Friday, February 03, 2006

Ipods can save the world

I've long held the position that legislation and court decisions regarding technology and its uses will generally skew towards the reactionary and restrictive, because judges and senators are generally out of touch with cutting edge devices and concepts. As I mentioned in an earlier post, these are the same people who still think it's funny that they can't program a VCR's clock. With a senator, it's even worse. I'd love to poll the senate to find out how many of the 100 have their secretaries print out e-mails for them to read.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone that when you give an Ipod to an 82-year-old senator, he starts to take a more common sense position on piracy, fair use and copyright protections.

The Senate Commerce Committee has been mulling the concept of broadcast flags, which are Digital Rights Management script sent by the content provider with the show/movie/song. The bill would allow the FCC to require device makers to build flag recognition into their products, and thus allow the content provider to have veto power on what you can and can't do with the show/song/movie. In essence, the flags would take today's technology and trap it in amber. New technologies would be unable to accept the content you want to use. If this happened 20 years ago, there would be no VCR. Ten years ago, and there's be no Ipod.

Sen. Ted Stevens, an enormously powerful and kinda crazy Senator, had been a vocal proponent of the crippling technology. Then his daughter bought him an Ipod, and his tone has changed considerably. Once he got his hands on the technology and saw how easy it became to listen to his favorite music or watch a favorite show on his own schedule, the idea of banning such convenience made less sense to him.

That's a startling development, and it proves that the unknown is a powerful factor in technological disputes. Now there's an organization that's fundraising to buy Ipods for every senator, so a Stevens-like awakening can happen on all front. If you got a little cash to spare, send it their way. Your TiVo will thank you.

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