June 16, 2024

Apple Uses DMCA Threat Against Competing Product

Declan McCullagh at news.com reports on Apple’s use of a DMCA threat to force a useful product off the market.

Apple’s iDVD application allows the user to burn DVDs – but only on Apple-brand drives. A DVD drive vendor called Other World Computing shipped its drives with a “DVD Enabler” program that modified iDVD so that it could burn DVDs on any FireWire-connected drive.

Apple was displeased, so it used various threats, including one based on the DMCA, to convince Other World to back down and yank DVD Enabler from the market. According to the story, the main reason for Other World’s quick backdown was a general desire to stay on Apple’s good side. But clearly Apple thought the DMCA threat would have some impact, or they wouldn’t have made it.

Apple’s use of the DMCA here has nothing to do with preventing copyright infringement, since Apple-brand drives can make infringing copies just as easily as other brands can. The real motive is to weaken competition in the market for Mac-compatible DVD drives.

Business Week: Internet is Evil

Business Week has an amazing article characterizing the Internet as a cesspool of crime and depravity. The article approvingly quotes somebody saying “[More than] 70% of all e-commerce is based on some socially unacceptable if not outright illegal activity.”

To give you an idea of the tone, the main body of the article starts with this:

Warning: You are about to enter the dark side of the Internet. It’s a place where crime is rampant and every twisted urge can be satisfied. Thousands of virtual streets are lined with casinos, porn shops, and drug dealers. Scam artists and terrorists skulk behind seemingly lawful Web sites. And cops wander through once in a while, mostly looking lost. It’s the Strip in Las Vegas, the Red Light district in Amsterdam, and New York’s Times Square at its worst, all rolled into one–and all easily accessible from your living room couch.

The remainder of the article reveals that there are bookies, con artists, and drug dealers on the Net. Thank God we don’t have those problems in the real world.

Who Controls Your PC?

One of the most interesting issues in technology today is the battle for control over users’ computers. Ray Ozzie offers some thoughts, and a nice tutorial.

Misleading Term of the Week: "Broadcast Flag"

[This posting inaugurates a new feature. Each week I will dissect one widely used but misleading bit of terminology. See my previous posting on the term “piracy” for more on why terminology is important.]

This week’s misleading term is “broadcast flag,” which is used by Hollywood to refer to a wide-ranging ban on video technologies that they are proposing via the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group (BPDG).

Technologists normally use the term “flag” to refer to a simple label that is attached to data to indicate some attribute of the data. A recipient of the data can use the flag as one factor in deciding what to do with the data, but most flags are strictly advisory and do not compel any action by the recipient. Such a flag is simple and nonrestrictive. Who could object to it?

Hollywood doesn’t need to ask for a true broadcast flag. The standards for digital television broadcasting already have a place for such a flag. No government action is needed to allow Hollywood to use a flag to indicate the broadcast status of a program.

Instead, they use the harmless-sounding term “broadcast flag” to refer to something else entirely. If you read Hollywood’s “broadcast flag” proposal, you’ll see that what they are really asking for is a draconian set of restrictions on video technology. Their proposal would even give them veto power over the development of new video technologies. Calling it a mere “flag” makes it sound simple and harmless. What a brilliant bit of misdirection!

What's Up At CNet?

Declan McCullagh interviews Verizon lawyer Sarah Deutsch, over at CNet news.com. (Welcome back, Declan.) Verizon is taking the side of their customers, against Hollywood.

But check out the headline: “Why telecoms fly the pirate flag” (on the front page) and “Why telecoms back the pirate cause” (on the article itself). The pirate flag? The pirate cause? There’s nothing in the article about backing “pirates”. It’s all about Verizon building their business by defending the interests of their law-abiding customers.

This is a classic example of a headline undermining the point of an article. Usually when that happens, it’s because the reporter wrote the article and an editor wrote the headline. Are CNet’s editors so biased that they think anyone who opposes Hollywood must be an apologist for “pirates”?

UPDATE (Sept. 3): News.com has since changed the headline to the more balanced “Verizon’s copyright campaign.”