John Gilmore (via Wes Felter) lets the dogs out
January 22, 2001 12:09 PM   Subscribe

John Gilmore (via Wes Felter) lets the dogs out on the new Mac DVD-R drive. Seems it's a DVD-General drive, rather than a DVD-Authoring drive, and, therefore, there are lots of things you might want to do with it that you can't.

This is how Apple can fit a $4500 drive into a $3500 machine.
posted by baylink (23 comments total)
Hmm.. interesting. I always hated apple for it's marketing and advertising and such. Question - Can't you run your dvd player to a dvd cam and that to the iMac and record? You'll lose the dd track, just get stereo, but, still...
posted by tiaka at 12:20 PM on January 22, 2001

There's a passage from later on in Gilmore's screed that I really like:

"What is wrong is that we have invented the technology to eliminate scarcity, but we are deliberately throwing it away to benefit those who profit from scarcity. We now have the means to duplicate any kind of information that can be compactly represented in digital media. We can replicate it worldwide, to billions of people, for very low costs, affordable by individuals....We should be rejoicing in mutually creating a heaven on earth! Instead, those crabbed souls who make their living from perpetuating scarcity are sneaking around, convincing co-conspirators to chain our cheap duplication technology so that it WON'T make copies -- at least not of the kind of goods THEY want to sell us. This is the worst sort of economic protectionism -- beggaring your own society for the benefit of an inefficient local industry. The record and movie distribution companies are careful not to point this out to us, but that is what is happening."

The whole essay is definitely worth reading.

posted by tingley at 12:23 PM on January 22, 2001

I agree that the laws should be relaxed, and that the protection schemes are ludicrous. (By the time you pay for the media and the cost of time (hours!) required to dupe a DVD film, you'd have been better off buying it at your local retailer.)

Let a thousand flowers bloom, as someone once mused.

DVD recording similar to what is currently possible with CD-R will happen.. it's inevitable.

But I frankly don't see the issue where Apple is concerned.
Their advertising makes no claim to allow the copying of DVD movies or other copy-right protected material. Apple doesn't even *hint* at such capability.

posted by russh at 12:32 PM on January 22, 2001

There are a lot of things I'd like to do that I can't.

I've learned to live within my limitations, hoping that someone someday will be able to help be do those things.

Regarding the specifics of the Apple DVD question, if a product does what it claims, I don't see the point in lambasting it for not doing what it doesn't claim to do.

Get over it.
posted by fpatrick at 12:38 PM on January 22, 2001

[fpatrick] if a product does what it claims, I don't see the point in lambasting it for not doing what it doesn't claim to do. Get over it.

The argument isn't about Apple's product. The iDVD is just a placeholder for and an example of the larger problem: massive media conglomerates are coercing manufacturers into artificially restricting what technology can do (that is, removing capabilities inherent in the technology) in an effort to keep their old revenue models (dependent on scarcity) continuing. In so doing, they prevent pirating, but they also restrict rights of individuals to fair use of media they have license to. Another beneficial (to the established players, of course) side effect is that it also prevents low-overhead competition from entering the market. The media conglomerates achieve this coercion with the threat of lawsuit. They generally have more resources and experience for legal battles and can generally overpower anyone who stands in their way.

That's why there's such a big stink over this, not because Apple might be misleading anyone.
posted by daveadams at 2:04 PM on January 22, 2001

As a side note, I am notorious for destroying CDs in my car, and I have a DVD that I have a feeling is going to bite it soon (My 2 & 3 yearold nephews got ahold of it). With the CDs, it's no big deal anymore, because I burn a copy for use in the car when I buy one, and after a week or two, I end up having to burn another one. (yes.. I know what that says about my car) But with the DVDs, the only option will be to buy a replacement.
posted by tj at 2:23 PM on January 22, 2001

tj, don't you think that what you've presented provides more of a compelling argument for you being more responsible about the care of your belongings than for companies to provide you with tools to make your cavalier treatment of said belongings irrelevant?

