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I Still Don't Want To Be Part of Your Fucking Ecosystem (shkspr.mobi)
267 points by edent on Feb 26, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 227 comments

Cory Doctorow calls it "the war on general-purpose computing" and it's a pretty damn good read [1] (or talk [2]).

[1] - http://boingboing.net/2012/01/10/lockdown.html

[2] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUEvRyemKSg

Don't you think that it is a stupid name? Why should it be a zero-sum game? Also, I still do eat with spoon, fork and a knife, but I do not call that "war on spork".

> Also, I still do eat with spoon, fork and a knife, but I do not call that "war on spork".

Because the barrier to entry to creating your own fork, should Big Cutlery™ decide they want to prevent your access to one, is very low.

I wish I could upvote you twice...once for your point, and again for "Big Cutlery"

You miss the point. If I am some huge player who decides to produce tablets, how does that make me at war with someone else producing computers? Or are those producing utensils at war with Victorinox? So who is actively trying to hurt "general computing" devices? And by this I mean not "producing limited computing devices" but active and deliberate actions against general computing. Or shall we all close our eyes and pretend that many of those general computing devices never saw general computing in their lives? Some are glorified typewriters, some are facebook and email devices, some are game machines. Where does this tunnel vision that anyone working with something with CPU inside should be interested in general computing?

Bad analogy. Your utensils don't prohibit you from eating certain foods because they've chosen not to support them.

Come to think, that's pretty hilarious actually.

Not arguing with the basic point, but I find it rather humorous that forks essententially do prevent you from eating soup because they've chosen not to (literally) support it. You need to use a different device to consume that media.

Not quite, forks are ill suited to the job of consuming many soups. This is more akin to how the Samsung watch is ill suited to host a Super Bowl party. All devices cannot be all things, nor should they be, and this has nothing to do with content licences.

Ok, it's time to stop talking about cutlery, everyone in this thread.

No, you can still eat your soup with a fork. It will work. Nobody will stop you. It will just be very ineffective, and your soup will get cold long before you finish it.

Yup, but on the other hand no one calls a fork "general-purpose kitchen utensil".

Forkenheit 451.

"Your utensils don't prohibit you from eating certain foods because they've chosen not to support them." is going straight into my quotefile.

The analogy would be having to pick one of spoon, fork, or knife for eating a whole meal with. Soup and steak. In this dystopia, manufacturing sporks is banned as patent infringement and filing an edge and some tines into your spoon is a DMCA violation.

Don't forget there will have to be some type of law forcing you to purchase a spoon as it is unfair to spoon manufacturers that you don't require a utensil at all to consume soup from an easily lifted bowl.

Maybe force all bowls to be too big and heavy to easily lift?

There is literally a movement to ban pointed kitchen knives in England. https://www.google.com/search?q=pointed+knives+uk+ban

Wait, you mean all my jokes about banning guns just leads to increased stabbings so they'll eventually have to ban knives has come true? Blimey!

There literally isn't.

There's literally one report from 2005 from one A&E (ER) dept that suggested it would be a good idea. Others disagreed.

The author is mixing together several problems here.

1) Amazon bundling a video service with their free shipping program.

2) Amazon's proprietary software locking in you into whatever platforms that are in their business interests.

3) Panasonic's proprietary TV platform that people can't be bothered to develop for.

4) Digital Restrictions Management that prevents one from downloading a movie via Amazon Prime and playing it in any other video player on any other platform.

This is just the usual awful situation when you rely on proprietary software. Stop using Amazon Prime to watch videos. Write to them about the problems you have. I recently wrote to Audible because their ebooks come with DRM and cannot be played on GNU/Linux using Free Software.

There's also a hardware ecosystem problem. Apparently we live in a world where people expect a TV to have a web browser with Adobe Flash on board.

I have a 30-year-old amplifier that still works just fine, despite having been built before CD players and MP3 players came along. Sure you could buy an all-in-one device that integrated the amp and the tape deck, but a lot of people avoided those because they wanted flexibility, expandability, and robustness.

Similarly, back in those days it was quite common to see little TVs with an integrated VHS player. But if you were the sort of person who bought individual audio components, you probably also avoided those things, because you recognized that the function of projecting a moving image on a screen was independent of the function of reading a signal from a strip of magnetized tape, and so keeping them in two separate devices bought you flexibility, expandability, and robustness.

Now, apparently, those old lessons are still useful. I'm not very much into TVs, so I don't know, but to me the real "ecosystem" problem here is that the TV apparently is not just a display device. It's pulling double duty as a web browser also (and who knows what else is in there). Unfortunately, a year and a half is a long time in terms of web technologies, so a perfectly good device for projecting moving images onto a screen is now deemed obsolete.

>Now, apparently, those old lessons are still useful. I'm not very much into TVs, so I don't know, but to me the real "ecosystem" problem here is that the TV apparently is not just a display device.

For a while, the appeal was that it was cheaper and simpler to just buy a smart TV that had Netflix, etc integrated than it was to put together some other solution yourself.

Turns out the reality is that the integrated smart functionality tends to be slow, clunky, and rarely updated. Now that things like Roku, Apple TV, and Chromecast are so cheap and easy, the tides have turned there.

While I was somebody that bought a smart TV a few years ago for those reasons, I've gotten to where I haven't touched those features since Chromecast launched. If anything, it's become an annoyance that my TV has a 15-20 second boot time when I turn it on. I know I've decided that my future TVs will be TVs only, and that seems to be a common theme among others I've talked to with smart TVs.

This seems especially true with cars. I lease a new Volkswagen and it comes straight out of the factory with a navigation system that looks and feels so outdated that it makes you wonder why car manufacturers even bother trying.. It's just so slow and ugly compared to an iPhone or other smartphone that I cannot imagine anyone using it in a few years.

What I wouldn't give to have read your comment 2 months ago. Smart TV integration seemed great since we almost exclusively use Netflix. But the boot time and interface interaction speed is so slow, I now leave the input set to chromecast exclusively.

Add me to your list of people who will only be buying a dumb tv in the future.

> Turns out the reality is that the integrated smart functionality tends to be slow, clunky, and rarely updated.

This was my immediate assumption as soon as I saw advertisements for "smart TVs". I assume it's even worse for in-car smart screen thingies, since you buy a new car even more rarely than a TV.

The last television that I purchased, just about a month ago, was a "dumb" television.

The reason?

The television I purchased before that was an LG "smart" television. At the time I bought it, LG promised that it would provide additional software for its TV platform that would enable additional services. It never happened. That particular TV still does exactly the same stuff it did on the day I bought it. And then I heard rumors floating around about how some "smart" televisions phone home and serve ads.

Screw that. There are any number of discrete devices with a network connection on one end, and a HDMI port on the other. I don't even need my television set to have its own tuner. So starting from my last purchase, I will now be buying televisions only as passive display devices with a variety of video input ports.

(And the device that translates the Netflix and Amazon Prime feeds to video will not be the Xbox, because there's no way in hell that I am paying Microsoft rent just to use the network interface on the box that I own to connect to a third party server. I already have at least 4 uncrippled computers in the very same room that can do that at no additional charge.)

This rings so incredibly true to me.

Bundle solutions seem to offer more issues than they offer simplicity. Like you, I own a ~30 year old amplifier which does only does a few simple things thing: running my speakers, switching between two inputs, and supplying power to my PS3 (bluray player).

The two inputs are my TV and 3.5mm audio jack (for phones), my TV handles digital input, namely my PS3, my laptop, a RaspPi, and eventually a Chromecast when I get around to it.

My laptop makes my TV an audio visualisation screen (Project M), a Netflix screen (Chromium-Pipelight), a YouTube screen (Chromium/Minitube). A multipurpose media screen, without any smart-TV'esque clunkiness.

Chromecast is one of those things that is either purposely or coincidentally replicating this kind of setup for a more average user. You can use your tablet (extremely practical) to do pretty much everything I described above. Once again I find Google trying to be my (huge and scary) buddy, instead of hugging me to death by ecosystem lock-in. (Yes, I see the irony of Android with that statement.)

> PS3 (bluray player)

Hoo boy, speaking of proprietary issues, I unplugged mine over a year ago, and haven't missed it. I used the PS3 for Netflix and sometimes DVD/Bluray playing. The trouble is, you never knew when it would decide that it needed to update itself. Every update takes like half an hour to run, can't be postponed or run in the background, and your device can't do much until you run it, since naturally, you can't use your Netflix account, which ought to be completely separate, without logging into a PSN account that I have no use for. And of course, the Netflix interface is slow and terrible, and it doesn't really support anything else.

I replaced it with a Roku that does everything better and is a third of the price. Being tiny and taking almost no power are nice too. If it updates at all, it does it silently in the background, which is how I like it.

>back in those days it was quite common to see little TVs with an integrated VHS player. But if you were the sort of person who bought individual audio components, you probably also avoided those things

Even more, if your VCR went rogue and started taking out tapes, you didn't have to throw out your TV. This mentality is now completely gone, because you're expected to throw your TV (or phone or whatever) out every 6 months.

Forced obsolescence is always a boon for manufacturers.

This arguably happens in every context. What keeps these "integrated" devices useful is the (hopefully) open nature of the software running them. A TV that supports open web standards will last a helluva lot longer than one that supports a vendor standard abandoned after a couple of years.

In other words, a TV that also plays online video is great as long as there's an open, standardized method of delivering it.

This is a great point. My Roku works great for Netflix, Spotify, HBO Go, and Amazon Instant Video, all on my "dumb" TV.

That's a cogent point, but those are all symptoms of the same problem, which I'm guessing from your last sentence, you are already aware of. The OP is merely using them as examples (again, demonstrable symptoms) of the illness that is "intellectual property", so that when people say "so what?" to the likes of EFF, you can show them articles like this.

As another example, on the same front page of HN that this article is on, is another entitled "When is it Stealing?", whereby the author begs the question by just blithely assuming that bits can be owned like physical property.

Don't get me wrong, I think attribution is a very important part of sharing information, but at the same time, too many people get caught up in believing they are special, when history has shown time and again that most "new" ideas were built upon the bedrock that is the thousands of years of our civilization, and usually multiple people get the same idea around the same time.

