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<nettime> fwd: [IRR] US DTV: the battle is joined
t byfield on Thu, 9 Jan 2003 06:42:11 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> fwd: [IRR] US DTV: the battle is joined

forwarded with permission; in granting permissions, doug noted that 
he glossed over lots of details and nuances, and that it wasn't his
intent to give a complete picture. still, i thought his account was
useful enough to forward to nettime.


----- Forwarded 

From: Doug Pardee <dougpardee {AT} yahoo.com>
Subject: [IRR] US DTV: the battle is joined
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2003 23:42:08 -0500

The opposing forces have been eyeing each other 
warily for years. Maneuvering, posturing, posing, 
sabre-rattling. But everyone knew that it would come 
to war--there was no room for compromise.

And last month, war did break out over American 
consumers' rights to record Digital TV.

December 12, 2002: Viacom fires the first shot, 
telling the FCC that unless the FCC approves the 
"broadcast flag" which will allow networks to signal 
that their content should not be recorded, Viacom 
will halt all High-Definition programming on CBS.[1] 
CBS has, to date, been the leading network in 
High-Definition programming.

December 19, 2002: The TV set manufacturers and the 
Cable TV industry announce a sudden resolution to 
their two-years-overdue project to hammer out 
standards for digital-cable-ready TV sets (note: 
sets able to connect to digital cable without 
needing a set-top box, not necessarily digital 
sets).[2] The agreement is contingent, however, on 
the FCC putting forth rules which *prohibit* any 
attempt to limit the full-resolution recordability 
of commercial broadcasts (ibid, p.36). 
Non-commercial broadcasts would still be able to be 
copy-limited, as would non-broadcast cable 
programming (shock!).

War also breaks out on a second front:

December, 2002: The TV set manufacturers begin the 
first ever advertising blitz for digital TVs. The 
sets being pushed are expensive LCD and plasma flat 
displays. I saw a large flat-panel for sale at Best 
Buy, with a price tag of $11,000 on it. Yes, that is 
the correct number of zeroes, and that is USD. What 
they don't tell you is that few of the sets 
currently available have HDCP copy protection 
built-in. If you buy one of those sets, you will not 
be able to watch any HDCP-protected high-definition 

December 28, 2002: DirecTV begins testing the HDCP 
copy protection that it has built into every DirecTV 
set-top box. They block full-resolution output for 
Channel 201 except to HDCP-compliant equipment.[4]

January 4, 2003: Amy Harmon reports in the NY Times
that the cable companies are about to start using 
the HDCP copy protection built into every 
digital-cable set-top box.[5] Yes, the very same 
digital set-top boxes that the Cable people and the 
TV manufacturers have agreed to render obsolete.

Personal conjecture: on the HDCP front, I suspect 
that the TV set manufacturers are not just trying to 
frantically unload their old non-HDCP products 
before the customers get wise. I suspect that 
they're actually trying to achieve a large installed 
base of non-HDCP products, and in particular to get 
them installed in the homes of the wealthy and 
influential. How many outraged campaign contributors 
would it take to convince a congressman that 
rendering all current HDTVs obsolete is a bad idea?

It's not a cold war any longer. I'm afraid that 
things are going to get nasty. But there's no room 
for compromise, and someone's going to lose.

[1] http://www.tvtechnology.com/dailynews/one.php?id=715
[2] http://www.ncta.com/pdf_files/CE-NCTAagreement.pdf (big file: 7MB)
[3] http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=199439
[4] http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=205970
[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/05/business/05CONT.html?ex=1042434000&en=6953d4501034b740&ei=5062&partner=GOOGLE

-- Doug Pardee

----- Backwarded

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