While I don’t usually bother too much with television, I’ve used an open source software called “TV Browser” for a while. It’s a nice little piece of software, giving you a electronic program guide right on your desktop.
This week, we were checking out the Italian TV (which can be quite odd, but that’s another story). The point is that the TV Browser doesn’t contain any Italian channels. To my astonishment I also discovered that, by design, the software doesn’t support importing the quite common XMLTV format.
The reason (according to the developers) is that some of the “grabber” scripts included in XMLTV may not be legal to use in some jurisdictions. Thus the origin of some xmltv data files might be questionable. Thus the TV Browser people don’t provide any generic support for the XMLTV data format. Because, possibly, maybe, could it be used by some people to view “illegal” data.
It pisses me off to no end, and not only for selfish reasons.
Of course the first thing pissing me off is the fact that I can’t easily use the software to view the Italian program guide. This is completely selfish, of course; because on the Mac there’s no viewer half as good.
The next thing pissing me off is that the whole discussion is based on some flawed half-knowledge of the german law concerning databases. I find it somewhat frustrating to watch this kind of discussion, but it’s generally useless to get involved.
In the end, I’d completely understand if they’d say “we know it sucks, but we’re just hobbyists and can’t afford any legal trouble“. Which would probably be right.
But from what I see it’s a stance of “it is wrong to use this data, and you shouldn’t do it” and suggest that other people adopt the same approach. Without any need, this project takes and advocates the position of external rights holders.
I think that in the big picture this is a dangerous stance to take; itgoes beyond a petty TV programme dispute.
In Germany (and in other place too, I guess) intellectual rights holders (as in: music and entertainment industry) are trying to “re-educate” people about how these rights work. Obviously, they have a vested interested there and so their “information” is not always quite accurate – to say the least.
On the other hand, there’s also a growing tendency to just “play along”, in order to avoid trouble.
If this persists, it means that the rights holders will be able to make their own rules. People will give up rights such as fair use, due to fear and misinformation. This is not in the interest of the public, but a public discussion about those rights will not happen if everyone just goes along.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-copyright. I’m working in that industry, too, and I’m interested in fair compensation. But the rules for a whole new kind of business is made now. If the rights holders have all their way, everyone else gets screwed over.
This is why I’m quite astonished to see people like Jeff Atwood from Coding Horror getting all worked up about DRM and arbitrary control – and still never asking the question if this should be allowed to happen. To ask the question if a manufacturer should be allowed control a device that you bought with your own money.
It doesn’t seem such a strange thought to me.