September 30, 2003

The Sordid Truth About DVDs

Bruce Sterling's worth reading even when he's writing about the Yellow Pages. Here he's going that several times better when he takes on Ten Technologies That Deserve to Die. Manned space flight, cosmetic implants, and nuclear weapons all take their turn, but he's especially lucid when he outlines everything you knew about your DVDs but were afraid to tell yourself:

The DVD was the most eagerly adopted electronic consumer gizmo in history, but I'd feel bad if I failed to complain about the evil of these things. First and worst, DVDs are unbearably frail. Any benefit one gets from "clearer pictures" -- on what HDTV superscreen, exactly? -- is quickly removed by the catastrophic effects of a single thumbprint or scratch. Plus, just like CDs, DVDs as physical objects will prove to warp and delaminate.

Most loathsome of all is the fiendish spam hard-burned into DVDs, which forces one to suffer through the commercials gratefully evaded by videotape fast-forwards. The Content Scrambling System copy protection scheme doesn't work, and the payoff for pirating DVDs is massive, because unlike tapes, digital data don't degrade with reproduction. So DVDs have the downside of piracy and organized crime, without the upside of free, simple distribution. Someday they will stand starkly revealed for what they really are: collateral damage to consumers in the entertainment industry's miserable, endless war of attrition with digital media.

Posted by Van der Leun at September 30, 2003 10:58 PM
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