Preventing DVD Playback on Linux Like Prohibition in the 1920's

Posted by tadelste on Jan 1, 2006 11:11 AM EDT
LXer; By Tom Adelstein
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LXer Day Desk: 11-27-2005

Prohibition of alcohol (1920-33) in the US failed. People thought it would reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and ghettos, improve health and hygiene. It was a miserable failure on all counts. It affirms the economic theory, which predicts that prevention of mutually beneficial exchanges fails.

You and I can claim the status of victims with regard to US Economic policy. Our government has attempted to ram a false notion down the throats of the world and our government has failed us. The notion has an underlying theory which assumes the US has an absolute value advantage economically with regard to intellectual property.

What's that mean? In economics a country, industry and/or organization like Microsoft has an absolute advantage on the producers side if a good absorbs fewer resources than required in another country or by other individuals and/or companies. The US has lost that advantage mostly to China, Brazil and eastern Europe.

In the one area where the US had an absolute advantage, we have lost it. We held an absolute advantage in technology until we started exporting jobs to countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Mexico and China. Once the cat was out of the bag, our friends became our economic foes.

Trying to Force Feed the Baby

The US has attempted to use law enforcement to maintain an absolute advantage in the past. During a period from 1920 to 1933 our brilliant government passed the Eighteenth Amendment commonly referred to as Prohibition. Similar in many ways to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act our government dedicated resources to enforcement of the law.

In the US, prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933 in the United States. Consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, but subsequently increased to the highest levels ever seen in the US. In addition, it failed in all of its goals and created a massive underground of crime. Eventually crime became organized and ruthless.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 has much in common with the 18th Amendment. It attempts to enforce an absolute value advantage where none exists and eventually prohibits mutually beneficial exchanges.

All those who have lined up on the side of Microsoft will soon discover that they are fighting battles they can never win. So they stoop to creating the BSA, influencing politicians and undermining whoever they perceive as their enemies.

Dell, HP, Gateway, Sony, IBM and the rest of Microsoft's partners will find themselves painted with the same brush. You cannot enforce the DMCA any more than you can force people to buy American cars. Take a hint from General Motors: The word eventually gets out that you have inferior products and the price isn't right. Microsoft's OEM partners will become the buggy whip manufacturers of the 21st Century.

Trying to enforce your laws will eventually turn out like trying to keep illegal immigrants out of the country. You can only devote so many resources to the problem. The problem will eventually overwhelm you.

Outdated Paradigm

People around the globe have started waking up from their malaise. The belief of an American advantage in software technology, for example, might exist in the minds of Bill Gates and his friends, but others do not buy it. Microsoft's software absorbs more resources than required in another country or by other individuals.

You may attempt to implement enforcement to create the illusion of absolute value, but that too will fail. Like the availability of alcohol during Prohibition, people can find supplies without much trouble. Right now, you can obtain the decryption code on DVDs either by purchasing a license for that component by itself or you can download it from Internet sites in foreign countries. Canadian Whiskey wasn't as easy to get as DVD playback code.

And while you can use the courts to get to a few people, most will never see enforcement. A vast number of people will take the risk and never believe they will get caught. If you increase enforcement, the courts will ease the penalties because judges will see the law as unfair based on the volume of cases they see.

What's Next?

We have already seen a shift in economic models in the world. Awareness of the shift has grown. We now have what economists call a comparative advantage to reconcile.

Individuals, countries and companies see a comparative advantage between themselves and the United States. On the product side, countries outside the United States possess a lower opportunity cost than with Microsoft. They can create their own products with Linux and open source software.

Without an absolute advantage, Microsoft has attempted all sorts of strategies. They have given their software away. They have brought legal action against the heads of foreign governments like in Brazil. They have sent the BSA out to enforce Microsoft's so called rights.

They have attempted to interfere with governments through influence peddling. Anyone who dares speak up against them faces the potential of some enforcement action. Microsoft uses attorneys and lobbyists the way some people use workers on an assembly line to mount parts.

Microsoft and Hollywood face a similar fate. They are rowing upstream and against the tide. Eventually they will wear out.

It's Only a Matter of Time

Microsoft proliferated the software field because their products were good enough and cheaper than competitive products of the time. They had just as much difficulty reaching their goals in the beginning as Linux does today. At the time, people didn't get the concept of relative value and held out as long as they could.

Eventually, Microsoft prevailed. But if they continue to believe they have an absolute advantage today because people continue to buy their products, they will only fool themselves. They will be like the King who had no clothes, General Motors or the railroads.

People in the US finally realized that Prohibition did not work. It took thirteen long years and a depression to finally act. Funny as it may seem, the end of Prohibition saw a decline in alcohol consumption and that famous community effort called Alcoholics Anonymus.

In many ways, people are still holding on to the belief that Microsoft and the idea of absolute value in intellectual property works. It works about as well as Prohibition. It's time to wake up folks.

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
The geist moves in mysterious ways Nickm 0 3,477 Dec 3, 2005 2:59 PM
M$ never had to fight for it's position until recently evanh 2 3,774 Dec 2, 2005 6:24 AM
1998 + 13 = 2011, 6 years to go bugmenot1 1 4,253 Dec 1, 2005 4:12 PM
Someone Slashdotted the wrong article Yikes!! tadelste 4 6,398 Dec 1, 2005 4:09 PM
What about DVD for Linux tadelste 5 8,605 Nov 29, 2005 3:38 PM
and the War on Drugs has been a great success too! tuxchick 35 5,710 Nov 29, 2005 1:13 PM
Hey Tom Where can I find that info? dinotrac 10 4,866 Nov 27, 2005 7:00 PM

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