FreedomYUG: Is Your Home Clouded?

Kinda cloudy!

Your home may (soon) no longer have the freedoms you’ve always had.

Look carefully at your home. Your old audio tapes may be gathering dust, if they haven’t already disappeared from your home. All your compact discs might just be scratching their backs in disbelief at your neglect. Likewise, the movies in your DVD collection vie for your attention. Your bookshelves may be the hardest hit. Books at home are rarely thumbed, but are displayed prominently enough to impress guests. Yet you’re listening to even more music, watching more videos, and reading much more than you’ve ever done before. So what’s going to happen to your home?

Home Sweet Home.bmp — going digital

Let’s start with music at home. Stereo systems are shipping with USB ports and card-reader slots, plus an iPod dock-connector. Folks just plug in several hundred hours of music on their USB data-sticks, or the cards from their mobile phones. I play my music collection off my personal MP3 player to any stereo system, via a simple audio cable. Most parties I attend have the host, or the assigned DJ, playing music sourced from a laptop, over high-powered amplifiers and other gear. Newer home-stereo systems allow users to receive music streamed over Wi-Fi, with the music either stored on a home computer, or somewhere in the Web-cloud.

The story is similar for movies, with TV sets sporting similar ports, and even buttons to take you directly to YouTube. This decade, you may well see the disappearance of books from your home, with the advent of ebook readers, tablets, and other devices — including smartphones that are capable of displaying ebook formats. So homes will soon have a lot of real estate freed, emptying those cupboards and shelves of books, tapes and discs. Time to rejoice!

More space is not freedom

Spaciousness should not be confused with freedom. In fact, if you’re not careful, you might suddenly find your new lifestyle may no longer be free. You may have several different devices, as would the others at your home. Are you authorised to share your music across all your own devices, especially when these may be from different vendors? Can you legally share your music with the devices of other members of your household? Ditto for all your movies, and especially your ebooks collection? Heck! You might just miss your old analogue days, when sharing music with the folks in your home was just a matter of sharing a tape or a disc. Great friendships in life have started over sharing books with neighbours. Try that with your vast collection of ebooks today!

Take a look at the cat-fight between Apple and Palm. Though Steve Jobs made amicable noises about selling music without digital restrictions (that is, DRM-free), Apple’s music store, iTunes, does not allow a Palm Pre smartphone to purchase and sync music with it. The Palm attempted to do this by masquerading as an iPod, or even through its WebOS — but Apple responded with software patches that scuttled such sharing.

Okay, so let’s get this. Books brought knowledge home. Today, ebooks will divide a home, and forbid the free — as in muft and mukt — sharing of knowledge. A home in which books and music cannot be shared between family members and neighbours, is a home with no culture. Such a home may just be a battleground for brands trying to trap individual members into different vendor lock-ins.

“I love you, and you love me, but my Samsung won’t talk to your Nokia; my Creative Zen won’t touch your iPod; and I am forbidden from sharing books from my Kindle to your Android tablet. Oopsie! Even my favourite album can’t be shared between all my own devices.”

Alarmingly, children may no longer share their school syllabus material, now digitised and served off laptops and school websites, with their younger siblings. In such a home, sharing through love may just bring on litigation, from lawyers suing on behalf of various publishers.

Is this how you wish your home to be? How can you bring freedom back into your home, with the dazzling onward march of technology? Share your thoughts with me — because sharing begins at home. And I’ll share the best ideas with everyone in my next article.

Verbatim copying, publishing and distribution of this article is encouraged in any language and medium, so long as this copyright notice is preserved. In Hindi, muft means “free-of-cost”, and mukt means “with freedom”.
Feature image courtesy: Extra Medium. Reused under the terms of CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0 License.
  • Ted Mittelstaedt

    As long as I can put a microphone connected to a digital recorder in front of my stereo speakers then all of the DRM technology won’t be worth spit. Same goes for putting a video camera in front of my TV set.

    Legally, sharing within the home is permitted under fair use, as long as it is done while recognizing the recording as a discrete entity. In other words, if you and your sister like the same song, then you can pass the song back and forth digitally just as you would if the song is a CD that you passed back and forth. In this respect there is no difference between the “old” way of CD’s and records and the “new” way of digital recordings. Meaning, that you and your sister cannot both listen to the song AT THE SAME TIME in your personal cars or personal MP3 players, but if you play it on the stereo and both are listening to it then that is OK or if you give her a digital copy and delete yours, that is legally protected under Fair Use. The one exception to this you mentioned is the “used textbook” problem of material specifically licensed for a single person’s use – but the textbook publishers have gotten around that in the past simply by reformatting the same material into a “new” edition then re-releasing the textbook again. Likely you will never be able to “share” online material between siblings because the online publishers will do the same – every year they will release a “new” version of the curriculum with nothing other than the section header names changed and the sections switched around to different locations.

    In reality, though, the new ways of handling media give tremendous freedom. For example you can purchase a single BlueRay disc of a movie, then rip it with a program like AnyDVD to a .MP4 file, then put that file on a media server such as a Linux system running MediaTomb, or even a Windows 7 system running WMP12 with UpNp Media Sharing enabled. Then you can watch the movie on any personal player or TV set that can talk to the media server. The only part of that process that is illegal is the actual ripping – but once ripped, it is perfectly legal to watch the movie as an .MP4 file instead of watching it off the BlueRay disc – once again, due to Fair Use – as long as the same discrete entity restriction is followed.

    And even better – you can take that movie .mp4 file and load it up into a video editor and slice out any objectional material such as gratuitous sex scenes that add nothing to the story line (such as the homo gay-on-gay scene in Star Trek Phase II Blood and Fire) and convert R-rated material into PG material that your kids can watch.

    And speaking of that, there is a growing body of material that is absolutely fantastic material that has never seen the inside of a Hollywood studio – such as “Big Buck Bunny” and would never see the light of day if we did not have the new methods of storing and distributing material.

    As for the supposed “death” of CD’s that is a joke. MP3′s do not have sufficient audio quality for a real audiophile and none of the online services appear to be distributing in .WAV file format. It may be the case that .MP3 will become the dominant means of distributing “pop” music such as hip-hop or even jazz, where music quality is unimportant, but CD’s will still be around for a long, long, time for music such as classical where there is a huge difference. Even 192k sampling rate does not match a wav file off a CD in terms of quality, and anyone who spends more than $300 on a home stereo system can tell the difference.

    While undoubtedly there will continue to be attempts by the content creators to impede redistribution of media copied from rental services (such as Netflix’s attempts to block copying of movies, and Redbox using special “rental” versions of DVD’s that have extra copy protection on them) there is nothing wrong with that – you ARE after all, renting those, not buying them. But with actual purchase of content (ie: purchase of the right to play a copy of the content) the creators cannot legally prevent backup and archival copies – the US Supreme Court decided that back in the 70′s and 80′s during the VCR wars – so there will always be software to do that.
    Indeed, the “rolling” nature of BlueRay encryption means that you will have to be able to do this because ultimately when BlueRay players that are no longer supported by their manufacturers with firmware upgrades are unable to play the latests discs (due to new encryption schemes) you will need to rip movies to unencrypted formats to continue to use your equipment.

  • http://www.niyam.com/ Niyam Bhushan

    thanks Ted for your informative comment and views. – Regards, Niyam

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