muscle to regulate the technology industry. This bill would mandate any consumer electronics manufacturer to implement copy protection blessed by the studios – so that the studios can exert greater control over how their customers use the studios’ products.

This is the same issue that has arisen every time a new technology comes out. And somehow, the entertainment industry keeps going back to the well – just to see how far it can get the courts (or, in this case, Congress) to go. There was Sony vs. Columbia, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before the studios grudgingly admitted that people could, in fact, record programs that the studios willingly broadcast over TV. Later, we had the DVD mess – which resulted in the ridiculous “regions“ being created for DVD sales. And now Fritz brings us this.

I can’t help but go back to the original Sony vs. Columbia case, in which none other than Mr. Rogers himself was asked whether, as a copyright holder, he viewed technology as a threat:

“Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been ‘You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.’ Maybe I’m going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.” (Testimony is available here, note 27)

Won’t you be my neighbor, Fritz?

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