France is the enemy

I usually like the NYT articles since they are usually well informed and give a good overview on a subject. But this article got me wondering...

Apart from the doubtful humour about a foreign country and their citizens (What has possessed the French?) the article is just a plead for Apple's cause, no less. Apparently the author considers that Apple is the only online music retail store worth considering. And that it needs to be protected as such. If that's not a defense for a de-facto monopoly I don't know what it is.

The author completely ignores the fact that worry most people about the iTMS and DRM in general: locking content in a proprietary solution. When you buy on the iTMS you can only use the content on your computer or your iPod. The iPod doesn't support any other form of DRM and the Apple DRM is not available to license. So if you have $200 worth of content from Apple and for some reason your computer crashes you lose all of it. And if you want to listen to your music on a device on another device you can't. And that's precisely what the french law proposes to get rid of. Make sure that the user has control on the content he bought, not the companies that make hardware and softwares.

penalize companies that harm consumers, not the ones that succeed by building better products.

Better products doesn't mean they don't harm consumers. In the long run locking yourself in a technology and having no technical means to get rid of it (legitimately as the law puts it) is a hidden suicide... I'm still waiting for a class action against Apple by users pissed that they can't use their content elsewhere than the Apple world. Then we'll see who is harming consumers (with a monopoly enforced by digital lockers).

Apple largely created the online market for legal music.

I think there were many other DRM solutions before Apple presented theirs.

Second, iTunes has lots of music. Largely because of the innovative iTunes FairPlay copy protection and digital rights management software, Apple persuaded major record labels to let them sell much of their best content online. The combination of simplicity and variety proved a huge winner.

There have been reports about the recent attemps by record labels wanting to change the price policy of the iTMS. The idea was to have new content more expensive and older content cheaper. That sounds totally fair. But Steve Jobs and its marketing decided that the unique price was better. It's funny that the technology provider (because of its market position) think they can impose how content owner should sell their stuff... The result is that there won't be a deal renewal, but the content will remain on the iTMS. The difference is that content owner could pull out their catalog at any time, turning the iTMS into a useless technology and the iPod owners in despair. The huge success of the iTMS will turn into a catastrophy... So in short I don't think the picture of labels being happy with an all in one solution (where they have no voice) is a realistic picture.

If the French gave away the codes, Apple would lose much of its rationale for improving iTunes. Right now, after the royalty payment to the label (around 65 cents) and the processing fee to the credit card company (as high as 23 cents), not to mention other costs, Apple's margin on 99-cent music is thin. Yet it continues to add free features to iTunes because it helps sell iPods.

At least it's clear to everyone what the FairPlay is about: sell iPods. That's the very reason why Apple make their best not to open it to any partner (just look at the flop of the iTunes phones).

Now would opening (doesn't mean breaking) Fairplay would boost the iTMS: yes. Would it boost music sells: yes. Would it boost iPod sales: likely if you can convert WMA DRM to Fairplay. So what is wrong about opening it ?

Apple argues that sharing the codes could make the pirates' job easy enough to wipe out the legal market.

That's considering licensing technology is a public publishing. AFAIK Microsoft Janus (DRM) is licensed to many companies and there's no tool online to crack it. This argument is just FUD created by Apple and spread by "journalists".

Agitators might claim that this is the very goal of the French bill: why else would it also reduce the maximum fine for consumers caught illegally downloading music from 300,000 euros (about $371,000) to just 38 euros (less than $47)?

It's funny how the journalist considers paying 300,000€ for downloading a track online is OK. The 38€ fine is per download. Only when a law is fair it can be respected.

Usually, rich countries don't meddle with others' intellectual property because they fear retaliation. So why don't the French fear retaliation now?

Retaliation against France. Now we have big words to defend Apple against France (one of its biggest market in Europe)... In short the author is saying: don't mess with a USAn company or we'll retaliate on other markets. I guess he/she must have a lot of Apple stocks to go so bold on an industrial (and actually a cultural) choice.

One reason may be that they have concluded France will never really compete. If the Internet will always have an American accent, why not go after it? Sometimes, the red flag of revolution is surprisingly hard to distinguish from the white flag of surrender.

There were 2 options in the law: global license which would be a tax on download or DRM interoperrability. Both are considered good routes to make the digital economy fair and flourish. So I see innovation possibilities where the author see surrender to a monopoly.

Before declaring pre-emptive war on iTunes, however, perhaps the French would do best to remember a lesson from 1789. Sometimes the very people calling for revolution are the ones who end up losing their heads.

So far I haven't heard any voice in France against the proposed law to defend iPod. All the voices are crying that there will be less space for private copy. So the author is just fantasazing and maybe he thinks Bush will attack the french (once more) to defend Apple. That will make the french even more proud...