Did you get a response? The author mentions that he wrote to Panasonic and Amazon and was basically brushed off.

I once asked Lovefilm about their video streaming (Silverlight) on Linux. I got a relatively honest answer: Movie studios required them to use DRM and no DRM solution is available on Linux. They will "keep looking for opportunities". I translate that to "waiting for the movie industry to give up on DRM".

Except for that immensely popular linux distribution Android. Netflix and Amazon have no problem streaming to those devices.

Only if the video is being decrypted by the kernel rather than userspace, which may be true from what little I know about the inner workings of DRM. Otherwise, it's the GNU part that's important, not the 'Linux' shorthand.

If you recall, they had a huge problem streaming to them.


Netflix delayed their offering, and then restricted it to a few devices for quite some time, and now makes heavy use of the Android DRM framework. This doesn't exist on desktop Linux, and I doubt it could even be incorporated (however pragmatic) given the knee-jerk reaction to anything DRM.

"no DRM solution is available on Linux"

DRM is basically digital signing w/encryption right ? Linux doesn't have that ?

It's decryption of encrypted contents with a key that you're not meant to have access to, and with measures to try to prevent you from accessing the decoded video and audio on its way to the screen/speakers, despite the fact that the key is on your system and it's being played back via hardware that's physically under your control. It's a bit like trying to stop a sieve from leaking with your fingers.

The only way of making it sort-of, maybe achieve anything in software is through obscuring the key and decrypted data sufficiently to make it more effort than it is worth.

This means the DRM implementations are all closed source, and Linux ports are pretty much bottom of the priority list of any of the companies providing DRM solutions, not least because it gets massively harder to lock down access to the data on a system where tons of people know how to rebuild the kernel and modify drivers and otherwise try to intercept it.

"... it gets massively harder to lock down access to the data on a system where tons of people know how to rebuild the kernel and modify drivers and otherwise try to intercept it."

Because proprietary systems never get cracked; and it always takes more than one person to do it. For example, geohot.

My point is that Linux DRM is possible. But all DRM sucks anyway, because ultimately to lock down the system implementors choose to reduce the number of devices that can operate with it and sooner or later it's just one or two devices.

Of course the get cracked, but as you say: all DRM sucks anyway. So they set a bar based on how difficult they can make it to circumvent vs. market share. In that calculation it becomes easy to decide to ignore Linux - small desktop userbase and a much harsher environment makes it extremely unattractive.

It's never about locking it down fully - they're not quite stupid enough to believe they can prevent copying. After all they know perfectly well that most torrents are not originating from copies ripped by average consumers.

DRM is about a perceived tradeoff between the cost of DRM and how much copying they can stop by making it too cumbersome or difficult for a reasonable proportion of regular users.

It doesn't even necessarily have much to do with reality, but just as much to do with sheer fear.

DRM is handing a ciphertext, a decryptor, and keys over to someone else and asking them to use it only in the way that you want them to use it. (It's not signed because nobody cares whether the information is authentic or not.)

Once you have bought into the rigmarole that this can somehow be effective, you have to test and support various platforms. Doing that for Windows is cost-effective, doing it for MacOS is less so, and doing it for anything smaller is not a money-making proposition.

Of course, if you could add 2 + 2 to get 4 in the first place, you would use an open standard and be able to sell your media to everyone.

> DRM is handing a ciphertext, a decryptor, and keys over to someone else and asking them to use it only in the way that you want them to use it.

I think I have a new .sig.

I've always liked this summary of DRM from someone on slashdot:

Very, very simply, here is the premise behind DRM.

1. I know a secret 2. I want to tell you the secret 3. I don't want you to tell anyone else the secret 4. I don't trust you

Perhaps you can see now why there's no solution to that scenario.

Another good short one:

DRM 'manages access' in the same way that jail 'manages freedom.'

Simpler: since you need the key to view the content, the only security scheme possible is through obscurity of the key or the decryptor. Hence anyone with the appropriate flashlight can dispell the darkness.

Also, analog hole.

Yeah, not exactly a satisfactory one, though. Just something along the lines of "We have sent your request to remove DRM to our audio team. We value your feedback." It was a nice way of saying that mail has been forwarded to the audio team to throw in the bin. Still, better than being ignored outright.

Demand a refund. My girlfriend ran into this problem (we're pretty much a Linux household). Just could not get the audible books to run on Ubuntu and I wasn't willing to spend the time hunting around for a way to get around it. Fortunately, Audible was pretty gracious about the refund.

Are you me? That's the exact problem my girlfriend and I had and she did receive a refund.

The DRM is pretty limited (afaik) to the free streaming stuff included with Prime. If you pay to "own" (heavily scaremarked), you can download a copy yourself (some titles only allow you to "rent" the ability to stream; others wont let you download ieven if you pay to "own" the ability to stream).

Panasonic, a company not known for quality software -- what was he expecting? Just get a freaking $50 rokubox and be done with it. Then it won't matter if android or his tv doesn't make coffee to go with his salty tears. And it'll work with whatever shitty Smart TV he decides to buy into next.

So, hum, why would I accept the hefty price increase on Prime if I get quite literally nothing in return? I do not own a single one of the ‘compatible devices’ and apparently my browser (which works just fine on Youtube…) is not ‘compatible‘ either.

I just wanted fast shipping with no additional costs ¬.¬

Do you run lynx or something?

Edit: it's probably not your browser, but you do have to install silverlight.

Opera 12.16 on Debian, no Silverlight here. I even have a Firefox installed, too, but that still needs Silverlight which is not available for Linux (at least not in any of the official repositories).

Yep, that'd be the issue.

Wait, Lynx runs youtube just fine?

Meanwhile the pirate bay is still compatible with pretty much any system on the planet.

If you want my money you'll have to provide at least the same amount of service. And stop being assholes trying to pass massive surveillance laws every three months.

If you don't like the terms for which someone is offering their original creations, why don't you just buy a different product sold on terms you agree with? There's no shortage of indie content out there, you know. Or maybe create it yourself? By pirating it instead, you acknowledge that these content creators make something unique and non-fungible and irreplaceable, but then assert that nonetheless they shouldn't have the right to set the terms on which they distribute those creations to the public.

I think the pro-piracy position is just totally irrational. If I'm gay and I don't like Chick Fil-A's anti-gay message, should I: a) refuse to do business with them; or b) steal chicken sandwiches instead?[1] The big media companies don't have a monopoly on content. The costs to both produce and consume indie content are lower than they ever have been.

[1] At this point someone will bring out the "copying isn't stealing" hypothetical. Technically true, but consider this: any product has a delta between its market price and its marginal cost of production. The marginal cost of producing a copy of a piece of digital content isn't zero, but it's very close to it. But lots of products sell for far more than their marginal cost of reproduction. Is it okay to steal sandwiches from Chick fil-A if you leave an amount of money that covers the cost of producing the next sandwich? Apply that reasoning to products like Apple computers or Prada handbags that sell for far more than their marginal cost of production. Is it okay to take those items and leave an amount of money that compensates for the cost of replacing it? Or do we have a general understanding that companies that produce things have a right to the profit they can earn on each item?

Copyright is a tradeoff between society and creators, where we take rights away from the public to give copyright holders an opportunity to profit more from a work, in the hope that the net effect is of benefit to society.

It is perfectly possible to believe that the way copyright terms have been extended and the way usage restrictions have hollowed out public access means the balance has been distorted to a point where the bargain is no longer justifiable.

The widespread acceptance of piracy indicates that the support for the current copyright regime is likely to crumble, and my guess is that it is largely down to the way copyright holders have massively abused their position to shift the balance ever further towards them.

In other words, despite pretty much never pirating anything these days - I have a collection of about 500 or so legally bought DVDs: I have very little sympathy. They've largely brought this on themselves. They do need to realise that their copyright protections are artificial restrictions that comes with a price, and that can be rolled back or revoked.

> Copyright is a tradeoff between society and creators, where we take rights away from the public to give copyright holders an opportunity to profit more from a work, in the hope that the net effect is of benefit to society.

That's true of every property right. In the state of nature, I have the "right" to trample all over your yard, to kill you and eat you. When the government comes along and creates the "right" to land and the "right" to life, that is a trade off between society and property owners.

> It is perfectly possible to believe that the way copyright terms have been extended and the way usage restrictions have hollowed out public access means the balance has been distorted to a point where the bargain is no longer justifiable.

And the way to handle this is to lobby to get the right redefined to have the sort of scope you want. And nothing would help this effort more than supporting indie content creators, undercutting the wealth and power of the traditional media companies.

> and my guess is that it is largely down to the way copyright holders have massively abused their position to shift the balance ever further towards them.

The "abused their position" canard is becoming toothless in the face of how much money is on the opposition side now, in companies that specialize in distributing content (Youtube, Apple, etc). The lobbying dollars are there to weaken copyright protections to give these distributors a better negotiating position. It's a hard political sell because in the U.S. we just believe in really strong protections for property rights. My parents have this huge back yard that they never use. But if a homeless squatter sought refuge on a tiny portion of their land, an infringement that would cost my parents basically nothing, they can still have the police come and kick that person out. We like our property rights absolute, and that's why the media industry has found it so easy to drive copyright protection in that direction.

And the way to handle this is to lobby to get the right redefined to have the sort of scope you want. And nothing would help this effort more than supporting indie content creators, undercutting the wealth and power of the traditional media companies.

So the appropriate response to a rigged game is to just buckle down and try harder?

(Youtube, Apple, etc)

Did you even read the article? Google and Apple are part of the problem; they created the walled gardens!

There is a very substantial difference: Copyright infringement does not deprive the creator of the original work, unlike theft which does.

Historically this difference is highly noticeable: Property rights to physical items and land have existed pretty much as long as humanity to various extents, even in societies with no formal concepts of jurisprudence and no centralised enforcement. It has been codified in laws pretty much as far back as we have records - the first codified property laws are more than 4000 years old.

While copyright came into being as an Act of Parliament with the Statute of Anne in 1710, which was an explicit restriction of rights, and it took a further 150 years or so to solidify the modern copyright system, because it was essentially all invented from scratch with no basis in previous human history. Most of these efforts explicitly recognised copyright as a bargain where the public gave up rights, while property law has systematically been justified with the idea of a natural right to control that which you can physically possess and protect.

