Entertainment Industry's "Protection" May Throttle Open Source Development

A recent article at Business Week Online highlights the impact that impending copy protection legislation will have on the open source industry. The news - predictably - isnit good.

In case you missed the excitement after the March 21st announcement of the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act, this bill aims to place copy protection of some as-yet unspecified variety into all forms of media that can handle digital content. Not only does this threaten the Fair Use rights of the average consumer, but it has the potential to utterly scuttle the open source software movement. From the article:

The problem is, in their zeal to dictate how hardware and software makers build their equipment, the movie and music moguls would mess with matters that are none of their business, critics say. Embedding copyright-protection mechanisms into new PCs and other digital devices would mean inserting pieces of software code that are hidden, or locked down, and couldnit be altered. That would amount to nothing less than an assault on the open-source religion, which advocates sharing, collaboration, and free access to code.

A crucial feature of the Linux operating system -- the basic software that controls a computer -- is that any part of it can be modified by its users, as long as they agree to make the modification available, for free, to the world at large. Locking down Linux could destroy this dynamic, on which plenty of corporate software developers now depend, and also bar open-source programmers from the $80 billion consumer-electronics market.

Eighty billion dollars. Thatis a lot of money. Just over two times that of the entertainment market ($35bn), in fact. That doesnit even take into account the growing number of software corporations which are investing time, effort and even more money into open source-derived works - including Apple.

The article also mentions the upcoming report from the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group - a group comprised of Hollywood companies and technology manufacturers seeking a consensus on the standards that would apply to digital media devices. The article confirms that talks "between copyright owners and makers of consumer-electronics and PCs are focusing on securing veto power for Hollywood", and needless to say, the open source community isnit represented. The article also said at the time that the BPDGis recommendation may have been released as early as May 17th. So far, no recommendation has surfaced - however, the weblog Consensus at Lawyerpoint links to a draft of the BPDGis final statement.

You can read the article in full at Business Week Online.