I mean, there are accidents (and mishaps with children) but I'd think that even two or three years is a short lifespan for a commercially made CD. (I know I can't be the only one with 15 year old discs in my collection that are in fine condition, can I?)
posted by Dreama at 2:52 PM on January 22, 2001

That may be, but he shouldn't have to shell out $30 to replace something he already owns and could feasibly copy himself.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:54 PM on January 22, 2001

Dreama, I've had a CD player since, geez, 1983 I think. And I have never lost a commercial CD to "wear and tear." Throwing them against walls, having friends "borrow" them in college and then never give them back (this means YOU, Pep!), shooting them, sure. But never just from overuse.

(Of course, we're gonna have to buy them all over again pretty soon when Sooper Audio CD finally gets its standard worked out. After all, you don't want to listen to all those records with inferior audio quality, do you? What? You were told that CDs were already perfect audio quality? Well, heh heh, not quite...)

Certainly there must be a way to hack the Apple DVD drives just like we've hacked all these other "copy protection" schemes ... isn't there?
posted by aaron at 3:11 PM on January 22, 2001

The drive in question is going to be getting sold stand-alone by Pioneer, available for anyone to use (like, say, a PC owner). Pioneer has no intention of restricting its use to a couple of percent of the market (since not even all Macs will have them); they'd like to get the volume up.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:12 PM on January 22, 2001

tj, don't you think that what you've presented provides more of a compelling argument for you being more responsible about the care of your belongings than for companies to provide you with tools to make your cavalier treatment of said belongings irrelevant?

One of the principles of "fair use" are the right to make a backup copy. The current state of DVD hardware and media preclude this option.

Fair Use also includes the rights to use short snippets of copyrighted work as part of a larger work that comments on, criticizes, or analyzes the copyrighted work. It also allows time-shifting, format-shifting, and remixing for personal use. All of these uses are threatened if the media industry gets away with forcing hardware and software that disallows such activities upon us. Our rights are being taken away. This is a big deal!
posted by daveadams at 3:33 PM on January 22, 2001

By the way, it doesn't really matter. DVDs use MPEG2. Recently the MPEG committee developed MPEG4, which is absolutely unbelievable. Here's what's cool: you can now take a DVD and recode it with MPEG4, and the result will fit on a CD (or maybe two at most). The video quality is almost indistinguishable. Encoding MPEG4 is slower, but who cares about that? Decoding also requires more processor power, but fast computers are cheap now.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:34 PM on January 22, 2001

Everything you wanted to know about copying a DVD onto a CD using Windows without buying any software.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 4:23 PM on January 22, 2001

I share the concerns about the general principle that rights are being eroded - the right to make backups, the precedent-based right to time-shift, etc.

But I don't see what Apple has to do with that. Yes they toed the line - but others drew the line (DCMA anyone?), and you can bet that Apple would have been confronted with a huge suit if they included a drive that could make direct copies (with the missing bits and everything). That is, if they could have even sourced them in the first place, which seems unlikely since the manufacturers are driving this process of erosion as much as the software/content companies.
posted by mikel at 6:19 PM on January 22, 2001

mikel, is there really any grounds for suing based on a piece of hardware that creates exact duplicates?

If so, why is HP able to make CD burners that do it?

I think it's more a matter of "Here's the price we want, we can get this unit in. Oh, let's not talk about the stuff it can't do, and just talk about what it can."
posted by cCranium at 6:47 PM on January 22, 2001

It's a good question, which I'm sure hinges on a couple of things: a) that the CD format (AIFF files on the media) didn't include copy-protection when it was invented; b) the DCMA makes getting around copy-protection specifically verboten, which wasn't the case before, and c) the hardware industry was never onside with the music industry in the music biz.