Incidentally I believe property rights are too extensive too, and e.g. in Norway where I'm from there are substantial ancient exceptions from private property rights (on the basis that too extensive property rights also involves the public surrendering freedoms) - the "freedom to roam" ("allemannsretten"), but historically they are still of a fundamentally different character in that at least the underlying concept of property law basically devolves to the idea that someone does not have the right - though the may have the power - to deprive you of access to that which you physically possess.

> And the way to handle this is to lobby to get the right redefined to have the sort of scope you want.

Meanwhile most people are not interested in a crusade - they just want to go on with their lives, and carry out actions they largely don't see as morally wrong. History is full of laws that have fallen because enforcement became impossible due to total public disregard for the law.

> The "abused their position" canard is becoming toothless in the face of how much money is on the opposition side now

As long as the copyright terms are as long as they are, the DMCA is still on the books in the US, and sites like Youtube enforce far stricter standards than they are legally obliged to, it is by no means toothless.

> The lobbying dollars are there to weaken copyright protections to give these distributors a better negotiating position.

Of your two examples, one (Apple) has a strong self-serving interest in protecting copyright, and the other is a site run by a company with a strong self-serving interest in protecting copyright, thanks to iTunes and the Play store respectively. I don't see why you believe that either Apple, Google or similar companies have much to win by lobbying for weaker copyright protections. Nor have I seen any kind of evidence that they do.

> It's a hard political sell because in the U.S. we just believe in really strong protections for property rights.

Copyright is not a property right, no matter how many times they repeat the term "intellectual property". Copyright law exists in the first place exactly because property law fundamentally is based on the concept of possession. Copying does not remove possession of anything, and so it could not be a violation of property rights.

And the extent of piracy in the US too demonstrates quite well that whether or not people think it is "right" in abstract terms, a substantial proportion of the population does not consider it wrong enough to stop participating in it. Copying and sharing has been an ingrained part of human culture since before written history. In fact, large parts of human culture throughout history has depended on widespread copying and sharing.

So on hand, the historical state has been one of freely copying and sharing, while on the other hand the historical state has been one of rapid and continuous strengthening of enforcement of physical property rights. The two are about as opposite as they can get.

> We like our property rights absolute

Not even the US has property rights that are anywhere near absolute. Try erecting a ten story building on the plot of your suburban house without applying for planning permissions and fighting all your neighbours. Try buying a house right in the path of a long planned road and fight the application of eminent domain. Try starting a brothel most places. Or dumping hazardous chemicals. Or refusing black people access to your store.

Many US states further have exceptions that limit your ability to even prevent access to your property in certain situations - e.g. you may not be able to prevent access to the shore-line.

Your freedoms and rights to do things with your property are continuously weighed against and limited by the concerns for the freedoms and rights of others. Your property ownership does not exempt you from business regulations, or anti-discrimination laws or environmental regulations or a whole host of other laws and regulations that limits what you can do to or on your property.

And that is the one thing that brings property rights closest to copyright laws: They both reflect tradeoffs between the freedom and rights of the public and freedom and rights of the owner.

> There is a very substantial difference: Copyright infringement does not deprive the creator of the original work, unlike theft which does.

Copyright infringement is more like trespass than theft, but trespass is a property concept as well. You've mis-characterized property law here. A property right isn't just about possession, it's the right to exclude. It doesn't just keep you from dispossessing me of my land, but allows me to arbitrarily exclude you from it, even in situations where your use of my property doesn't cause me any loss or deprivation.

> While copyright came into being as an Act of Parliament with the Statute of Anne in 1710

Before the Statute of Anne, operating a printing press require a royal license, so large-scale copying wasn't possible. In other words, copying has been restricted almost since the technology has existed to allow it.

> while property law has systematically been justified with the idea of a natural right to control that which you can physically possess and protect.

Yet we consider it a crime to engage in activities like embezzlement, which specifically involve money or property you do not physically possess. This is quite an unnatural concept if you think about it: you give someone else possession and control of property, then expect the government to intervene if they use it in a way different than you intended? That has no natural analogue and is indeed relatively novel in the history of criminal law.

> I don't see why you believe that either Apple, Google or similar companies have much to win by lobbying for weaker copyright protections. Nor have I seen any kind of evidence that they do.

Google, and Apple, as content distributors, have a great incentive for copyright to be weak, which gives them more leverage in negotiating with content companies. Google and Apple would love not to have to pay for the content that appears in the iTunes or Play stores.

> Copyright is not a property right, no matter how many times they repeat the term "intellectual property". Copyright law exists in the first place exactly because property law fundamentally is based on the concept of possession. Copying does not remove possession of anything, and so it could not be a violation of property rights.

Property does not require possession of anything, nor can they only be violated by dispossessing someone of something. Someone walking onto my property without permission does not dispossess me of it, but is a violation of my property right. Abstract concepts like transferable contractual obligations are also property rights.

> Not even the US has property rights that are anywhere near absolute.

I mean "absolute" in the sense that property law rejects the idea of sharing. Say I have a big plot of land that I don't live on or use for anything. Some people come along and camp in it. The value they gain from camping is greater than the loss to me of the use of land I never use anyway. Property law does not consider that. It gives me the right to exclude people from the property. The government is of course empowered to regulate my usage of my property, but other individuals can't raise "the public good" as a defense to infringement of my property rights. They can't say "this benefits the public a lot more than it hurts the owner."

> weighed against and limited by the concerns for the freedoms and rights of others.

If you think about it, the fact that you can't cut across someone's land is a much bigger infringement to "natural freedom" than the fact you can't copy someone's song. At least the song is something that is the product of its creator. It wouldn't have existed without an act of creation. But the land is natural. It's the earth. It existed long before any property owner ever laid claim to it. Yet, we very strongly defend the right of people to exclude other people from patches of earth they didn't even create. So is it surprising that we have strong protections to allow people to exclude others from works they did create?

"copyright infringement is trespass" is just as bad as "copyright infringement is theft"

Theft denies the owner their rightful property. Trespass denies or restricts the owner the use of their rightful property.

Copyright Infringement does not, on its own[1], does not stop the rights-holder[2] from using their copy.

The important distinction here - that is often conspicuously avoided by people that attempt to conflate copyright infringement and theft - is scarcity. Physical goods are scarce, so we invented laws to discourage theft. Land is scarce, so we invented laws to discourage trespass. Copyright, on the other hand, was enacted not out of fear of losing a scarce resource; we hoped it would give society faster/better access to "science and the useful arts".

As an investment, it is something society may decide it to stop paying for (i.e. no longer providing the temporary monopoly). People hoping to exploit such monopolies should really keep that in mind, because society may choose to invest in something else if their investment isn't providing adequate returns (access).

[1] If I have to invade your property to do the copying, I could probably be charged with both copyright infringement and trespass. The two activities are still distinct; they just happen to occur at roughly the same time.

[2] "owner" isn't really appropriate when speaking of copyright infringement, for the same reasons. You don't "own" the abstract concept behind a work, you only own a particular instance.

Rational but self-serving (I don't like that law; I'll pretend to be a public-access crusader and hey, get my movies for free why not)

People get their movies for free without having any reason to be or label themselves as a "public-access crusader". That's a large part of the point: These laws are failing because people are widely ignoring them. People are not labelling themselves as "public-access crusaders" because they are able to just go on with their lives and carry out actions they don't really see anything wrong with in the face of so totally ineffectual enforcement that most people never give the issue much thought at all.

The much more telling thing is that there is no public moral outrage from large numbers of "intellectual property crusaders" who decry the lack of enforcement - the limited outrage there is almost entirely corporate and/or paid.

This shows how disconnected copyright law has become from prevailing culture.

The copyright holders have already for the most part lost - the question is not if the legal framework will change, but how long they can hold it in place.

As opposed to the self-serving corporations that don't like the law and give large amounts of money to politicians to change it?

This ship has sailed. For most people this is no ethical dilemma. Argue all you want, but the user does not care. They have the whip hand. If we don't provide something suitable, they will not care.

No one is going to buy a TV for Amazon Instant Video support. They will buy the TV, see that it does not support the service, and promptly pirate the content they want.

We will adapt to this situation, or lose to those who will. And if no one adapts? Then many will pirate. And all our diatribes against freeloaders will do nothing to stop them.

"For most people this is no ethical dilemma"? That's an argument? For most of Wall Street there's no ethical dilemma in speculative schemes that wreck the commercial paper market. Can I trot out "for most people there's no dilemma" in the zillion HN Wall Street threads too?

It's not an argument. It's a statement of what I believe to be fact. We can try legislation, DRM, or better services. The first two aren't working.

I'm not saying it's good that it's this way. I pay.

"No one is going to buy a TV for Amazon Instant Video support. "

Actually, a client bought a "smart" TV to watch BlazeTV. When he realized it wasn't smart enough to offer the channel he wanted(licensing, crap proprietary software) he called me to "make it work". I bought a Roku, delivered & set it up. He watched < 4 hours of the target channel, called me up and told me to pack the whole thing up. Gone are the Roku, the TV and all subscriptions cancelled. Here's a target consumer who wants to pay but is not willing to pay, pay more & then jump through a myriad of hoops.

edit, forgot your 2nd paragraph: he doesn't pirate the content, it's not that important to him. He does listen to the live audio offered free of charge on his phone now that I set that up for him.

You've raised some valid points, but I'd like to respond simply: I (personally) pirate most things that I pirate because a lot of these things are not comfortably affordable to me. I wish I could buy all the books that I want, the entertainment to keep wife & me (and the kids) happy and up with current culture such that I have a proper sense of what everybody's like these days so I can communicate with them easily, buy the design and video editing software for my startup, - and then have all these things work in my own terms without being a total pain in my a-hole. (mp3 works on my phone... but not on my wife's? Fuck that, I like being able to share songs I like).