Lilly Is Here

As any other father I want to tell the world that my baby Lilly was born yesterday (2006-04-26) at 21:35 in Hawaii. She weighs 3.9 kg (8.6 pounds) and measures 53cm (21 inches). She has dark hair and blue eyes.

It's both a wonderful and happy moment as much as a sad one. Unfortunately I couldn't be there for legal reasons. But Cecilia and the baby are doing fine so that's just enough to be happy. We'll be together in Europe around june.

Welcome to the world Lilly!


1366x768 & 750Go

In the modern world advertising for false information can be punished. Yet tech companies have found legal ways to cheat on their product specifications.

My LCD TV claimed to do 1366x768 pixels, as many (most) of them do. But when I plugged it to my computer only 1280x720 (720p) were available. I thought there might be something wrong in my setup even though I didn't notice any resizing effect typical for LCD (blurry when not in native). I only found out the trick with an HDBeat article. The TV does only have 1280x720 real pixels. They only pretend to have more due to the overscan found on analog TVs (analog TVs cut the borders of an image). So there will never be 1366x768 physical or displayed pixels. This number is just imaginary.

Seagate also announced a 750 GB harddisk drive a few days ago. But don't expect your OS to report 750 GB when you plug it. HDD manufacturers have decided a long time ago that 1 GB = 1,000,000 bytes and not 1,024x1,024 bytes. It didn't make such a difference for small disks. But now the difference is 34.75 GB (real bytes). If they keep the same trend, a 1 TB disk will actually contain 953GB (70GB or 5% less).


DRM myths

I don't want to become a DRM advocate, but when I read articles like this I feel like a more balanced view should be expressed.

Both Lessig and Stallman are smart people. But it turns out they are very idealistic, and unrealistic, in their opinion on DRM and freedom in general.

The values of the Free Software Movement are the freedom to cooperate, and the freedom to have control over your own life. You should be free to control the software in your computer, and you should be free to share it.

The GPL that Stallman wrote (or was the main driving force) doesn't give you the freedom to share. It is an obligation. You replace a freedom with a constraint. It really feels like someone is deciding for you what kind of freedom is good for you. So it's always surprising to see him attack other Open Source licenses (that sometimes give you all rights) in the name of freedom.

Now about DRM, the freedom given to people (restricted rights) is exactly what they paid for. If they want more rights they should pay more money, and if they agree on less rights, they should pay less. That's the very basic reason why renting a DVD is cheaper than buying it. And the market, in other words the consumers, will decide what kind of rights they want. It's just unfortunate that the whole content market is ruled by oligopolies (on movies and on music) and therefore the DRM offers/choices are very scarce. But this has nothing to do with why DRM is good or bad.

the whole point of DRM is to deny your freedom and prevent you from having control over the software you use to access certain data.

When smart people start using stereotypes that means there's something fishy going on. After all the whole GPL relies on copyright laws. And Stallman, as such, is a strong defender of copy rights (copyleft as they call it) and intellectual property. But apparently electronic ways to ensure the rights are always respected are not good. He probably considers that doing this in court is preferrable, even for people who earn no money on what they create (like most GPL devs do).


Second-Hand Digital Content ?

As the market for DRM is slowly maturing into a digital economy, it's interresting to think about how it's going to evolve. Namely what will happen to the content you paid (for a premium price given the real cost of the medium) after you don't want it anymore ?

So far you could sell your old vynils, CDs or DVDs to a second hand shop. And that created a real economy where people would purchase something they would keep for a few months and then get rid of it. But I think this possibility might soon become the past.

Consider the Managed Copy system introduced in future DRMs or the interroperability law in France. It allows you to go from one DRM format to another. But it's just a copy, the original is still intact. So if you sell the copy, you still have the original. You become a distributor and not a second hand seller, especially since you have the digital ability to make thousands of copies to sell. I don't think any content creator, major label or studio will ever let you do that.

And it's too bad, because given the digital possibility one could buy a DRMed movie (as in ownership, not renting) watch it, and then sell it for (almost) the same price. It would be fair to the buyer since the copy he would buy would be like brand new. Then this buyer could watch it and sell it after for (almost) the same price. etc. And if you put a website in the middle that acts as the middle man to find buyers/sellers for a content, it can be instantaneous. That means, the content you buy would be just as valuable as the price you paid, minus the price you resell it. It could be 0 in some case.

It could even make you earn money if the content is in high demand and there's no offer to sell it (the rule of offer vs demand). As in the analold world some content could be produced at a limited amount of items (DRMed copies) and the collectors would rush to buy one and maybe sell it for twice the price or even more. They could also sell a rare copy 10 years later for an expensive price (if all other copies have been destroyed).

Too bad the current DRMs won't let you do that...


The Cure for Information Overload

I just saw this link on Kurzweil's website. Apparently it's on to something The Cure for Information Overload. Maybe a way to crash google's search engine.