But every once in a while you see something that when you read it, makes you actively doubt your sanity. And your sight. Because as you're reading it, you're thinking "I cannot be reading this. I have gone insane, and I am off in Wonderland. Any moment, I shall see an semi-invisible cat." Because that's the only explanation. You're nuts. It's either that or the people making the words you're reading are just...either insane or so clueless as to appear insane. It's Clarkian, in a way.
Take for example, the lawsuit filed by Media Rights Technology, (MRT) against Apple, Adobe, Real, and Microsoft. Now, I've read the press release from MRT's CEO, Hank Risan on this. It's almost incoherent. It starts with a rambling history of the MRT executive's association with the Museum of Musical Instruments, and how they almost got sued by RIAA because a Microsoft update had created a hole in their copy protection. Now, why it was MOMI's fault, (The MOMI web site appears to be defunct, so no point in providing a link) I have no idea. I really cannot see how RIAA would think that MOMI's DRM being circumventable was their fault. But I imagine, that like a lot of people, they realized they didn't have the resources to fight RIAA, so they caved. They then created MRT, a company devoted to solving the Stream Ripping Problem. (First of all, this is a problem? Most of the streams out there have all the quality of Weird Al's first recording studio. Who the hell is spending tons of time saving this stuff?)
Their solution was their X1 Secure Recording Control, prototyped at MRT's Bluebeat.com web site, their slogan, "Digital Radio Done Right". THe release then rambles on about how cool they are, and how evil stream ripping is. No, really, here's a sample:
Soon after, Bianca and I formed Media Rights Technologies (MRT) and assembled a talented team of hardware and software engineers, as well as experts on intellectual property. Our goal was to solve the core Stream Ripping problem in digital media and to limit the copyright infringement liability of content distributors and educational institutions. In 2004, we launched BlueBeat.com, which allowed the Recording Industry to test our X1 Secure Recording Control prototype. By 2006, BlueBeat was granted the first global webcasting license, which included an anti-Stream Ripping provision, from the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) in London, so that BlueBeat could further test secure webcasting, even in China. We also launched a popular Mark Twain MySpace profile (http://www.myspace.com/69088237) which demonstrates how media can be enjoyed and traded in a fully DMCA-compliant manner.
In 2001, Cary Sherman, President of the RIAA, shared with me his prediction that the Stream Ripping of performance-based content would significantly impact digital entertainment revenues. Cary was right: according to recent MRT studies, Stream Rippers are growing at the rate of well over 15 million units per month, with over 250 million user downloads in the last few years, costing the entertainment industry $20 to $50 billion annually. The problem has now eclipsed P2P file sharing as the #1 form of digital piracy.
Yes. That's right. Internet Radio Stream Ripping is now the number one form of digital piracy. Who says? Why MRT. Based on real studies. Who did the studies? Why MRT, who else? Here we go 'round the Mulberry Bush, while dropping a lot of aaaac-id
Then we get into stream rippers. First, Hank goes after Microsoft, who, according to him, provide a stream ripper, aka Sound Recorder. In trying to make a case for just how bad Sound Recorder in Vista is, he posts this bit of scatological spew:
Microsoft has even built into the Vista OS a native ripper, called Sound Recorder, which will deaggregate performance-based streams of unlimited duration and convert them into unprotected WMA downloads, easily uploaded onto Zune players. This year, Microsoft's Q1 profit surged 65 percent to $4.93 billion, boosted by sales of Vista, while the Recording Industry's profits have plummeted.
That's right. MICROSOFT and VISTA are to blame for the financial woes of the recording industry. Not bad music, not suckling at the teat of derivative acts like it was manna, not hanging onto a business model that no one agrees with, not foisting no - talent hacks off on the music - buying public. No. Sound Recorder. Are you feeling a bit off yet? Maybe the old mental baseline getting a little wobbly?
yes, i know, some of you have gone to Bluebeat's web site already and are dying to point out a bit of an issue, but i already know. have patience dear readers, all things at their proper time.