But... I can't really do all of this, I don't have the money. If and when I have the means to do this comfortably, I'll do it! Until then, this is the way I'm gonna go. And the thing is, if I was not pirating all of these things and simply abstaining from enjoying these costly goods, it still would all be the same to the entity I'd buy it from -- because from their view it's a) simply not consume, or b) consume -- and for the time being at least contribute to fulfilling a network effects popularity of the thing, or at least get interested enough to be a willing buyer sometime in the future, (see Adobe and Microsoft leaked documents expressing their being okay people pirating their products. I'm sure you understand that Adobe and MS would indeed that you rather use a pirated copy of Windows/Photoshop than to go with Linux (or GIMP)... because this way you at least get hooked/familiarized with it, and might buy it legally when you're a business owner or something).

You're argument is the same as this:

I'm poor and I like chicken sandwiches because all my friends like chicken sandwiches. I can't afford chicken sandwiches so I steal them instead so that I can fit in with my friends (sometimes I leave a couple quarters on the counter because that is all it costs them to make one and I'd like them to break even). The company I steal them from shouldn't be upset with me because I've been able to find out who has the best chicken sandwiches and when I have money I'll pay for my chicken sandwiches.

Yes, the company can say "consume and pay or don't consume" because they paid all the money to make the content in the first place. Any other option is stealing.

You're making the common logical fallacy of equating physical goods with digital goods. Digital goods are replicable at zero cost to the original producer. Unlike a chicken sandwich company, the producers of the content don't lose any money if the pirate wasn't going to buy the product in the first place.

Yes they do. Because you pirated it you've lowered the value of the product in the eyes of everyone else.

If a lot more people listening to your music, lowers the value of this music in the eyes of these people and everybody else, I'd blame the music, not piracy. This phenomenon is commonly known as "shitty pop music", and it just so happens that this "genre" is sold with more DRM than any other type of music.

>I (personally) pirate most things that I pirate because a lot of these things are not comfortably affordable to me. I wish I could buy all the books that I want, the entertainment to keep wife & me (and the kids) happy and up with current culture such that I have a proper sense of what everybody's like these days so I can communicate with them easily

Have you checked out the selection at your local library?

My parents go down there and take out multiple movies a day, for FREE. I also hear they have books there.

By that logic, it's not morally objectionable to pirate.

Free from the library, free from The PirateBay, who cares, right? Either way you're not eating into anyone's profits.

No, because the library needs to buy one for each thing a person has out at a time, and they eventually wear out, and you have to wait in a queue to get it instead of getting it right away, and a zillion other extremely obvious objections.

My nearby library recently installed a Redbox like device in the lobby. All you need is your library card and you can check out movies. Best part is, the lobby is open 24/7 so I can checkout or return movies at any time.

This sounds fine in the abstract, but I'm suspicious of it in practice because it's hard to make an honest evaluation of your willingness to pay for these goods when you have the easy option of getting them for free. I see many people using this argument while at the same time paying for other leisure goods that I suspect they actually value less than, say, music. The difference is that these other leisure goods really do have a pay-or-abstain dynamic imposed by reality. Reality keeps you honest about how much you're willing to pay for those goods, whereas with music you can consume the good without paying for it and never confront the decision of paying or abstaining from it.

That doesn't necessarily apply to you specifically, since it's dependent on your financial situation and how much you consume various media. Imagine yourself in a hypothetical world where it wasn't physically possible to pirate any music, TV shows, movies, software, etc. Would you really completely abstain from enjoying those goods, or would you simply reduce your consumption while actually paying for it? I think for many people, it's the latter.

By pirating it instead, you acknowledge that these content creators make something unique and non-fungible and irreplaceable

Don't they?

The problem is not with what they create, it's how they want to limit your options of using what you legally bought.

In that case your situation is different because you're complaining about how they attempt to limit you after you bought their product. You have valid complaints. Almost all complaints on the pro-piracy side are not valid.

Re: "copying isn't stealing": If a producer prices someone out of the market, he/she is no longer a potential customer. That's a business decision about market size made by the producer - they get higher profits at a higher price point and smaller market. Great!

However, producers don't get to complain about piracy by people who aren't in their market. Unless they eventually put the product on sale at some point, a pirate has no impact on the bottom line. In the simple (one-price-forever) case, the producer lost nothing - not even potential profit, because the consumer was already priced out.

Say an Hermes handbag costs $1,000 to make. This is something you can afford. But it sells for $10,000. You can't afford this, so you'd never be in the market. By your reasoning, it should be okay for you to walk into an Hermes, grab a bag, and leave $1,000 on the counter, and walk out. Hermes shouldn't get to complain, right, because they're in exactly the same financial position they were in before. It has no impact on their bottom line to lose a sale to a customer who wouldn't have bought the product anyway, right?

This is a bad example because the value of the Hermes handbag (to buyers and therefore to Hermes) comes partly from its rarity (a positional good http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positional_good).

A better example would be a Honda car (or Ford, or whoever makes boring cars these days). Say you go to the factory, provide the raw materials and pay the workers to do one extra car which you then drive off in. And suppose otherwise you wouldn't have bothered buying a car at all.

Does Honda have something to complain about?

Yes! They absolutely have something to complain about!

You now have lowered the impression of price of the good to everyone who knows what you did. Now when your friend wants to buy a car, why would they buy one from Ford when they know they can just go down to the factory with the raw materials and a little cash and get the same car for less. Ford should be PISSED!

Yup, it's a bad example for the reason you mention.

Putting that aside though, once you're out of positional good territory some providers of goods and services are indeed willing to accept different prices from different customers depending on their capacity to pay.


If I can make 10% profit out of you by charging a lower price whilst still being able to make %200 profit from the next client through the door because they can pay more, then it is rational for me to do so. The trick is that it is difficult to convince rich client A to pay twice as much as poor client B if A knows that B is getting the same good for half the price, but if you can pull that trick off, then it is totally rational to modify the selling price based on the customer's capacity to pay.

It's how airlines work and AFAIK this is why most of the people can fly at all.

I see it a bit differently.

You can get a loan, buy the handbag for $10000, and disassemble it to create a copy pattern. Then you make and sell 10 copies at $2000 to pay off your loan, and sell an 11th copy to pay for the 12th, that you keep for yourself. At that point, you can continue making copies to serve all the customers that Hermes is excluding by setting its price so high, and profit from their narrow market focus. But you can't put a Hermes logo on your copies. Trademark.

This happens all the time, because fashion has no copyrights.

Copying isn't stealing. Stealing is stealing. You can't be a fashion monopolist, because there are trivial barriers to entry and no legal protections. Therefore, in order to price higher than the marginal cost of production, you have to sell the protected monopoly good--your trademark.

Hermes can charge $10000 for a $1000 item because it has created $9000 worth of brand value in its trademark. So, theoretically, it should be value-neutral for you to take the Hermes bag and leave $1000 on the counter, provided that you also remove and leave behind every trademarked element on the item. That's the only way Hermes breaks even. And the only way you can do this non-hypothetically without it being considered theft is by purchasing a knock-off bag for $1000 instead.

The bags are made out of something physical, a depletable resource. And put together by labor that is also finite (there are only so many low-wage Indian and Bengali workers to put these things together). So, while a seductively attractive situation to analogize with, I don't think it's a technically good one all the way through. (though fwiw, I should mention I'm okay with people stealing Hermes or louisvitton bags)

Leather and labor are both more scarce than electricity, bandwidth, and storage (but all are finite), but that is priced into the cost of replacement. If you refund the producer the cost of replacement, whether it's $1,000 or $0.01, they are still in the same financial position they were before you took the product.

I remember having a conversation with you about how uneven access to opportunity is in America among different races, economic classes, etc. - and I recall you saying in a resigned way (something like) "Oh welp, yeah things are bad, but I have a wife and a kid, I'm too tired and old to do anything about that, and I'm not an idealist anymore." I have somewhat the same feelings about piracy... it's not going to stop, it's just the way people get their software. Frankly I hate that this is the way things are, because now we have total pieces of shits like Facebook -- free things, which are not really free -- they're taking our fucking data, and invading our privacy, I hate that, I wish developers of good software made a killing. But there are a lot of poor people right now who're not doing really well... and you know what, if they can spend 2 hours watching a pirated movie to lessen their miseries, I say God bless them. There are bigger things we should be directing our outrage at. When there are no more wars, no more poor people, no more crimes, let's worry about piracy. (And, also, unlike the uneven access to opportunity thing -- at least (generally) the people getting fucked in this case are the already rich ones.)

To be fair, I don't think piracy is a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I personally think copyright holders should have an absolute property right in what they create, but at the same time, I think infringement is like trespass. Yeah, the kid cutting across your lawn is an infringement of your property right, but it's not a big deal and you'll never be able to do anything about it.

My ire is directed at the people who treat piracy as some sort of moral high ground that they're taking.

By your reasoning..


By his reasoning it would be okay to go into the store, copy the bag and leave with the copy.

The purpose of analogies is to explore an unfamiliar hypothetical in the context of a familiar situation. We can't magically copy handbags, so we resort to constructing an analogy that is as close as possible. From the perspective of a handbag producer, who has no use value for the handbag, refunding the cost of replacement is functionally the same as copying the bag so it doesn't require replacement.

But the analogy misses the fundamental difference between replacing a physical object with the cost of creating the object, and copying information. Part of the reason why it's objectionable to replace the bag with $1,000 is that it requires effort and time to replace it with another bag that you could sell for $10,000. That friction is annoying, and frustrating, and slows down the economy.

The other reason is that the store's supplier has a finite number of handbags - and selling one for $1,000 is clearly worse than selling one for $10,000. With data, there's an infinite supplier willing to sell you more at the same marginal cost. In that case, I'm back to not seeing why the store owner would care.

Copying data is frictionless - in fact, it's invisible. The store owner would never even know it happened.

All that means is that in the analogy, you set the "cost of replacement" to factor in the cost of friction. You have an Hermes store factory and the $1,000 covers not just the cost of raw materials for the bag, but the labor to produce it, and the cost attributable to not having another item until the next shipment.

