Rant on a Brave New World

SonicBlue has been ordered by a Los Angeles federal magistrate to spy on their users, record all the information collected, and turn it over to film studios and television networks. Does it get any more convoluted than this: misguided government using corporate America to spy on consumers for Hollywood and the media? This is not in the interests of national security. We're not trying to hunt down terrorist here. This is exploiting technology to invade and violate our privacy, clear and simple.

So, what's this all about? Who the heck is SonicBlue anyway? SonicBlue makes a product called ReplayTV which allows people to record television shows (like a VCR except it records to a hard drive instead of a tape), pause live TV, and skip commercials. It's this last part that really has the television studios in a twitch because, if products like ReplayTV breach the mainstream, it will make determining the viewership of commercials impossible to guess. If you don't know how many people are watching the commercials, then how can they justify the exorbitant of an ad's time slot? Chaos will ensue and the end of the world will surely follow!

Or, do you suppose that when they said "the Internet will change everything" they meant business models, too? That's all this is, another media revolution. TV started out free. Then they started packing it with commercials. Then came cable TV. You paid for it, but there were no commercials. Now most cable TV channels are packed with commercials to the point where they edit down shows for extra time, flash ads in the corner of the screen during the middle of a movie, and remove a frame or two every second just to squeeze in one more ad. Every time ads become to pervasive, technology finds a way to provide consumers the same content without the ads for a price. Eventually, they'll figure out how to get the ads back in and we'll go around the merry-go-round again.

In the meantime, however, these companies are fighting tooth and nail against consumer demand, a battle they will no doubt lose. Rather than adapt to an ever evolving marketplace, they duke it out in the court system. The real problem is, however, that they've finally found a court willing to rule with little regard to personal privacy.

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