Apple, the tyrant of online content?

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I'm beginning to understand how people with MP3 players that cannot play Apple's FairPlay-protected music files feel, but from a different angle.

In my previous article Hope for a better Asian film/television industry, I stated that we need online stores from which to buy and download Asian-made television and movie content, all without virtual geographic boundaries and all without prejudice or bias to the producers of that content. Only then would the real market emerge, enabling countless talented people in Hong Kong and Asia to do their stuff and create excellent content for the world to enjoy. Two other conditions though were protection of the content to prevent casual piracy and iPod compatibility. The answer to these two conditions was obviously Apple's FairPlay.

The problem? Apple doesn't license FairPlay to anyone else to use although there were suggestions at one stage that companies like Amazon could resell content from Apple's iTunes store via a special arrangement. The result? Only one company, Apple, holds the power to allow independent film and video producers to sell their work online. Apple has the power to decide who can sell and who can't sell their content. They also have the power to decide which content can be sold where. In other words, they have (or soon will) effectively become the largest controller of music and video content in the world.

We could ask someone else to build another content protection system but it would be difficult and time consuming to build something with all the functionality that the iTunes store has; accounts, monthly 'allowances', coupons; and much of that functionality is probably patented by Apple or some other large corporation so that we wouldn't be permitted to duplicate it anyway.

In other words, unless Apple opens an iTunes store in Asia, unless Apple allows independent television and movie content producers to sell their wares through the iTunes store, unless Apple allows the same content to be accessible worldwide, then we; the entertainment talent in Asia; are up the creek without a paddle.

Again, I'm beginning to understand how the non-iPod MP3 player people feel. For me though, the problem is one of not being able to sell the product rather than not being able to play and enjoy the product. If things continue the way they are now, Apple will soon have complete worldwide control of online audio and video content sales regardless of how hard Microsoft and Real work to prevent this scenario. As much as I like Apple, allowing them or any other single entity to have absolute control would not be a good thing.

Perhaps what we really need is an open-source content protection system so that anybody with the desire can set up their own online video content store, selling to anybody regardless of the operating system on their device.

Any takers?

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11 Responses to “Apple, the tyrant of online content?”
  1. 杜格拉斯 says:

    complete worldwide control of online audio and video content = bt

  2. minggieming says:

    Setup a competitor run against Eolasia.com. It would be even nicer for all Asian music industry yelling "wake up!" to Apple.

  3. Stephen says:

    杜格拉斯, if there is a passcode or serial number to be entered first before the actual content is useable, won't that solve the problem. Obviously, this passcode or serial number must be purchased, just like you'd when you want to turn the free trial software/shareware into an official application for continued use. The passcode and/or serial number could be a rotating one to prevent those who purchase the content and then upload it along with the passcode. Just a thought.

  4. Rowan says:

    I have read an article on Friday's SCMP. Some iPod owner were deafened by the devices and they are suing Apple. Oh! What should I say? Don't they know how to turn the volume?

  5. alexthemans says:

    Ciao again, Greg and Stephen!

    I hope my statements below won't be an offence to you.

    Stephen, may I say something about your proposed passcodes?
    Actually Windows Media DRM has done something similar to that, but entering neither passcode nor serial number. Oppositely, if code validation is adopted for an DRM, I think it is not safe since there exists some programs called key generator, or keygen. For a skilled hacker group, it is not impossible to write that.

    Greg, there is already a revolution to Apple's "rule". Have you ever read this news?
    http://www.engadget.com/2006/03/27/denmark-may-join-france-and-demand-apple-open-its-drm/ Denmark may join France and demand Apple open its DRM. If this demand takes places, it may be a gospel to a number of online music stores.

    By the way, I have searched MS website. Mac can play Windows Media DRM-ed files, but only the eldest version of DRM only. It should be much better to null support.

    Greg, I think you are interested in a news: http://news.com.com/2100-1023-256277.html, entitled "Researchers face legal threats over SDMI hack". However, I don't think that researchers should be accused, since they have just found a flaw of SDMI. They have done nothing wrong in actual.

  6. Ice says:

    I like this article. I like a more fair world with open competition. However, some people are really too smart, like Steve perhaps where some people just easily get trapped by a nice "package".

    Besides, Mr Ho, I would liek to say you could take very good photos as well. I guess it is very difficult in order to capture those "Frogs" and all other moving objects. I like your big dogs as well.

  7. Lindsay says:

    Good to find some discussion on DRM in HK. BTW, do you plan to enable RSS on your site?

    Sun started to push an open source DRM scheme. Interested to know how it moves forward. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/08/22/sun_open_source_drm/

  8. lindsay says:

    I found an open source DRM intitative from SUN

    http://slashdot.org/articles/03/04/03/2059223.shtml?tid=141

  9. davidchan says:

    Does any body know the Open DRM Technology Workshop will be organized at Cyberport?
    The speech intends to contribute to solving this problem by elaborating on a few basic points:

    1. A product of a mind is the (intellectual) property of that mind, but the associated rights are determined by society.
    2. Creators have the right to control how their intellectual property is distributed and consumers have the right to access it using the device of his choice.
    3. Everybody has the right to know how technology handles the intellectual property they deal with, i.e. open specifications and Open Source Software implementation.
    http://www.iresource.hk/v30/drm_workshop_intro.php?lang=eng

  10. 河國榮 says:

    David,

    the problem with your 'Open' DRM Technology is that it only supports Windows Media which (a) is not an open standard, and (b) is not supported on Apple's OS X because (c) Microsoft decides where their technology is implemented.

    I would have attended the session if not for this obvious bias and limitation.

    (curiously, the session is being held at Cyberport which is where Microsoft has its Hong Kong headquarters)

    regards,
    Gregory

  11. Sammy says:

    It seems Chillout Media Player itself is a java-based open source media player supporting Open DRM, it could be an alternatives to Windows Media Player. Chillout is an implementation project of OpenDRM.

    I only checked above information from the following web site, I didn't try this Chillout yet.

    Reference:
    http://wiki.dmpf.org/index.php/Chillout_Setup_and_Development_Guide#Software_requirements
    http://chillout.dmpf.org/