This is where your analogy retreats into a kind of magic that distracts from the issue. You magically assume that $1000 compensates the company, the distribution pipeline, and the store for all of the lost opportunity of a missing item. This cost varies depending on how many items there are, what space the item is taking up in the store, where the store is located, the time that the item is being sold, etc. The assumption that this is supposedly all wrapped up in a sum 1/10th of the sticker price, while at the same time trying to use the disparity between that sum and the sticker price as moral leverage for the analogy, makes the analogy seem very dishonest.

There is nothing magic about the process. There is a number that represents the replacement value of the item, and it's computable. I pulled the number $1,000 out of a hat. I don't know what Hermes' profit margin on each item is. I assume its high, in that price >> replacement cost. I use that not as moral leverage for the analogy, but because digital products have a similar situation where price >> replacement cost.

My point is that it's ridiculous to make a categorical distinction between digital and physical goods based on the premise that digital goods have a zero replacement cost while physical goods have a non-zero replacement cost. It makes it seem like as long as a producer is not out the replacement cost, then stealing a product is okay.

I'm not talking about the cost to replace the item. I'm talking about the lost opportunity to sell the item for profit to someone in the target market. You pull $1000 out of a hat, much like a rabbit, but to assume that it factors in the whole opportunity cost of an item that can be sold for ten times that begs the question of the analogy.

Think of it this way. If, during a peak holiday shopping weekend, a thousand people not in the target market descended upon a store and replaced all of the bags with their strict cost-to-eventually-replace amount, this would be a major blow to the company's expected revenue. The same scenario does not hold for digital products. A thousand people could pirate the digital product, and as long as the pirates are not in the target market (an assumption made in these analogies so far), there is no analogous loss of potential revenue.

That's temporarily one less handbag that could be sold for profit to someone in the target market.

I think the 'magic' analogy is still a bit more apt because of the difficulty of quantifying that temporary lost opportunity. Maybe it could be about using your own 3D printer to duplicate a product exactly.

Even if one could copy a physical item, which likely be a possibility at some point in the future, it's still a form of stealing. I don't know how you feel about it but his reasoning is wrong.

What makes you think pirates are priced out of the market? If we're talking about, say, the U.S., your typical pirate doesn't seem to be "priced out of the market" for a variety of other leisure goods, like the electronics that they're using to pirate music and TV shows.

The difference is that they don't have a frictionless way of "pirating" electronics, so they are actually forced to choose between paying for the good and abstaining from it. With media, it's easy to rationalize that you wouldn't be giving the producer money anyway, but I'm skeptical of your ability to honestly evaluate that when you have the option to trivially enjoy the good for free.

Excellent point!

However, there is an incredible amount of content out there available via free and legal means. That is to say - technology has made the barrier to entry very, very low and so content creation is a really competitive market. The relevant question is not whether, strictly speaking, the pirate can afford the product - I can afford an Hermes bag if I save up for a while - but whether their willingness to pay exceeds the price. I'm priced out of the market based on my willingness to pay, not my ability to pay.

That's a good clarification, and I agree that willingness to pay is the relevant metric to use when talking about being priced out of the market. The same point applies, though; it's hard to honestly assess your willingness to pay when it takes you 5 clicks and a few minutes of waiting to get exactly what you want for $0.

If we were to take a typical pirate and transport them to a hypothetical world where piracy was physically impossible, I think you'd generally find that they're not actually priced out of the market for many of the goods that they currently pirate. They'd likely cut down their consumption in a major way, but I strongly suspect that they'd still be willing to pay for a significant portion of the goods they currently pirate.

> If we were to take a typical pirate and transport them to a hypothetical world where piracy was physically impossible, I think you'd generally find that they're not actually priced out of the market for many of the goods that they currently pirate. They'd likely cut down their consumption in a major way, but I strongly suspect that they'd still be willing to pay for a significant portion of the goods they currently pirate.

I really doubt that.

First your last sentence. Which one is it? Either you cut down on consumption in a major way, or you still pay for a significant portion of your current consumption.

Then, questions about this hypothetical world. Does free music (net.labels, ektoplazm.com etc) still exist in this world? If not then I'd expect music culture to become a rather elitist hobby, if it even still exists in any meaningful form at all.

If free music still exists then I expect it to flourish much more than it does in the real world. I'd probably mostly listen to that, because that's where the innovation will happen. I'd probably buy a tiny number of some classic genre-definers that happened to end up on the "paid" side of the fence.

The latter situation is where we're moving with piracy as well.

It's really easy to "honestly" assess willingness to pay, actually.

If you paid for it, you were willing to pay at least the asked amount. In a "pay what you want" scheme, your willingness to pay is something between infinity and what you wind up paying. If you don't buy a thing, your willingness to pay is something below the price being asked.

There's no magic. It's an immediately available revealed-preference system - you either pay or you don't. I won't disagree that the availability of a free, well-functioning, DRM-free, easily available alternative reduces people's willingness to pay for locked-in, degraded, or even available-but-overpriced alternatives. That said, we live in a world where the piracy alternative exists, whether people like it or not.

Adjust your business model accordingly. Valve is making a killing selling software via Steam.

Sure, easy piracy is a part of reality and businesses should, as a pragmatic matter, adjust their business models -- that's neither here nor there.

When I talk about being able to honestly assess willingness to pay, I'm talking about the pirate who claims that they wouldn't buy a good anyway so they might as well pirate it. It might be true, but all we can really say from the outside is that they value the good at least $0 worth, so their willingness to pay is somewhere between 0 and infinity. You can't put an upper bound on their willingness to pay just because they didn't buy the good when they got the good for free.

I don't particularly care if people pirate, but I find that pirates tend to do a fair bit of mental gymnastics trying to justify why piracy is ethical; I think the "I wouldn't pay for it anyway" argument falls under that umbrella.


If my $1,000 were to magically, instantly transform into an identical Hermes bag sitting on the counter, I'm not sure how they'd ever even know it happened.

Who was harmed?

Fashion is a little different, too. There's very little software that operates in a world where exclusivity is an important aspect of pricing - Hermes bags cost $10,000 because people like to signal that they can afford a $10,000 bag. The value is very quickly diluted with greater availability. I can't think of a digital product that operates that way - maybe niche data re-selling? Certainly not TV shows or movies or songs.

> because people like to signal

Yes; signaling seems to be an important part of value for the producers, not only in fashion. It's the same in expensive cars, expensive electronics (think Apple), etc. Not surprisingly, those are the companies that are the loudest about chinese knockoffs.

If I were to 3D scan and then replicate the bag with subatomic precision using Star Trek replicator, I don't think anyone would feel that I'm stealing something, but people would still point out that this is not a real Hermes bag (so I got something of lesser worth). And if I took the original and left the copy in the shop, it could be considered theft even though you couldn't tell a difference with a scanning electron microscope.

It's funny how society and moral intuitions work; a very interesting topic.

It wouldn't be stealing. It would be trademark infringement. You would have to adjust your replicator to remove any trace of brand identity from your copy.

Trademark infringement is a variety of fraud, not a property crime. Your action did not deprive Hermes of its ability to keep or sell its bag, but it did damage its ability to sell the bag for 10 times production cost by diluting and confusing the brand.

why don't you just buy a different product sold on terms you agree with?

I'm not GP, but I think the real problem is lack of competition. There's no real competition in this marked, they all collude.

One example: If Big-Movie-Studio-A sold their movies online as downloadable, DRM-free content, I would be much more inclined to buy their movies instead of the competitions. There's hundreds of ways the movie studios could differentiate themselves, but they don't. They obviously do not want to compete on most fronts.

This is, as always, the elephant in the room.

A lot of people are seeing their internet use throttled for certain services lately, so even the supposedly "simple and fast" alternatives are taking a beating in the race these days.

(Bittorrent) P2P technology is a marvel to me. It's such a simple concept and the recent advances at distributed links, encrypting and/or obfuscating the traffic etc. have done a good job keeping up with attempts at limiting it. It's fast, takes little effort to use and makes incredible use of the resources that the internet offers while being more true to its core values (fault tolerance, distributed data, "route around censorship" etc.).

If you want to (and have a modern connection), you can find TV Shows in high definition shortly after their original broadcast, with zero advertisement interruptions and at download speeds that vastly exceed realtime streaming. Even in the rare cases where you cannot stream what you have downloaded so far (because of early missing chunks), simply waiting a minute or two will usually do the trick. What I would call the "inconvenience level" is down to where the time you need to wait for your content to be ready is about what you need for getting a round of snacks. Ergo: Virtually Zero.

A content consumer like myself, in particular using a GNU+Linux system, is receiving vastly superior service at pretty much zero cost (save for effort and internet fees). Not to mention that for a content publisher, bittorrent is a mindblowingly simple and cost effective tool.

For a while, I was actually considering moving away from my usual routine of "watch first, buy properly (in disc form) later". With all the BS they are still attempting to shovel into those, however (in particular the recent net-neutrality and surveillance crap), I find it harder and harder to ease up on my stance.

In my opinion they should burn it all down, put it on bittorrent and charge in crypto money. Pretty sure we will be moving to some form of that eventually, might as well get it over with before we have to endure even more collateral damage from outdated monopolies trying a little too hard having it their way.

Calling the media companies "outdated monopolies" is the height of absurdity. It's ridiculously easy to compete with the media companies: just film in digital, process in digital, and put up content on P2P and charge in Bitcoin. There is nothing stopping you from doing that today.

You have to notify people that your thing exists, and multibillion dollar ad budgets crowd independent media out, no matter what the quality.

The media industry is no longer designed for more than a handful of massive vertically integrated companies to operate, because there's only a handful of massive vertically integrated companies that operate the media under a thousand different names.

It may sound quaint, but production costs used to be the big hurdle to creating and distributing an independent work. As production costs approach zero, collusion and M&A have risen in a complementary manner to compensate.

Google, Facebook, Twitter? Advertisement is more accessible than ever.

save for effort

Aye, there's the rub.

To me, it seems like the easiest thing in the world go to the the Pirate Bay, look something up, click "Get this torrent" and wait ten minutes or so for it to show up.

Then I tried teaching someone who's not tech savvy to do it. She didn't have adblock, so she was confused by the Russian wives for sale and by the multiple Download buttons. She was deeply suspicious of having to download uTorrent and completely lost as to how to choose which of several available torrents she should pick.

