26 November 2007

IBM invents DVD advertising for The Man

I read about this on the Pure Distortion blog. It is a very impressive blog and rightly won a blog of note entry recently. It is written by the geek for the geek, so enjoy.

"A method wherein contents of DVDs may be restricted based upon purchased certificates is provided. The certificates allow for secured information on playback. Specifically, whenever a DVD is to be played, a certificate is consulted to determine whether the content of the DVD should be played with or without commercial interruptions. If the certificates provide for commercial interruptions, then commercials can be obtained from an online service that renders commercials on demand, or from the DVD itself. In such a case, the content of the DVD may be interspersed with commercials."[1]

Now that is useful. Considering that I do not go to the cinema nor watch television because I dislike advertisements I can't control. Considering that I built a collection of DVDs partially because the DVD rental shops in my area think I am a shady character and because I would like to own the untainted films in all their DVD quality splendour - sans ads.

I have been an IBM fanboy to some extent. They build super dooper computers and then run Linux on them. They provide the Joker to Micro$oft's Batman. Or at least they did. This is outrageous, and like all the other industries where they tried insane technological hampers (particularly CDs, I still dare you to ask me about rootkit software), it will only serve to piss a dwindling consumer market off even further.

They are planning this little word from their sponsors on HD-DVD systems. Since one of the specs for a compatible HD system is an Internet connection, they see no problem with using that connection for pausing your movie, then downloading certain advertisements[2], shoving them down your throat and then proceeding with your HD-DVD. You know, the one you paid for because it has better digital quality than your local cinema could ever muster with their analogue reels. The one where you thought you could determine your own bathroom breaks and adjust the volume level as you see fit. The one you bought because the television screenings have advertisements every 10 minutes and you are tired of little old ladies with their cell phones next to you or some lonely housewife with her hell-spawn offspring deciding the cinema is a good place to have a feud.

So now you upgraded your television monitor to a HD compatible one, you purchased a HD player, you have the whole thing set up according to the specs with an ethernet connection and 5.1 surround sound, only to see Now for a word from our sponsors "insert brand names here".

To add insult to injury, South Africa has among the most expensive bandwidth rates in the world. We do not have free Internet here - even our dial-up lines are sucking us dry. In effect, we pay for HD advertisements by buying an HD version of our favourite film, and then pay for the advertisements again by paying Telkom's ransom. Ransom, because they hold your paid-for line ransom. You can hardly call that rental or payment for services rendered. Have you ever tried to phone Telkom's customer care line? The panpipes will cause an instant angina.

I have been vocal about piracy in the past. It is unethical and all that jazz, but from a consumer perspective, if I download a cracked version of my favourite film, I get all the benefits of having a DVD copy minus all the inconveniences like region encoding, dual-layers that none of my DVD-ROM drives can grasp, trying to play MPEG format on Linux (that comes from my masochistic side so I take full credit for that), paying through my nose (new DVDs sell here for about R200 or roughly $29, with older titles going for about R80 or roughly $12) and soon - advertisements. If they carry on like this, the list of minor inconveniences will outweigh the list of conveniences sooner or later - in fact, they already do and we haven't even seen a full acceptance of the HD/Blu-Ray format on our shores. Sooner or later, the pirates will have the last laugh.

[1] Zats Not Funny! Blog
[2] Ars Technica - no, not butt cheek technology

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