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Will you boycott HD with Mike?

Kevin C. Tofel

Anyone who thought there would be a run on HDTVs, HD-DVD or Blu-Ray players, set-top boxes or high-def DVRs can relax and take a deep breath.Whew! There will be plenty of these devices available because Mike Evangelist is encouraging as many people as he can to boycott HD. Really! We'll state up front that we're not overjoyed when we hear terms like DRM, HDCP and AACS, but we're not running towards an analog cliff like mindless lemmings either.

Let's see what Mike's buzz is all about here and determine if he's on the right path, shall we?

According to Mike, the entire industry is re-writing fair use and will have the ability to modify the rules going forward. Honestly, there's more to "fair use" concepts than just what the video industry has to say. The reality is, just like software, we purchase licenses to view or use content. It's basically an eternal rental agreement: you own the "fair use" of viewing or using something that you purchased the rights for. All you've really purchased that you can physically hold is perhaps a DVD disc.

Let's go a step farther with the software analogy: suppose you purchased the license to an application and you have that application on DVD. Can you run around and install that application on every PC you own, not to mention your neighbor's PC? In some cases, you can (not that we condone that), but it's becoming increasingly difficult due to registration codes and hardware configuration monitoring. The fact is: it shouldn't be easy to do this as you're basically screwing the creator, owner and distributor of that intellectual property. Doesn't that same argument hold true for the video industry?

Mike also mentions the "analog sunset" in the AACS agreement which adopters agree to limit output to standard definition on analog equipment after December 31, 2010. Additionally, the agreement calls for no AACS-licensed players to work over analog interfaces starting in 2014. Mike, this might sound evil, but let's use another analogy: the DTV transition. We're shutting down the analog TV spectrum on February 17, 2009. Why are we doing this? To provide a higher quality customer experience for television consumers, to reuse the spectrum for public service and to help put additional dollars in the Federal budget by auctioning off the then unused signals. Exactly how is that a bad thing, first of all, and better yet, isn't that fairly similar to the "analog sunset" in the AACS agreement? We're trying to move on to bigger and better things here, so the sunsetting of older technology isn't bad in our eyes. Besides, since a good portion of analog-capable sets will be rendered fairly useless by 2014, what's the concern?

Have we read the whole AACS agreement? No, and for Mike's efforts to read through some or all of it, we give him an HDBeat high-five. We'll even go on record to share our grumblings about all of the content protection issues in the digital video space as well; hell, we do that as often as anyone else.

Boycotting HD and trying to rally others because of FUD? No way. We're on the same side here, but we differ in our approach and our sense of the reality of the situation. By all means, the folks that want to boycott HD can be our guest; that just means more choices on the retail shelves at our local electronics store and more high-def viewing in our homes due to better technology. For that, we thank you.

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