I don't know. I try to use Netflix on someone's Xbox and have the exact same problem. How the hell am I supposed to navigate with a joystick? Is it A or B to select? How do I go back?

Maybe we're all just getting old.

I first started buying Kindle books once I was confident that I could trivially rip the DRM off them via Calibre.

(EDIT: And I'm very glad I did, as just the other day I bought a book that in its original format causes the Android Kindle app to go back to the main screen if I remain on the same page for more than a few seconds(!) and lose its position in the book - thanks to Calibre I know I have alternatives, including converting it to other formats and/or reading it in other readers, if Amazon doesn't manage to figure out what the issue is; that's within the first dozen books I've bought from the Kindle store)

I will start buying video online when I'm equally confident I can do the same.

The free videos via Prime I'll be more lenient with. Even rentals. I don't mind DRM on that per se. Except that the DRM generally prevents me or make it hard to access it on all my devices. If they won't run on my Linux laptop (they might, as I understand it, via Pipelight, but I've not tested), or on my Android TV stick, or on my Android phone, they might as well not exist.

In that case the value of Amazon Instant Video to me is arguably negative: I receive zero value, and there's a an added negative value in having it shoved in my face knowing they're choosing to artificially limit my access. I'm less happy about my Prime subscription today, knowing the amount of potential hassle might be involved in trying to get access to these videos than I was before I received the e-mail saying they'd added Instant Video to the UK Prime accounts last night...

As crazy as this sounds... I've got no problems with being in an "ecosystem" as long as it can be run on any device. See Kindle for a perfect example -- I have it on my iPhone, iPad, desktop and my PaperWhite. Perfect.

Or Netflix: runs on everything. But if your "ecosystem" is limited to particular devices (see: iMessage, or the OP) then it may as well not exist as far as I'm concerned.

Hell, even Apple knew iTunes needed to run on Windows to matter. Eventually, anyway.

The problem with "ecosystems" is that they're usually trojan horses for vendor lock-in. It's fine to provide a comprehensive user-space, but when you start preventing people from running other stuff in their devices for dubious reasons, that's when you cross the line.

This can be done bluntly (via privileges) or sneakily (by making sure compatibility is not easy). But yeah usually ecosystems => lock-in and walled gardens.

Yeah, Amazon is actually the worst at this because of their e-book DRM. At least iTunes eventually removed DRM so you could move to Amazon MP3 or Google Play.

>>>Yeah, Amazon is actually the worst at this because of their e-book DRM.

iBookstore, Nookbook store, and Kobo -- the other three big players also have eBook DRM (via Adobe). Kindle is no "worse" than them.

You're correct, I intended to refer to Amazon's proprietary format instead of the ePub standard.

> At least iTunes eventually removed DRM

Job's anti-DRM letter was published 8 months before the public beta of Amazon MP3 in September 2007. The first DRM free music from EMI was available on iTunes in May 2007. Google Play Music opened in 2011, two years after iTunes music was fully DRM free in the US.

"Eventually" is a bit harsh, it isn't a given that Amazon MP3 and Google Play Music would be DRM free if it wasn't for Apple pushing for it back at the start of 2007.

It's not good to attribute all that credit to iTunes. Amazon and Google may have been able to negotiate other terms. Because unlike Apple, neither Amazon or Google had a separate MP3 player and thus no incentive to enforce DRM.

Seems that every thread has someone claim that if it wasn't for Apple, X would never exist and I'm frankly tired of it.

I think it's fine, but I also think some middleground has to be taken so that we aren't slowly tied into a "ecosystem."

The example I like is Netflix on Linux. Now, boredom will find a way - and I use Wine and FireFox - but, does it really have to be like that?

I understand Linux is (without looking it up) something like 1% of the desktop market. But really... why should that matter? I know, business..but it's a consumer product.

When I'm trying to look through Netflix's website to see what's supported, all I can find is them trying to sell me proprietary devices. I don't mind so much, because I still like Netflix.

It comes down to cost.

It's cheaper for Netflix to have you use their box than it is for them to develop & support a Linux client for the relatively small user base.

Licensing restrictions and other politics likely prevent them from accepting open source clients, even if they wanted to.

GNU/Linux users are not in their business interests. And you can't fix that problem because the software is proprietary. The only acceptable option is to stop using Netflix.

Okay - I understand. And use what, though? Pirate Bay? Maybe launch a startup that has only public-domain videos to start?

There has to be a good solution.

> And use what, though? Pirate Bay?

I know of no place to legally purchase DRM free content that you would find on Netflix. It's a sorry state to be in.

> Maybe launch a startup that has only public-domain videos to start?

See: http://gondwanaland.com/mlog/2013/05/03/a-kill-hollyweb-plan...

Feel free to take the idea and run with it.

> There has to be a good solution.

I think you or I or someone else needs to make the solution. Though the problem is not simply technical. It's social and political, too.

I agree with you. I'd love to be a part of a solution, but it would take some serious commitment and big-backing. At least, as you say, on a social level - through HN and similar communities.

Public domain does not exist anymore.

There is a good solution, and it'll solve several other problems (some way more important than copyrights). I just don't know how to implement it - does anybody have any idea that does not resemble Ucrania?

I'm sorry, probably my fault, but I don't follow?

Public domain does exist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_in_the_public_dom...

Or do you mean something else?

If you look closer at that list, the most recent film to enter the public domain was produced in 1968. The last time a film entered the public domain (known at least) was in 1991. And the overwhelming reason any work actually entered the public domain was that they failed to renew the copyright (which implies they could still not be in the public domain if the creators were more on top of their copyright situation).

I think what the GP meant with "public domain does not exist anymore" is that it is effectively is no longer relevant.

He means no more works will ever be added to the public domain. He's right as far as I can tell.

It's a sad day when even on Hacker News, a product that doesn't run on Linux is referred to as "runs on everything".

If it doesn't run on Ubuntu and RedHat, it doesn't run on everything.

I run Ubuntu entirely on my laptop... and it doesn't bother me that I'm missing it on that device, I have so many others that theres little utility lost.

That said, I see your point; what I'm worried about is the "HTML5 DRM" specification and the binaries for them not being released on Linux. Then we're entirely screwed, with no work-arounds.

> As crazy as this sounds... I've got no problems with being in an "ecosystem" as long as it can be run on any device. See Kindle for a perfect example -- I have it on my iPhone, iPad, desktop and my PaperWhite. Perfect.

That's how I felt, until it wasn't perfect. I have a lot of DRM free tech books from publishers like O'Reilly. I'd like to be able to read them on my Kindle and sync my notes with the Kindle desktop app or "Cloud Reader". Doesn't work. Notes and highlights only sync between desktop apps and the Kindle e-ink device when you're reading Kindle books bought from Amazon.

That's the problem with a closed ecosystem. No matter how hard they try, the creator of the ecosystem isn't going to be able to foresee/support every use case.

The bigger problem is that Netflix doesn't have much of a selection, so you either have a service that isn't useful or you have to use multiple services, with multiple logins, multiple clients, multiple ecosystems, which is a bad situation. The fact that some of those services have decent dvice support isn't a consolation.

I used to do business development work at Sony bringing content services onto the TVs although this is a few years ago now. It is complicated and messy and there are many aspects both technical and commercial[0] that can cause services not to be available.

Lovefilm were one of the most flexible and adaptable service providers although I don't know the extent to which this still applies with Amazon.

I don't blame Panasonic for not supporting Flash/Silverlight in the TV. Adopting either of these is likely to require unpleasant licensing terms AND opaque binary blobs into the TV software.

On the service provider side they cannot just drop the security measures (DRM or other security measures) as that would likely be breaching their own licenses from the content owners (film companies). If not supporting a major recognised DRM approach it can be a real sticking block.

[0] Including placement, branding, design and obviously any revenue share arrangements.

While I agree with his point about ecosystems (I strongly avoid them), these examples are a bit weak. Android is not an "open standard", it's a code-dumped open source touch OS controlled by 1 company. Amazon should make an Android app, but by doing so they are contributing to an ecosystem.

What's not widely known is that, unlike smartphones, HTML5 is the dominant platform for TV-based apps. That's why every TV has Netflix, not because Netflix is employing an army of engineers to make a new app for each TV model.

However, TV based apps are still apps that are installed and controlled by the TV vendor. Which means Amazon has to strike a deal with Panasonic to get their generic HTML5 app on Panasonic TVs.

If HTML5 DRM (which, to clarify, I am opposed to) becomes a standard this whole mess could be avoided and Amazon could serve their videos on any TV with a modern browser.

While I agree with his point about ecosystems (I strongly avoid them), these examples are a bit weak. Android is not an "open standard", it's a code-dumped open source touch OS controlled by 1 company.

Evenmore, Android doesn't support standards very well. E.g., the default IMAP mail client didn't (probably still doesn't) have IDLE support, it doesn't have CardDAV/CalDAV support (luckily, there are external connectors), and XMPP federation is gone, so you can only talk with your Hangouts buddies via Hangouts.

The 'problem' is that from a user's perspective Android is great. The integration with the Google ecosystem in Android is impressive. And given that many westeners already have GMail et al., Android provides a great and smooth out of the box experience. So, there is little reason to switch, as long as the ads don't become to intrusive.

This is one of the reasons why Net Neutrality is so important.

Everybody and their brother wants to lock you in to their platform (whether it's a phone or an ISP) then split, differentiate, and bundle the product in so many complex ways you'll be lucky if you even understand what you're purchasing.

Cell phone companies have already done this. Airlines as well. So have insurance companies. They make money by farming the walled garden in such a way as to make it look like you have increased choices, but, mirabile dictu, all the choices end up with you paying more money each month.

Enough is enough.

  Cell phone companies have already done this. Airlines as well. So have insurance companies. 
While I agree with you in general, airlines in your example are clearly wrong.

As a matter of fact: It's precisely the other way and airlines are actually unbundling their services.

Bundling is when everything (luggage, food, seat assignment, check in fees) are included in the price of your ticket, if you want it or not. Unbundling is exactly the opposite.

I.e: You pay for the basic service (the flight) and if you want to check in luggage, order a meal, assign a choice seat , or whatever you pay for those extras.

