Friday, January 21, 2005


Matt Haughey of PVRblog has a good post up about how ridiculous notions of IP in the digital age are really stifling innovation.

Lawsuits are killing innovation. It's a common story in the world of technology. Any time a company produces a disruptive technology that does something cool, they have to have a legal department that is bigger than their engineering unit to survive, and that sucks for business, sucks for customers, and sucks for the technology industry. I work around lawyers all day and I wish this was a bigger issue with the public.

Anything that helps customers enjoy TV, movies, or music is a target for lawsuits. We saw it with the Rio mp3 player (what, exactly, was illegal about playing a mp3 on a portable player?). We saw it with ReplayTV and TiVo. We see it in the entire DVD region-coding disaster that gets region-free players pulled from the US Market. The content company dinosaurs are so wed to their antiquated business models that they'll send off their legal department to attack at the slightest provocation (this includes imagined potential profit losses).

At this point, TiVo has a lot of customers and a lot of supporters in the US. I believe if anything, they need to move more of their resources into technology innovation and damn the torpedoes -- continue to make technology that makes customers happy, regardless of what Hollywood thinks. I believe if there is a concerted effort by the content industry to kill TiVo, it would not be successful like it was with ReplayTV, as there are just too many (happy, well-off, voting) TiVo customers to grapple with, much less the court of opinion that rarely goes to Hollywood's advantage.

TiVo, every day it's looks more and more like you're finally on the ropes, but it's time to start fighting back.

Agreed. And, all the technology companies involved in this stuff should find ways to band together and present a united front, mobilizing some of their happy customers on their behalf as well.

One of the most ridiculous "features" that many (all?) mp3 player manufacturers have is that they prevent you from uploading mp3s from them back to a computer. This is an incredibly annoying feature, which of course does absolutely nothing to prevent illegal piracy. I mean, you can pass the things around on USB thumb drives or burn them to CD or email them or whatever. MP3 players basically are USB thumb drives with a bit of software and an earphone jack.

At this point, if I were, say, Apple, I'd be just daring the industry to go after me on something like that. Just pull it out of the next firmware release and see what they do.