I recently bought a DVD player... got the money for Christmas actually. After VHS, it should have been quite an improvement. Except for a few design decisions by the DVD consortium...

My "entertainment system" is a bit on the odd side... Its primary feature is the projection screen covering most of my wall. I project 16mm, super 8, and regular 8, on it (thats Film, you know... HDTV, only old :-). I can also put NTSC signals on the wall with an LCD panel and overhead I got at a surplus auction. The LCD panel's gamma curve is extremely odd though, and the colors are badly posterized. So, I also have a 15 year old TV, which is connected to a VHS VCR because it has only RF input. (to keep things interesting, there is also a umatic VCR, a hi8 cam-corder, and a couple of movie cameras floating around as well.)

Anyway, the DVD player, upon being connected to my VCR/TV pair pretty much failed to perform. The specific cause, is that the DVD player is putting macrovision copy protection on the signal, causing my TV to fail to sync. In computer science, we have a term for this: "Denial Of Service Attack".

So, I have a question... Why is my DVD player giving me a copy protected signal? More interestingly, why is the MPEG-2 stream on my DVD disk encrypted? How exactly do these features help me? All I see is that they preventing my TV from functioning. Or region codes... I don't care where the DVD was manufactured, I paid for it, and I want to play it.

I suppose the recording industry would say that its to prevent piracy. Well... macrovision is trivially defeated, with various video signal cleaning gadgets. I'll be buying one shortly, I see a corrupted video signal, so I shall clean it. DVD encryption has been cracked as well. Of course thats not really needed to pirate movies... pirates would just copy the encrypted stream and not bother with the decryption. Thats not why the DVD encryption was broken, it was broken so people could watch legitimate movies. They just wanted to do it with their own software, instead of the recording industry's. I don't think the freedom to choose what player one uses is an unreasonable demand.

I think the recording industry needs a new approach to reducing piracy. Making priacy impossible, is quite impossible. There are just too many people who want to do it, and too few people not wanting them to do it.

Piracy is not easy. It generally takes at least several hundred, if not thousands, of dollars worth of hardware. People do it either because they like the challenge, or they are desperate. The first one will not cause much of a problem, the second is quite easy to avoid. What the recording industry needs to do is make the legitimate copies more desirable. For example: they could drop their prices. $20 for an hour of music is too high. I know if it was more like $5 or $10, I would buy quite a bit more music. The price is just high enough for me to feel ripped off, I have to really like a song before I 'll buy it, and thats 1 CD about every 6 months.

Once someone has gone through the trouble to pirate a piece of media, the big difference between legal copies and pirated copies is that the legal ones come with the real liner notes. A lot of good stuff can be put there to make the legal ones more desirable. Infocom games used to come with toys. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the liner notes of my DVD of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" are singularly disappointing. They are a single piece of paper with "Rodger Rabbit" written on one side. The back is blank.

I also think the recording industry is not the right group to be defining our media standards. They have come up with DVD, and the majority of the DVD features are at best denial of service attacks, and more accurately only good for squeezing more money out of me.

The recording industry's response to the widespread use of Internet and mpeg files is equally revealing. A garage band need no longer go groveling to a record company to get published. They can just put it on the net. A great many artists are quite willing to just share their work for free. I do a similar thing with some of the software I write.

Internet is a surprisingly successful communist state. Thats real communism by the way, not what was found in Russia and/or China. Go read Marx before arguing with me about that point.

Either way, the recording industry didn't like being rendered obsolete. I suppose I can respect that attitude, but they sure picked an immature way to respond. Instead of moving ahead with the times, they have tried to drag us back to the bad old days where they controlled all the media.

So, I guess thats my real point. The recording industry has ceased to be interested in really good music/media. Its now just about money grubbing. Their new media is designed to create barriers, instead of actually improving the product. (laser disks have a superior image to DVD, and neither can hold a candle to film). I suspect that if they had their way, everyone would have to rent a home juke box. The record companies would put new music in it if they felt like it, and any time we wanted to hear anything, we would have to put a quarter in.

So: I propose we forget them. mp3.com is your friend, support your local garage band. Give them money even... I bet they are willing to charge reasonable rates. This is competition, and the only result will be improved products at better prices.