I actually don't mind this practice, provided that an airline is transparent about it, it's clearly lined out during the booking process (if the final price say 232$, I don't have any mystery charges for that booking on my credit card) and as long I'm not sandbagged at the airport (for example: paying an additional 10$ "check-in" fee).

It's always sad to see Libertarians sacrificing their principles as soon as it involves a slight inconvenience to themselves.

Net Neutrality means handing control of the internet to the government. Regulatory capture and special interests will ensure any Net Neutrality legislation is an unworkable mess that sets investment in the internet back decades.

For video things would be even worse. Do you want Congress telling Amazon which video formats they have to use, and which formats the devices they sell must support? When Amazon doesn't want to support some proprietary standard that congress members got bribed to pick then the thugs with guns will turn up at Amazon HQ and Amazon will be unable to defend themselves.

We know that markets are inherently self-correcting, we just need to have patience.

Whoa horsey!

Nobody's asking for regulations here. I think in a digital age, "Product Definition" benefits everybody in the marketplace, and there's no reason we can't come together on that, whether by industry association or legal definition.

No regulators or laws necessary. I simply need to know when I'm buying an "apple" that I get a red thing that's somewhat round and good to eat -- all without spending 3 years studying the nuances of apple law. That's good for everybody because it encourages and supports a free and open market. This is what we want, no?

I'm not asking for a bureaucrat, or an agency. I just want bins in the market where vendors put stuff where I can easily tell what the thing is, that's all.

"Product Definition" benefits everybody in the marketplace

No, it really doesn't: it commoditises the product, which tends to drive down margins. Vendors love lockin and lack of clarity. It benefits the customers. It tends not to happen unless it's enforced in some way. Food is a good example of this: what are you buying when you buy an "organic apple"?

Honest question - if you're not going to regulate or outlaw it, what's going to stop providers from engaging in it? "It" being charging more for / throttling bandwidth for service A and not service B.

Tort law?

I bought an apple and you gave me a squash. What's going to stop that? My taking you to court for damages, that's what. But it won't just be me -- it'll be everybody you ever did business with.

Do you want to face one regulatory agency, where regulatory capture is always present, or do you want to go to court with a million angry customers, perhaps one at a time, that bought one product and were delivered another?

Right - no argument there. I buy X and get Y, that's breech of contract (for demonstrably different/inferior Y).

But I'm asking a slightly different question. I'm operating from a definition of "net neutrality" as "non-discrimination of all kinds of bits flowing through internet wires/beams/tubes." And my question is: what stops VeriComAO&T from selling internet service defined as 2kbps of Netflix and 75gbps of CrapVideo(tm brought to you buy VCA&T)? What guarantees/enforces that kind of net neutrality, if not laws or regulations?

Net Neutrality can be supported and enforced without government intervention though.

It's not clear that Amazon has 100% control over how they distribute video. Rights holders are pretty controlling about DRM, distribution, and what devices can use their content.

I don't know anything about the specific deals here, but I wouldn't be surprised if an open Amazon Instant Video was an Amazon Instant Video without very much content you'd care about.

I'm really beginning to think that views like this (which I share) are in the minority, at least so far as the "making astounding quantities of money" crowd are concerned. Even downloading an MP3 from Amazon--a process that used to just result in an MP3 link being presented after payment--needs a client and wants to sync to the cloud. Vendor lock-in has been a thing for as long as there have been computers, it's just that our interconnectedness has made it even more visible and incredibly more lucrative.

Doanloading an MP3 from amazon doesn't require a client. It does sync to the cloud, but it doesn't require a client. I guess I don't see the vendor lock-in there?

I just tried a few days ago. They heavily promote their client and I couldn't find a link to just download the MP3s.

I started my post with:

Sign into Amazon. Hit this link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/ays

View->View By Type->Music->Amazon MP3

But then tried to actually download my music or Kindle books. You're right. It's actually quite difficult to. Not pleasant.

EDIT: Apparently I'm a dolt; see /u/thaumasiotes's response below.

Well, come on. You could at least go the the pages that offer the functionality you want. Hit "Manage Your Kindle" from the "Your account" dropdown and download Kindle books to your heart's content; they really couldn't make that any easier. You'd download your music through "Your Cloud Player", just like Amazon tells you to do when you buy it. Alternatively, your order history for any item will include the relevant link.

Thanks, that's exactly what I was looking for as they have download links in there under cloud player, but on purchase, I got a choice of Cloud player I think or Download Amazon music player (which also gives access to files). Your Cloud Player doesn't sound like it'll let you download files, so I ignored it, but that's where they have put it.

IMO it should be called Your Music instead, because people want their music, not Amazon's software for playing their music, which is exactly what this article is complaining about.

Well, I'm completely prepared to agree that downloading music after purchase is both () less convenient than it used to be and () filed under an unintuitive name. But on the other hand, the cloud player sync does let you redownload already-purchased music, which I don't think you could do before. Mainly I was responding to the idea that downloading was being obstructed, which I don't agree with.

The trend of vertical hyper-integration combined with Comcast's hegemony over broadband and gradual creeping loss of Net Neutrality means that we're gradually moving towards a less and less useful Internet. Unfortunately, whatever benefits these companies might reap in the long-term from wide-open media standards and net neutrality are too small or too uncertain to allow them to move towards openness. I hate to say it on this site, but government does have a role to play here in establishing rules for basic market fairness. Unfortunately, so far the government rules have all been in favor of the media industry and against consumers. Abolishing DRM and going strict on net neutrality are, I think, the two key pieces of the puzzle. Much of the other problems would quickly fall away. Stronger fair use and compulsory licensing across a broader spectrum of IP would also help.

Spread information. Just like you're doing with this article. Eventually, enough decisions will be made based on that information, that was previously unknown or hidden, that companies will change their practises.

The basic issue is lock-in. Ideally we'd have no lock-in, but that's a benefit balanced against other benefits (e.g. having a good UI, ease of setup and maintenance, enough scope for vendors to make money and stay in business). In practice this means we tolerate a certain amount of lock-in for other benefits.

But, the problem comes when everyone thinks that they can be the guy with the tolerable lock-in. Use MY video service -- anywhere, MY platform -- running on anything, MY app store -- on anyone.

Amazon's model is illustrative. It's hard to read non-Amazon content on a Kindle (harder than any other platform!) but easy to read Amazon content on any rival platform. They've been less successful with video because they aren't able to leverage their existing near-monopolies as well.

I agree. The Kindle is broken is this regard for me. It can't sync my notes or progress from books I didn't buy on Amazon.

I have The Cloud. All I want is a system that lets me read and sync all eBooks (and PDFs too please!) on all readers. Does anything like this exist?

I thought this did work if you put it in your "library". It at least seems to do so with the books I purchased through the humble bundle.

Google Play Books lets you upload epubs, PDFs, etc. and syncs them for you between your devices. I don't know if that meets your needs. I use it for all the papers I want to read on my tablet.

Is this really that important? If you don't like it, don't use it (it being Amazon's video streaming service). There are plenty of competing services if you have a burning need to watch films via the Internet. No need to throw a tantrum.

It’s annoying because now they expect me to pay 49€ rather than 29€ for the same service, namely for them to ship stuff to me at costs competitive with going out to buy said stuff directly.

I don’t know of any company competing with Amazon in that space, sadly.

If shipping cost is important to you, then indeed why not just go out and buy it directly?

I like the convenience of ordering online, but paying 5€ for each order is too much and makes me want to combine different orders, which takes some of that convenience away again. Just paying 29€ flat for a year was perfect, I could order online whenever I needed something without worrying about shipping and the like (the actual items being roughly the same price as in local shops). 49€ is slightly too much for that usecase, and the price increase only being justified by zero extra value only furthers its unacceptability.

The relevant book to read on this topic is Varian and Shapiro's Information Rules. Aimed at companies, and written in the late 1990s, its concepts are now increasingly applicable to the consumer information/IT space. In particular it discusses lock-in, or what we're now calling "fucking ecosystems".


I think the smart TV is inherently a lock in platform like the old phone market use to be when Nokia phones were all the rage.

If the smart TV runs android I'm ok with it the apps are already there but if anything else i would rather have the "smart" part outside my TV and just get a regular old TV.

Say for instance using XBMC I know it's a lot less likely the apps will get out of date or I'm going to be forced by some vendors whims to use certain service because they need to increase their profit margins.

Let just boil this issue down to what it really is: closed source vs open source. With the "in-your-face-doubters" revelations of Snowden that many of us have been raving about for years, it still boils down to the main issue which is control of data. Closed source and you never fully control your data, it's that simple. Stop making it more complicated than it really is, and once again, I say that RMS was a man that will be increasingly vindicated over time.

Also, fuck the "cloud".

As far as TV support goes, no one should expect their TVs to handle streaming media for them. That was and is a terrible idea. A TV should be a monitor, end of story.

> Even Microsoft, the technology's creator, sees no future in [Silverlight]

I don't understand the basis for making such a statement. The last Silverlight release is not very old; the linked "lifecycle search" lists mainstream support for the latest version of Silverlight until 2021; there are no announcement that the product is being abandoned. Is it just hyperbole?

They're providing security fixes and support for a long time, but every indication is that there will be no further feature upgrades, which for all intents and purposes means that it is dead in the water other than for very limited uses like DRM'd video playback.

Agreed. Also, if rumors are to be trusted, there will be a new release of Silverlight: http://www.zdnet.com/a-new-year-a-new-microsoft-roadmap-step...

I think people are overreacting to the fact that Microsoft improved support for HTML5+JS in Win8 apps, WP8, etc, and are assuming they will let all other technologies die. Even if true, how long of a death it will be?

People have also assumed Flash is completely dead as of _now_ since HTML5+JS is getting increased attention. Then putting Silverlight in the same position and calling it a day. IMHO, these technologies will stay with us for a while.

That article is from January 2013. Referencing a document from 2012.

Their blog hasn't been updated in 2 years - http://blogs.msdn.com/b/silverlight/

They haven't tweeted for 3 months - https://twitter.com/silverlight

Perhaps they're all working really hard on Silverlight 6...

