Digital Realities

by Dave Michels

When technology shifts occur slowly, dramatic changes in how we live take place. Electricity allowed us to work late at night as opposed to until sundown. But when technology changes are more rapid – we tend to force it to adapt to our defined norms – baby steps.

[eventually this post will get to the Protect IP Act]

SIP trunks are a great example. I’ve worked with some carriers that allow multiple SIP calls over a single trunk. They charge per minute instead per trunk. However, this confuses administrators. A trunk has always represented a single call path. The easy solution is to force the SIP trunks to behave “normally.” This means to keep things simple, if we want to support 5 concurrent calls, simply set up 5 trunks and 5 sets of credentials instead of one. ???

Adapting new technology to the old framework, is very common, and often necessary for us to get our minds around it. The Kindle and Nook allow an ebook owner to lend a book to someone else for 2 weeks. But during the loan, the owner no longer has access to the book. Why? This made perfect sense with physical books, but what is the logic in erasing the owner’s content during the loan period? It simply doesn’t make sense in the digital era to break the technology.

Sometimes, we find new technology threatening – and run from it or kill it before realizing its true power. Sonic Blue was an early DVR company that figured out how to analyze recordings to detect commercials. It promised its customers the ability to accurately skip commercials with a single touch of the remote. The company is gone – GE, then owner of NBC, litigated the company to death. GE saw a major threat to its revenue. Fast forward to the present and online video content providers like Hulu use the DVR concept with reverse logic – you can skip the show, but not the commericals. If Sonic Blue were around today, it could be booming with a revenue model that the broadcasters would love. Think of how many consumers would accept a free DVR in lieu of not being able to skip commericals. They could record their favorite shows and watch them later, for free. If only we had decent commercial detection technology.

Speaking of digital recordings, the recording industries are having a tough time with digital content. The past decade made it fairly easy to both create and copy high quality content with common inexpensive tools. Bands can create their demo cuts on a home PC instead of an expensive recording studio. I generally now prefer to watch movies in my home theater than a real theater. Industry revenues are dwindling, and it is creating all kinds of panic and havoc.

The general solution is for these industries to adapt – or die. their models were created with a different set of assumptions. All technologies have a lifespan. It was a shame to see those factories that built steam engines fold, but we just didn’t need them any more. That’s life. Trying to force people to ride a steam train wasn’t the right answer.

I don’t mean to trivialize the matter. I am not a fan of reality TV, and I am sorry to see the economics shifting against quality dramatic television. The revenues came from the commericals, and I am one to skip them too. The bed that I contributed to making seems to involve reality television. I understand also that piracy destroys the economics of Hollywood blockbusters, and that could mean no more blockbusters – but the fix isn’t in copy prevention technologies – that’s a losing battle. Actually, Netflix streaming has been a surprisingly powerful deterrent to piracy. Why pirate when so much content is available on demand at a reasonable price? The monthly fee paid is less than the cost and hassle of copying, downloading, storing, and finding pirated content (so they tell me).

And this brings me to the Protect IP Act –  legislation sponsored by recording industries. Since the primary websites that facilitate piracy are outside the US jurisdiction, Protect IP provides a system to censor the Internet – the content that crosses the US. If you can’t stop the pirates abroad, stop the access to their sites domestically. It actually makes a lot of sense in theory. But censorship is difficult, and the Internet today is very powerful. China censors the Internet because it wants to restrict “harmful information” – who can argue with that? A lot of us can, because what is harmful to one is valuable to another. We went through this with freedom of the press before… this is why a book on how to build a bomb is legal to write, publish, and sell in the US. The concept of censoring content is easily agreed – the actual actions of censorship are difficult.

The Protect IP act proposes to censor the most powerful democratizing medium that is currently transforming the world  – to protect old media models and wallets.

Check out Protect IP. Here are two sources.

PROTECT IP Act Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

For more information, check out

Protecting The Safe Harbors Of The DMCA And Protecting Jobs.
Protect IP/ E-Parasite and the Impending US Firewall
What Would The Movie Business Be Like If The MPAA Succeeded In Killing The VCR?

The bills – like many in Congress – are misleadingly named. The House bill is called the E-PARASITES Act. The Senate bill is called the Protect IP Act. Both are backed by big powerful lobbying groups, and both bring censorship to the Internet as a means to reduce piracy.The printing press was a powerful device for mass communications. Around 60 years, television took the top spot of mass media – and it remains far more tightly controlled. It takes money to run a television network. The Internet is up and coming and represents are far more democratic force, but it still has a way to go to dethrone prime time TV. We need to protect the Internet – the rules we impose now will have lasting effects on future generations.