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05.19.08

Is Microsoft Trying to Illegalise/Exclude MythTV and Increase Eavesdropping?

Posted in Asia, DRM, EFF, Europe, Free/Libre Software, Law, Microsoft, Vista, Windows at 12:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Deliberate or just a side-effect?

Some months ago we drew attention to what seemed like the possibility of Microsoft fighting patents-free video playback on the Web. Its former employee was at it along with the long-time partner called Apple [1, 2, 3, 4]. The politics here are complicated because companies that collaborate sometimes compete with one another (take Cisco and Nokia for example).

It is widely known by now — or at least ought to be known — that Microsoft collaborates with the media industry (see reference 5.b-g) a lot more than most other companies in the same sector. It happens to be doing ‘legwork’ for moguls, which sometimes involves amending (read: spoiling) laws. Just take, for instance, this recent incident.

Microsoft Misleads on Copyright Reform

[...]

The Hill Times this week includes an astonishingly misleading and factually incorrect article on Canadian copyright written by Microsoft.

Look back at the Nokia/Ogg kerkuffle [1, 2, 3]. It elucidates the issue and demonstrates how articulate brainwash, which takes the form of a whitepaper/report, can eventually reverse decisions or make new ones. Microsoft almost successfully pulled a fast one when striving to block the acquisition of DoubleClick by Google, as reported by eWeek at the time. Analysts are a similar problem that we shall revisit routinely.

“It’s otherwise too hard to compete with libre and gratis.”For more information about Microsoft’s relationship with the media industry, see [1-8] at the bottom and consider them in sequence (roughly chronological). Microsoft sets precedence in the entertainment world just as it always aspires to ‘tax’ Free software, e.g. with software patent deals. It’s otherwise too hard to compete with libre and gratis.

A couple of weeks ago came this shot from the EFF. It came immediately after Microsoft had shamelessly betrayed innocent customers with its phased-out DRM.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation says that Microsoft has “betrayed” MSN Music customers and wants the company to make things right by issuing an apology, refunds, and eliminate digital rights management technology from the Zune music player.

The latest news, however, is only related to all of the above. The EFF is at it again, having just noticed what a dangerous precedence Microsoft sets on behalf of broadcasters.

After further investigation of reports of Vista refusing to record NBC, we have found at least one case where a user receiving digital TV over-the-air has been blocked from recording TV shows. Justin Sanders, who took this screenshot, says he was recording Raleigh’s HDTV channel WNCN-DT1 on his Vista machine when a popup stating that “restrictions set by the broadcaster … prohibit recording of this program” appeared.

This is significant: this is the first case we’ve heard of equipment voluntarily obeying broadcast flag-like restrictions on TV content digitally broadcast over-the-air.

The broadcast flag is a small piece of data broadcast alongside a digital TV program. The ability to flag broadcast content was created by the ATSC standard which governs digital TV broadcasts in the United States. By itself the broadcast flag cannot restrict use of broadcast content. Instead, its force comes from a tech mandate law – an FCC regulation – which required manufacturers of DTV-receiving devices to detect and respond to “switched on” broadcast flags. EFF and others opposed the use of the broadcast flag and fought successfully to have the FCC regulation overturned by the courts. We did that because it handed control over your hardware to a remote authority, limited your right to your fair use of media, and would have made illegal open source products like MythTV. As a result of that victory, manufacturers are not legally required to force their devices to detect and respond to the flag.

It would now appear that Microsoft has voluntarily chosen to obey such content restrictions in Vista, despite the successful work of thousands of users to defend Microsoft’s right to innovate and our right to fair use.

Coming from Microsoft, this shouldn’t be surprising. Also be aware of the tight Microsoft-NBC connection (they are former partners that are still very close) The DRM cat is out of the bag and if a Forbes article which goes by the headline “Microsoft: We Like DRM,” is anything to go by, then it’s worth keeping an eye on this mess.

Steve Jobs wants the music business to drop restrictions for digital tunes. But Microsoft, which began competing head to head with Apple in the digital music business last fall, is happy with the way things are, says media exec Robbie Bach.

Mind you, Robbie Bach is the Vice President accused of inside-trading, which is a crime (mentioned here along with others). Being a Microsoft executive, needless to say he’s above the law though.

More on Microsoft’s DRM in Windows Vista:

In other related news, remember that set-top boxes are typically very ‘user-aware’. They act as spyware that ‘phones home’ to the broadcasters. In that respect, this new alarming article is very relevant too.

1984: The amendments on the Telecom Package are killing fundamental freedoms

Brussels – Guy Bono is indignant about the freedom-killing amendments that have been submitted in the framework of the “Telecom Package”, that is currently being discussed in the European Parliament.

[...]

For the socialist member of the European Parliament: “What Orwell predicted in “1984” is becoming reality: one wants to know everything about you, trace you, spy everything you are doing, and direct your behaviour. The only difference is that the dictator is not a politician, but made up by large multinationals!”

Windows Vista has already stepped further into the status of “malicious spyware”. We covered this before. It gets even worse (back doors and control).

___

[1] Music industry meeting could change the Zune

Bryan Lee, corporate vice present for Microsoft’s entertainment business, told me today that the meeting was set up as part of the deal struck between Microsoft and music business honchos, who are always wary of piracy… The meeting was supposed to take place “some time after the holidays,” he said. It also talks about the future of the zune.

[2] Microsoft May Build a Copyright Cop Into Every Zune

If you like to download the latest episodes of “Heroes” or other NBC shows from BitTorrent, maybe you shouldn’t buy a Microsoft Zune to watch them on.

[3] A Legitimate Reason to Hate the Zune (And Microsoft Too)

Here’s the situation: Microsoft has agreed to pay a portion of the profits from the sales of the Zune to a record company (Universal) because the Zune will undoubtedly be used to store unpurchased songs.

[...]

Here it is important to remember a few simple things. The money goes to the Universal, not to the artists.

[...]

Microsoft’s move sets a bad precedent and turns all consumers into thieves without evidence.

[4] Universal to seek money for each iPod sold

“It would be a nice idea. We have a negotiation coming up not too far. I don’t see why we wouldn’t do that… but maybe not in the same way,” Morris said. His “same way” comment is a reference to the Zune, which Universal already gets $1 from after signing a deal with Microsoft.

[5] Piracy figures are inflated say criminologists

A draft report by the Australian Institute of Criminology says copyright holders are making up piracy figures in order to sway governments to their side.

[6] UK music industry pines for the good old days, seeks an iPod tax

But that’s different from what the UK’s music industry is demanding. I happily pay Apple every time I download a song from iTunes. EMI and crew get a piece of that $.99 fee to cover their costs of discovering and marketing artists.

What I’m not going to pay is for the right to move that song to my computer, or to my phone, or wherever, just as I never had to pay to move a song from vinyl to cassette tape. The music industry incurs no cost in that transfer, and offers me no help in facilitating it. Why should it get paid for that transfer?

[7] Copyright cops demand Ipod tax

British legal eagles have been trying to unshackle the UK from a law which makes a criminal out of you every time you copy one of your own CDs to your mp3 player for some time now, but the Music Business Group (MBG) says it won’t support the change in legislation unless manufacturers impose the tax.

[8] Japan to tax MP3 players

According to a report in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs wants to force MP3 player manufacturers to pay a royalty charge to copyright holders that may have lost out as a result of illegally recorded content.

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