I don't mind being part of your ecosystem as long as I'm part of your family, you care for my needs, think about me, and the whole company is built around my lifestyle and serves it really well leaving not much to be desired. The loss in interoperability is worth it in this case.

If you're not going to be the above, then act like a pipe-able Unix process.

Part is how business is done when you have a patent system in place.

It's hard to innovate when you're an investor, so those who do manage to sell in a certain market tend to milk their users instead of trying to get more customers. They don't really understand very well why people use IT products, so they tend to take no risks and lock in.

This could be solved like this:

* Be a company who doesn't lose lawsuits to patent trolls. I don't really know the details of that. I don't know how the justice system technically manage those things.

* Fix the patent system to have an healthier innovation landmark.

* Have a business model where companies who do innovate refuse to be bought, and only agree to do partnerships with other companies so to avoid the lock-in between giants. If you get bought by google or microsoft, it will indeed change how your product will end up being used or not. This solution is naive.

The thing I'm most pissed off about is having this rubbish bundled in with Prime at a non-additional extra cost. As a current Prime customer, I will not be renewing next year.

I generally respect Amazon, Bezos, most of what they do and their business strategy, but this is a real shitbag move towards paying Prime customers.

As a TV developer, I say connect a PC to the TV already. Making a 37-in TV that sells for £479.00 is a major feat in itself. The panel leaves scant margin for a SoC. Porting various codecs and runtimes to run on the said SoC is easier said than done.

There is a misalignment of incentives.

You want to be able to consume X on any Y.

Companies want to sell you X on the expectation that you've bought their Y. Given that they've already been extremely successful doing this, X is only available on their Y.

Why should they change?

Because if they do they might just create another extremely profitable market place.

Remember when all phones expected you to use their own proprietary OS with their own proprietary apps and developers had to make apps for every brand and model separately?

That's vendor lockin taken to such an extreme that people can't even be bother to make apps anymore.

Plus these apps are quickly going to become obsolete or outdated base what developer can be bothered to keep up with all that crap.

Same logic applies just this time it's not phones it's smart TV's.

Except that Apple is still making money hand over fist with a proprietary OS with their own proprietary apps, happily built by people who aren't Apple employees for 70% of their value.

Where does the profit in the new marketplace come from?

Apple was the first to implement the concept properly before android caught up so they had a head start.

The combination of excellent implementation of a touchscreen in the phone (it was done multiple times before but every other implementation sucked) and the combination of that with a proper app store (by today's standards) gave them the push necessary.

Notice it wasn't any of the regular players at the time that took it in the right direction but a no name in the phone industry. Everybody else was too busy fighting each other instead of innovating.

The profit is where it gets a bit odd since most likely the only profit the manufacturer of the TV gets is the price of the TV and maybe some bonuses from the companies whose app get installed by default on the TV.

No different then a laptop now.

The TV may become popular because of its great flexibility app wise but the bulk of the profits will be earned by software companies distributing the apps through adverts or by charging for the app.

>>>Why should they change?

Because there's the example of the iPod. It wasn't the music player to have until Apple employees wore down Steve Jobs so they could let it connect with Windows.

Except that Apple still owned the ecosystem. Allowing you to connect iTunes on Windows is just like having Kindle on everything - a means to spread your ecosystem and platform. In fact, this is even BETTER for them, because you still had to buy an iPod!

The more you can treat the underlying OS as "dumb pipes", the more valuable/easily spreadable your ecosystem is.

Because it makes customers happy, and thus more likely to purchase from you again in future.

Long term vs. short term.

There are two theses:

1) People purchase products from you because they are happy that they can use those products anywhere.

2) People purchase products from you because they are happy they work on the device/service/ecosystem they've invested in, and they don't have lose their sunk cost.

I feel that 1 is a great lead in for new customers - if they have options. I know that 2 definitely wins in the long run - people want to avoid the pain of their sunk cost. That's why lock-in works.

The core of the issue is that people are asking companies who are wildly successful with locking people in to open up their ecosystem on some nebulous promise of future earnings based in popular goodwill.

HTML 5.1 will feature DRM ("Encrypted Media Extensions"): https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/10/lowering-your-standard...

Sadly Microsoft, Google, Netflix and BBC want this in HTML 5.1. We can only hope that Mozilla [1], Apple, Adobe, etc. won't support DRM in their products.

[1] https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=872125

Mozilla most definitely won't support it, but Adobe will. Apple will implement their own, incompatible-with-everyone-else, DRM instead.

You are right about Adobe, I found a source: http://blogs.adobe.com/standards/2013/06/19/adobe-support-fo...

I haven't found a source that details Apple's plan.

My car and phone both "have" Bluetooth, but I can't use them together because the car doesn't "support" the phone. Doesn't really make sense to me.

They aren't ecosystems - they're biospheres. They look like a functional system but by operating independently of external forces they stagnate quickly.

Amazon most definitely has an android app for instance video. That's how it runs on Kindle Fire devices. They just don't approve it (or enable it to work) on non-Kindle devices. You can find leaked apk files on various forums, but they don't fit most screens and crash frequently. On the flip side, you can stream movies via their website in Firefox for Android which still supports Flash.

The problem here isn't ecosystems, it's standards. Standards that allow us to move MP3s, emails, books, etc. between providers.

I'd like to believe that HTML5 will eventually be the standard for video delivery, but this may never happen. There's no incentive to standardize streaming content delivery because it would increase competition and take power away from the corporations.

Just to be clear, I upvoted this, but I thinking TVs being anything but a dumb display is a really bad idea. It wastes developer time trying to stuff support for proprietary technologies and reinvents the wheel.

Just... just be a display and let me connect whatever proper devices to it, instead of trying to put a crappy and slow YouTube app that gets obsoleted within a year.

I would agree - but does that mean I need to buy a NetFlix box, a cable TV box, an Amazon box, a YouTube box, a Vimeo box etc.?

Or, do I run one box that magically supports them all? Apart from DailyMotion who've decided they want me to buy their special adapter....

> Or, do I run one box that magically supports them all?

A computer? That's what I would use.

Where do I find a computer which runs all these services, has a nice easy to use front end, and doesn't cost a fortune?

Meanwhile, in the Pirate Bay ecosystem...

This sounds utopian but not practical; a typical dev-only mistakes with poor business perspective. How else will they make money? Making money is the most important thing, and without it, none of this would have existed.

Oh hey. It's a bitchy consumer with entitlement issues. Fancy seeing one of those on HN.

You know what ecosystem is nice? Earth's. Go outside and play in the snow for fuck's sake.

The main problem is that most consumers don't really care about openness, functionality and anything that requires a bit of brain power to understand.

They get a TV, smartphone, PC - it works, cool. That feature is missing - oh, shucks, whatcha gonna do? It was probably too hard to implement anyway, right?

Which is why ecosystems exist - once people learn how to use that one simple system, they'll tend to buy stuff from the same company for convenience's sake. Most poeple don't want to figure out how to install apps, why this web page isn't displaying correctly, or how to make those mp3 files smaller.

Why not just get a $300 projector and plug your laptop in?

Native Resolution: 800 x 600

I think basic problem is 'smart tv'. I got cheap android HDTV, it handles everything including flash videos and streaming from FTP server...

This article is a misguided attempt to bemoan Panasonic for not enabling Amazon Prime video on their devices, which really has nothing to do with ecosystems and more to do with inferior technology and/or poor pre-purchase research.

I don't view Prime Video as an ecosystem but more as an added value type of thing. Beyond that, it's opt-in, therefore not limiting.

If the OP wanted Prime Video on their TV they should have purchased a TV that offered it, or buy a box that does it as an add-on.

Is that not rather the point of the post? I read it as Panasonic is trying to enforce its own ecosystem. It's not playing well with Amazon's ecosystem. Amazon's ecosystem doesn't play well with Android either (which to me is rather surprising, given Amazon has Kindle on Android)

Prime Video did not exist when the OP bought his TV.

So he's expecting Panasonic to upgrade the software to support it? I don't see how you can blame Panasonic for not having something that didn't exist when the TV was made.

I'm not a Panasonic fan, but I would guess they a) can't afford to add Prime and/or b) are trying to offer what they can in place of it.

The fact that you have to have some custom client (I don't care how thin it is) to get interop means it is an ecosystem.

There are business reasons to avoid interop (it costs money, it removes branding opportunities, blah blah blah), but let's not pretend they are anything else.

Or buy an HDMi cable.

What next? I want horses, not cars?

Sorry but crapping about ecosystems is crapping on a fundamental construct of human organization.

maybe it would be good to have some sort of (general) index of compatibility for consumer products. A one-number thing. "how likely this product is to lock you out of something good".

If this information is valuable (and I think it is!) even small fluctuations on the index could push a given product up.

i have a panasonic viera from 2011 and it includes an amazon video player in its built-in apps (along with netflix, and a couple of other services). i use it all the time to watch movies and tv shows using prime, for free, and for pay. is the author talking about a different service?

Interesting - are you based in the UK?

i bought my TV in los angeles and live here.

This reminds me of the bad old days.

Around 1980 you'd buy an Apple ][ or a TRS-80 or a Commodore VIC and they all were incompatible, although most of them still had Micro$oft BASIC.

There were better justifications back then though. Stuff ran on completely different hardware and layers of abstraction weren't really workable. Some of the BASIC was more or less compatible but then again most stuff was machine code and BASIC was usually just the OS's terminal and bootloader of sorts.

One could not reasonably expect the same software to work unchanged on a MOS 6502 based computer like the VIC or the Apple ][ and in a Z80 based computer like the TRS-80. And there were many more differences at the hardware and ROM-kernel level that made cross-platform software largely unworkable.

Apple kept the bad old days alive with its own intentionally locked-in ecosystem. Maybe if they had failed more spectacularly in the 90s then perhaps today every company wouldn't be using iPhone lockin as a goal to aspire to.

"...most of them still had Micro$oft BASIC"

Behold the genius of Bill.

Also of note, I first learned programming in QBASIC. And by programming I mean dozens of GOTO loops.

And yet with a modem and comm software, they could all connect to online services -- The Source, CompuServe, BBSes.

One reason I never buy drm'ed media.


Flash is such an ecosystem...

I'm a fan of ecosystems.

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