So now, MRT is, according to them, the bestest thing EVAR. Even RIAA agrees, well sort of:
The MRT X1 Recording Control solution has been proven by the RIAA and IFPI to be effective against Stream Ripping, and has been designed for rapid deployment on a RAND basis. RIAA executive Vice President and General Counsel Steven Marks comments, "We do see stream ripping as harmful to the music industry. It's an issue we've brought to the attention of Webcasters, but so far, nothing has been done about it, even though there are technical solutions that do exist. We've encouraged Internet radio companies to speak with MRT because, from what we've seen, it certainly looks like a technical solution."
Now, to me, this is reminiscent of the Crest tagline: "4 out of 5 dentists recommend a toothpaste with fluoride". Of course, the implication is "...just like Crest". To me, this looks like RIAA is saying "Hey, this anti-stream stuff that MRT has is cool, and a solution to the problem, you should think about using it." That's not exactly "OMGWTFKHAAAAAN!!!111, MRT IS TEH B0MBZ0R, U MUST USE THEM!!!11"
But then again, I'm not Hallucinatin' Hank, so, I imagine my foul embrace of logic and lucidity are working against me here.
But then we get to the real crux:
If the Internet Radio Equality Act is to pass, it must include an anti-Stream Ripping provision.
On March 1, 2007, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) issued rates for Internet broadcasting covering a period from 2006 to 2010. The CRB rates represent a 30 percent increase per year in royalties retroactive to 2006. The "per performance" rates also include a $500 minimum fee per channel. The basis for the rate hikes was primarily a result of the webcasting community failing to adopt content control technology that would maintain the integrity of the streamed performance. Currently every webcaster, except for BlueBeat.com, allows consumers to Stream Rip entire webcasts, enabling the deaggregation copyrighted content, turning every performance into an acquisition.
Okay, sense is restoring itself. Hank wants money. However, with the current backlash against DRM, spawned in different ways by Sony, Apple, EMI and others, well, I imagine he's not getting a lot of takers. However, if you make it illegal to stream un-DRM'd music, well, then all of a sudden Hank has a different future, and it's spelled $$$$$. This explains why he's such a fan of the PERFORM Act. I mean, after all, why wouldn't he be. Getting the government to force the use of a technology you market is every technology seller's dream. I bet just saying "PERFORM" gives Hank a woody.
But he can't just rag on un-DRM'd streams. Because if all he does is rag on unprotected streams, then he gets the whole we already HAVE DRM, stupid. So he has to deal with that, right? Of course, and he does so by saying "Existing DRM is imperfect, so therefore it is enabling DMCA violations". No, really:
SoundExchange and the Recording Industry argued correctly that their content was vulnerable to copying and redistribution by consumers. This is because webcasters like Clear Channel and Yahoo have failed to provide adequate protection for their copyrighted content, instead using unprotected media solutions created by Adobe, Microsoft, Real Networks and Apple.
This is like saying that because your home security system is imperfect, you encouraged someone to burgle your home.
Ow, my head just went 'splody.
Again, just to be clear, Hank is arguing that imperfect DRM, which from what I can tell, is all DRM that isn't MRT's, enables and encourages copyright violation. Of course, he has to argue that, because if he doesn't, then his lawsuit goes down the toilet. Hank is saying that circumventable DRM, which is, by definition, all of it, is the same thing as encouraging people to violate copyright. So, in Hank's eyes, Apple and everyone who isn't an MRT licensee is actively encouraging and enabling copyright violation. Time for the DMCA C&D letters to go out.
Because it's not just that they aren't adequately protecting streams. No, it's more that they aren't sending large checks to MRT:
MRT and BlueBeat have developed a technological measure which effectively controls access to copyrighted material. That product, the X1 SeCure Recording Control, has been tested by the industry's standards bodies, the RIAA and IFPI, and has been proven effective against stream ripping, while protecting privacy and limiting infringement liability for users, distributors and academic institutions. It has been designed for rapid deployment on a reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) basis.
Therefore, Media Rights Technologies (MRT) and BlueBeat.com have issued cease and desist letters to Microsoft, Adobe, Real Networks and Apple with respect to the production or sale of such products as the Vista OS, Adobe Flash Player, Real Player, Apple iTunes and iPod.
