Anti-Piracy Bill Might Silence Singing Fish

"Is it just me," thought El Gato, "or did Microsoft's acquisition of Liquid Audio's patent portfolio for a measly $7 million garner less media attention than it should have?"

"Is it just me," thought El Gato, "or did Microsofts acquisition of Liquid Audios patent portfolio for a measly $7 million garner less media attention than it should have?"

With the entertainment industry frantically seeking solutions to selling music, film and other content over the Web, it would seem that scooping up Liquid Audios patents on digital rights management and secure digital delivery of media over the Internet—and at such a relatively low price for a juggernaut such as Redmond—is very big news.

With Hollywood and the music industry tripping over themselves in attempts to profit from the digital distribution of content, media moguls may be more than willing to turn the job over to the software vendor if Microsoft can convince them it can provide a digital distribution standard. Of course, getting greedy record company and Hollywood execs to view digital distribution as a cash cow waiting to be milked rather than a barbarous horde at the gate will take time. But last weeks acquisition shows how determined Microsoft is to provide the bucket and stool when the milking begins.

One current example of Hollywoods inability to piece together the digital puzzle is its support of Sen. Fritz Hollings Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act. The bill, which if passed would require all digital devices to have built-in anti-piracy protection, has certainly inspired the wrath of numerous critics. It also seems to have inspired levity on the part of Princeton Professor Ed Felton, whose Web site collects a running list of hysterical devices that he believes qualify for regulation because they do not contain government-approved copy protection. On the list: the Tinkle Toonz Musical Potty chair and the singing Big Mouth Billy Bass mounted fish. Both could possibly become illegal if the CBDTPA were to pass.

A Tabby tipster told the Tawny Titan that some AOL and CompuServe users in West Virginia and Ohio were whacked with nightmarish phone bills last month. The bills suddenly jumped from around $10 to thousands of dollars when the access numbers users usually dialed mysteriously changed from a local calling designation to a long-distance calling charge. Users affected by the unexplained switch got long-distance phone bills that reportedly ranged from $1,200 to $5,000. The West Virginia attorney generals office is trying to help hundreds of customers who have formally complained figure out whether their ISP or the phone company is to blame for the mix-up.

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Spencer F. Katt

Spencer F. Katt

Spencer F. Katt, the Whiskered Wonder, has been the mascot and tipster extraordinaire for eWEEK and its predecessor print publication PC Week since 1984. The Gadabout Gatto makes the rounds of...