The new technology makes it possible for almost anyone – from home-movie amateurs to producers of network TV shows – to get their videos distributed on a variety of web sites and seen by millions. There is also a new search engine to seek online videos – Blinkx. Profits for the new video middlemen come from short commercials before or during the videos and/or banner ads on the sites. Brightcove already is distributing “Toga” video clips on behalf of The National Lampoon, and is talking to a company owning rights to hundreds of Indian films about setting up a Bollywood Net offering. The TV cable industry is trying to meet the competition by offering Internet-like movies-on-demand.
DRM Also Becomes Mainstream – The music and movie industry tells us DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, but critics are saying it should stand for digital restrictions-mongering. The intent is to control unauthorized copying and sharing of copyrighted digital content, by limiting how the files may be copied or converted into other formats. This is the year when many users will deal with DRM. There are many different approaches: Sony recently got into trouble with their CD copy protection scheme which secretly installed spyware on computers in order to prevent the users from converting to MP3 files. Apple’s FairPlay prevents their iTunes customers from sharing songs with friends who have MP3 players that are not Apple iPods. Sonos’ wireless system plays music throughout the house that is stored on a home computer, but if the files were purchased from iTunes they will not play in any of the rooms due to Apple’s DRM.
In video things get more complex: the above-mentioned Google videos are protected by DRM which allows only the person who originally bought the video to see it again after logging in with username and password. Of course everyone is aware you can’t copy even one scene from a commercial movie DVD for an educational project because they are protected by Macrovision’s DRM system. Intel’s new Viiv platform uses DRM technology and will certify DVRs and MP3 players in the home but will prevent files being transferred to a friend’s computer. Manufacturers of HDTVs are considering whether to “downres” HD programming as a DRM tool for all those who have only analog connections to their display and lack the DRM-protected HDMI cabling. Many consumers are already steering clear of DRM-laden technologies and staying with formats such as standard CDs, which allow copying and burning.
The Home Recording Rights Coalition (HRRC) is on the forefront of the battle for reasonable consumer rights. Check out their web site for details on Downresolution, The BetaMax Case, fair use, the Grokster Case, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.