MRT asserts Apple, Microsoft, Real and Adobe have produced billions of these products without regard for the DMCA or the rights of American Intellectual Property owners, actively avoiding the use of MRT's technologies. Failure to comply with this demand could result in a federal court injunction to any of the above named parties to cease production or sale of their products and/or the imposition of statutory damages of at least $200 to $2500 for each product distributed or sold.
That's the insane part. It's not that they are pissed that Apple, Microsoft and the rest aren't using "effective" DRM. It's that they aren't MRT customers!
This has nothing to do with "protecting artists" or "preserving intellectual property" or any of the other blowhard verbiage that Hank and the rest are wrapping this in. This is about greed. Hank came up with a product that he figured would be not only a shoo-in, but damned near required by law, and everyone ignored it because it's stupid. This isn't a story about a small company crusading against evil giants, it's about greed on a scale that makes Cortez and Pizarro look like ascetics. The amount of ego and delusion it takes to say "If you aren't using our product you're encouraging theft" beggars the imagination.
Hank Risan and MRT are nothing more than wannabe Robber Barons, and they're so worried that they missed the golden age of DRM that they're trying to create another situation a la AT&T during their halcyon days when the US Government made it illegal to use a different phone system.
There's two really sad points here. First, I can bypass Hank's bullshit DRM with a 1/8" stereo plug on a cable plugged into the sound input on my MacBook Pro. That's right. His entire bullshit is bypassed by fifty cents worth of cheap audio gear. If I spend more money, say five bucks, I can get a really good cable. Will it be a perfect reproduction? No. But it'll be close enough, at least the quality of a cassette recording. Yeah, that analog transition's a bitch, ain't it Hank. (Watch, he'll push to outlaw all analog audio equipment.)
The other sad point is one I alluded to earlier. Hank's big demo site? Bluebeat.com? "Digital Radio Done Right"? Hank's big example of how MRT's X1 SeCure Recording Control can easily be used and rapidly deployed on a reasonable and non-discriminatory basis?
It doesn't work on Macs yet. No, I'm not making it up. From Bluebeat's Hardware and Software Requirements page:
Supported Operating Sytems
Windows 98 SE
Coming soon for Mac OS X!
I kid you not. It's so easy to use and deploy that the people who make it can't put out a Mac version. "Well, maybe X1 doesn't yet work on Macs" you might say. Well, from MRT's products page:
SeCure X1 Recording Control
Our SeCure X1 recording suppression technology effectively prevents and manages the unauthorized transcoding and redistribution of copyrighted works, providing a comprehensive industry-wide solution that works in tandem with existing technologies. X1 SeCure:
Manages digital recording of computer-based audio playback.
Promotes audio content distribution on the Internet.
Operates on physical media. streaming, or download delivery systems.
Supports Microsoft Windows 98 SE, ME, 2000, XP, and Mac OS 10.3.9 and newer.
So they make it, it runs on Mac OS X, yet they somehow can't manage to get a functional Mac OS X product out on the sight they're using to show how their idea is "Digital Radio Done Right"??? (Yes, I did notice the gaping hole in their supported platforms. Evidently in Hank's fantasy land, Linux doesn't exist, or won't be allowed to listen to streams at all. CRAP!!! I just got a cramp from rolling my eyes too much. OW!
What is this, "South Park" and the Chewbacca Defense?
Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, Apple and Microsoft do not use our technology to protect content they don't create or distribute, therefore, they are stealing that continent. Let me say this again, anyone not using our product is a thief. Any other conclusion does not make sense.
I mean, it's almost working, I know my head's about to explode.
But the clincher is the final paragraph in Hallucinatin' Hank's diatribe of dumb:
"Together these four companies are responsible for 98 percent of the media players in the marketplace; CNN, NPR, Clear Channel, MySpace Yahoo and YouTube all use these infringing devices to distribute copyrighted works," states MRT CEO Hank Risan. "We will hold the responsible parties accountable. The time of suing John Doe is over."
No Hank, what is over is the time of small-minded, greedy bullies like you attempting to dictate policy and technology to the world solely to line your pockets. The only thing this lawsuit should generate is a large lump on Hank's skull, from where the judge whacks him with the gavel.