posted Oct 04, 2000

Patent Combat Time Personal Commentary10/4/2000; 2:42:25 PM As I've been writing iRights: The Essay, I've been exploring a lot of new territory, hopefully stuff that nobody's ever explored before. (At the very least, I haven't seen it from anybody else.)So I was talking about the recent bill before Congress to make MP3 "beaming" as implemented by explicitly allowed (previous coverage), and I came up with an example of why the bill is shortsighted. I want to get this out in public before anybody patents it, so I don't want to wait until I publish the essay.Here is a description of a system to allow people to obtain digital copies of movies they already own a legitimate copy of via internet transmission.A company will obtain or create digital versions of movies, without the need for copyright clearence on these videos. Customers of this company will purchase or otherwise recieve a device that will in all likelihood have all the functionality of a TiVo, but will also include a broadband internet connections and the ability to play VHS tapes.When one of these devices is aquired and installed, it will go through some subscription setup that will enable the company and the user to maintain profiles of what movies are legitimately owned. When the user inserts a commercial videotape into the device, the device will read the codes encoded on the VHS tape and transmit these codes to the company's server, which will in turn either send back the movie in a digital form, or store that the user is now allowed to access that movie. (This depends on exactly which year this device is created, and whether you can bet on being able to watch a movie in real time. Either way, you'll get permission to download at will, as it will still be a long time before you'll have enough storage to dedicate it to all the digital video you can have.)(BTW, these codes on VHS tapes already exist. Listen to the end or a beginning of a commercial VHS tape, and you can hear them. They sound like touch-tone phone tones. Recordings off of the television lack these codes.)Viola, a movie "beaming" service, which unless someone has beaten me to is now not patentable (hopefully). Is the law going to then protect that, as Congress may be moving towards protecting like activities, or not? Really, the law should either protect all media or no media, but the special-case for music is short-sighted and merely adds complexity to an already too-complex system.


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