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Music Industry At It Again!

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Britney Spears just went from hot to bitch!!! Read on...

Hollywood vs. the techies

Sunday, October 20, 2002

BY KEVIN COUGHLIN

Associated Press

''From text to records to audio and video, the personal computer is the tool that lets users access information in all its forms."

-- Bill Gates, 1989

Britney Spears wants to teach you about copyright law.

"Would you go into a CD store and steal a CD?" the pop star asks in a TV ad that started airing this month. "It's the same thing, people going into the computers and logging on and stealing our music. It's the exact same thing, so why do it?"

Spears is part of a campaign to educate the public on the evils of unfettered access to information in all its (copyrighted) forms. It's the latest volley in an ongoing battle which, cyber-libertarians fear, may spell the end of computers as the empowering tool promised by Microsoft and its partners.

Once again, the entertainment industry is pitted against free-information techies who accuse the industry of taking the "personal" out of personal computers. Just as the battle over Napster raised piracy issues that led to the silencing of the legendary audio- share service, the current battle threatens to halt digital knockoffs of CDs and TV programs, imposing limits on what computers do and how people use them.

This time, though, the industry is ready to do damage control. The Napster fight was a public relations debacle for the music industry, which estimates Web- heads still swap 2.6 billion songs online every month, mostly illegally.

Movie studios are pounding Congress to require anti-copying technologies in computers and consumer electronics. Computer trade groups are lobbying just as fiercely, to keep moguls and politicians from ordering fixes that will rile consumers. And the computer industry, straddling both sides of the divide, nods to the fears of tech fans while it gets rich developing technology to allay Hollywood's fears.

Already, new technologies to thwart copying of CDs and TV programs are creeping into the marketplace.

This Christmas, Hewlett- Packard will hype PCs as home entertainment centers that can record TV broadcasts. The computers will feature a new version of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system, which encodes DVD discs so they won't play in other machines. Windows XP already requires users to update their registration when they change computers. That's to prevent copying of the software -- even onto other machines in the same household.

Sony and the Universal Music Group, meanwhile, sell music CDs that won't play in personal computers. Some versions of the Super Audio CD, a new music medium from Sony and Philips, also won't play in personal computers.

Critics of such "digital rights management" systems say they undermine consumers' rights to copy materials they have purchased, for their personal enjoyment and convenience.

"We're entering an information age where computers are a more and more important tool to communicate with each other. And we're seeing a big effort to clamp down on this tool of expression," said Robin Gross of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group that tracks digital technologies.

Copyright filters layered into "Palladium" and "LaGrande" -- fortress-like computer systems proposed by Microsoft and Intel -- soon could give studios and labels total control over how, when and where their content is played, said Ross Anderson of University of Cambridge.

No more CD compilations for the car. No more videos e-mailed to friends and family.

Microsoft insists such fears are overblown.

Palladium's primary aim is better security, not copyright enforcement, said Microsoft's Andrew Moss. But digital rights management will empower consumers, he said, with new tools for setting rules on who can access their health and financial data.

"We do not want to do anything that takes away from the power the PC has provided for the last 20 years," Moss said. At the same time , he acknowledges Hollywood is potentially "an important customer." And piracy is piracy.

"The key is to make people aware that this power lets them do certain things -- but also has certain responsibilities," Moss said.

Congress aims to legislate those responsibilities.

Bipartisan bills run the gamut, reflecting huge political donations from Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Few have much chance of passage anytime soon. "They're intended to 'start a conversation.' That's the new euphemism," said Gig Sohn of Public Knowledge, a public interest advocacy group.

There are bills to force Silicon Valley to create a universal copy- protection standard, and even to let music labels hack into networks to thwart illegal file-swapping. Other measures would protect consumers who make copies of their digital purchases and require copy-protected CDs to be labeled as such, so consumers know if their equipment can play the discs.

While condemning piracy -- and developing software to combat it -- many tech companies complain that Hollywood is overreacting and is insufficiently creative in dealing with technology's challenges.

"They have to realize there is no single quick technological fix to protect everything, everywhere, all the time," said Bill Calder of Intel Corp., the world's leading chip maker.

"Studios need new business models, to embrace technology and come with us into the new digital age," Calder said. At least, he noted, music labels are trying -- so far, unsuccessfully -- to establish online subscription services.

Two decades ago, Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association of America railed against another nascent technology, videocassette recorders. Today, Hollywood reaps more cash from video rentals than from theater receipts.

Still, piracy costs Hollywood more than $3 billion yearly -- and the damage will snowball as faster Internet services simplify swapping of popular movies, said Rich Taylor of the Motion Picture Association of America.

"We need to take steps now before people become accustomed to getting (movies) for free," Taylor said. "No business model can compete with free."

Taylor points out that there are business opportunities for the tech industry in Hollywood's concerns. He noted that Hollywood copy protections were built into DVD players, and that medium took off.

Hollywood could give the same boost to broadband Internet services and digital television -- once copy protections are in place, Taylor said.

The de-facto tollbooth -- and copyright checkpoint -- for digital music and video could become Microsoft's Windows Media Player, included with Windows software on PCs everywhere.

"Fair use will probably suffer," said analyst Roger Kay of the consulting firm IDC. "But it's always been a gray area."

"Put simply, if a person in Fairfield buys a book and a movie on DVD, they expect to be able to read that book and watch that DVD anywhere they travel in the world, and at any time of their choosing," said Glenn Tenney, of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

But legal experts say fair use is no free pass to digital knock- offs of CDs and TV shows.

Fair use evolved as scholars and news organizations fought to legally use excerpts of copyrighted works, said Bruce Lehman, former U.S. commissioner of trademarks and patents.

Photocopy machines thrust fair use into the spotlight in the 1950s, but the doctrine was not written into U.S. copyright law until 1976. The law has struggled ever since to keep pace with technology.

In a landmark Sony case, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1984 upheld videotaping of TV shows for personal use. The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992 extended that right to audio recordings -- in nondigital formats.

Digital means cheap, endless, perfect copies. Hollywood demanded, and got, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Now, it's illegal to crack anti- copying technologies -- even for benign reasons, said John Kettle, a professor at Rutgers University Law School-Newark.

But laws are one thing. Napster triggered a cultural revolt against the music industry. Kettle suspects consumers, not lawyers, will decide the fate of digital rights management.

The nation's economic health rides on the outcome, Lehman said.

U.S. prosperity flows largely from sales of intangibles -- movies, music and books, he said. Help yourself, like "looters in a hurricane," and the whole system breaks down.

"A lot of young people haven't internalized the fact they're stealing something," said Lehman, echoing the Spears ad.

"But they are, absolutely, under the laws of this country."

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These artists v. piracy don't realize that they just might be alienating their fans...but ok...

Industry needs to work with the p2p sites not against them in order to make anything work, just my humble opinion...

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