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Cybernaut

The piracy solution?

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Senator Ernest Hollings of South Carolina introduced a bill that would require Silicon Valley and Hollywood to agree on a standard to stop digital piracy within the year or face legislation that would decide things once and for all. Known as the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act, the legislation would also apply to other files, including MP3s.

The companies that manufacture the various video and audio players would have to agree to include a software patch that would recognize pirated and copyrighted materials and refuse to play them. Software that’s currently used to transfer one file type into a digital format that can be traded online would likely also be modified.

There’s some talk that the computers themselves will be taught to recognize pirated files, either at the Operating System level, or within the hardware itself, likely by a next generation processor.

This would also allow companies to share video and music, but would subject both to the same kind of limited licensing as a lot of shareware – i.e. the infamous 30-day free trial.

In exchange for agreeing to change their software, digital media companies would be encouraged to share more protected material to keep consumers happy.

If Hollywood and Silicon Valley are unable to come up with an acceptable anti-piracy technology within the year, the new legislation making the technology mandatory – which nobody seems to want – would kick in.

A number of hardware companies, including Intel, are currently working on a system that would prevent pirated files from being copied to hard drives, but oppose the legislation. Other critics say the entire industry will be hurt financially just to protect the entertainment industry.

For example, if people didn’t pirate as much material from the Web, they wouldn’t buy as many recordable CDs or purchase as much hard drive space. People wouldn’t see the need to buy the latest sound or video cards, or surround sound speaker systems to use with their computers.

While most people would probably keep their broadband connections, some customers may opt for slower and cheaper services.

There’s also the international aspect to consider. People might decide to buy hardware and software from other countries that don’t have the same piracy protection traits, and that would no doubt hurt some companies.

Finally, there’s the fact that millions of files without any kind of anti-piracy markers that could be identified by software or hardware are already available. It will still be out there, it will just be harder to get.

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