But I don't have a real answer other than to note those points.
posted by mikel at 8:17 PM on January 22, 2001

They are good points though. I'm guessing points a and b are the uh, bigger hinges. :-)

I'm eager to see how MPEG4 changes things.
posted by cCranium at 5:49 AM on January 23, 2001

But I don't see what Apple has to do with that.

You're right. Apple doesn't have anything to do with it. Like I said in my first post to this thread, the Apple drive is an example of manufacturers artificially reducing the capabilities of their products to please the big media companies. Apple doesn't even make the drive anyway, they just repackage it.

The culprits are the big media companies who manage to control the direction of hardware development through the threat of lawsuit. That is the assault on our rights that is worrisome.
posted by daveadams at 8:41 AM on January 23, 2001

Apple is deliberately letting people infer that the DVD drive is more capable than it really is. They're making no attempt whatever to let people know what the limitations on the drive are. It is passive and not active, but it is misrepresentation nonetheless.

One of the most clever ways there is of lying is to tell part but not all of the truth, selecting that part in such a way as to mislead the listener. That's what I see Apple doing.

What they're doing isn't illegal, but it's definitely unethical. I think they have a responsibility to their customers to let them know not just what this drive can do, but also what it's deliberately designed to not be able to do.

For instance, Apple is pushing it as something to sell to professional content generation companies. Unfortunately, such folks can't use it to master DVDs for replication. The drive is not capable of writing everything to the disk that is needed for that. (Gilmore describes that in detail.) It seems to be deliberately crippled. Which means that this drive will be substantially less valuable to content generation companies than it seems; its only value is to create one-of hard copies. But you sure won't learn this from reading anything Apple has published.

That is what Apple has to do with it.

Apple is also pushing it for home/hobby use, and for that kind of thing its capabilities are appropriate. However, their pricing is inconsistent with that. The system is too expensive for most hobby users, and too crippled for most professional users.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:27 AM on January 23, 2001

And Wes' comment on the IBM story he followed up with is very interesting indeed:

Think! Why would anyone use this stuff when they could trade MP3s on Napster (or OpenNap/Napigator) with no restrictions?

Wesley, obviously hasn't been following this thread. :-)

Frankly, though, I don't see how he can ask that question if he even read the Gilmore piece in the first place: people would use that stuff if the mediacorps and the equipmentcorps deprive them of the capability to do anything else.

It's the subversion of the equipment makers that makes this so messy. Hopefully, a delineation can be made, because the only solution I see to this, alas, is government intervention against such collusion, and that's going to take a million letters.
posted by baylink at 12:08 PM on January 23, 2001

I've been trying to figure out just what the motivation is of the equipment makers. Why would they cooperate with the entertainment industry like this? Why would they screw their own customers?

And in an article I read I got a clue: they're doing this to forestall future lawsuits. If they bring out products which are capable of ignoring or breaking copy protection, they're violating the DMCA.

That *@&^%@ has to go. I hope EFF wins its lawsuit.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:06 PM on January 23, 2001

What I don't understand is that CD burners, both those currently on the market and those currently in production, do bypass those restrictions.

Even overburning, which is on older models technically infeasible, eventually made it's way into consumer level products.

Why are manufacturers doing this to DVD burners when they aren't to CD burners? Is that the technology's already out there on a consumer level so there's no point in going backwards? Or is it that DVD burners that handle full data duplication just aren't able to be produced cheaply enough yet?

I'd really like to believe the latter. Considering how long it took CD burners to reach mass market level and considering how short a time period DVD burners have been out there, I could accept it. Even my idealism goes only so far though.
posted by cCranium at 5:13 PM on January 23, 2001

The CD format was never encrypted or otherwise copy-protected. DVD is. Thus CD doesn't fall under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, but DVD does.

There doesn't appear to be any technical problem with producing a cheap full-featured DVD drive. The drive Apple does offer simply can't write a few of the tracks on the DVD. That was engineered into it deliberately.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:49 PM on January 23, 2001

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