March 31, 2006 | By Derek Slater

AV Enthusiasts Hit Hard By DRM, Tech Mandates

In a terrific article at DesignTecnica, audio editor of Home Theater and the author of Practical Home Theater Mark Fleischmann has a stark warning for fellow "gadget lovers" looking forward to the newest crop of audio and video devices:

"What was once legal and "fair use" of existing gear is being redefined, criminalized, and copy-protected out of existence under new laws and regulations. Your existing gear, including your HDTV and your PC, is also being directly sabotaged by software. And gear you buy in the future may not have the functionality you've always taken for granted."

Fleischmann recounts many ways the entertainment industry is trying to take control of your digital devices that may be familiar to readers of this blog, including tech mandates like the digital radio flag and analog hole bills, the Sony rootkit scandal, and the AACS restrictions in HD-DVD and Blu-ray.

AV enthusiasts like Fleischmann are likely to be among the hardest hit by DRM. Wanting to make the most of their media, they have already invested hundreds if not thousands of dollars in new HD displays, home theater receivers, and other devices. But thanks to the alphabet soup of DRM coming our way (AACS, HDCP, DTCP, CableCard, Macrovision), these enthusiasts will increasingly face irrational restrictions and infuriating incompatibilities. Yet just as we know DRM will frustrate legitimate AV enthusiasts, we also know that it won't do a thing to slow digital copyright infringers.

We'll all soon come to feel the pinch as Hollywood insists on DRM that treats us all as though we are guilty until proven innocent, but it will be the "early-adopters" like Fleischmann who feel it first. So even if you're not about to spend $5000 on an HDTV, you should probably be paying attention to how DRM affects those who are. Visit EFF's Action Center to voice your concerns.

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