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Roughly Drafted
Daniel Eran

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The Apple Wishlist: Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard
4.5 New Workgroup Services : Information ripping server, page 2

Scaled Media Formatting
Another purpose of the ripping server would be to scale media appropriately. Rip your DVDs to iPod mini video, or better quality videos for laptop playback. Apple is in a unique position to offer a such a ripping server.

First off, they have a DRM system in place that is user friendly. While some open source advocates equate DRM with pure evil, the alternatives to Fairplay are draconian. If done properly, DRM can open new markets while preserving users' fair use rights.

Fairplay vs. encrypted discs
Today's CDs and DVDs link the nebulous value of their intellectual property to their physical medium: the disc. When the technology to rip the content from the disc arrived, content providers feared that their market for distributing content would be destroyed, and tried to figure out how to lock the disc better.

New locks result in better hacks, which result in better locks. The real casualty in this war has been consumer's fair use rights, which have eroded with ever new attempt to better lock the disc format.

DRM removes this problem by replacing the locked physical medium (which is now broken, and will always be eventually) with a verification system instead. In principle, the difference is the same as moving software licensing from dongle based copy protection (remember key disk floppies?) to the more convenient practice of using software license keys.

Apple's Fairplay simply links content to a machine authorization instead of a hard copy disc, making it possible to distribute music and video without physical media, and still be able to restrict unlimited distribution, thereby creating a real market for downloadable files.

Of course, Fairplay can be cracked just as DVD encryption was. The difference is, when efforts to tie content to media are broken, copies flood out to P2P networks because there is no other alternative medium delivering the content without the disc dongle.

If Fairplay is cracked, it has no effect on people willing to pay for clean downloads in the store, because they can still buy what they want. They aren't forced to find it on P2P or pirate sites. Further, Fairplay tries to be fair to consumers, while DVDs aren't.

Managed Copy
Being able to rip a disc to a protected file is referred to as managed copy. An authorized ripping server should allow users to rip DVDs, cable, and broadcast television into Fairplay versions appropriate for iPod playback, playback on laptops, and other devices. In addition to viewing, users should also be able to edit their content for private use, and cite short excerpts, all under of the principle of fair use.

With managed copy, consumers can decide for themselves whether they want to buy an optical disk and rip a managed copy, or buy a download sized version that is already linked to their computer. The number of music downloads from iTMS demonstrate that there is a market for clean, professionally organized, downloadable content, even if illegal bootleg copies exist.

The DMCA needs to exempt all authorized ripping from the idea of copy protection 'circumvention'. More accurately, the DMCA needs to go away. The industry should have delivered a fair, managed copy system from the start, rather than trying to cheat customers with WMA fascist lockdown subscription crap, and suffer the inevitable backlash as customers figured out how to make their own copies, and develop systems to trade them freely.

Current copy protection schemes, particularly in DVDs, not only achieve copy protection, but also destroy users' fair use rights. DVDs' licensing doesn't allow screen captures, playback on other devices, playback on open platforms, and users can't even choose not to watch commercial introductions in some cases.

While laws have, as yet, only been passed to serve the interests of media corporations, there are new efforts on the horizon to codify individual's rights to use the content they pay for in appropriate ways. They are long overdue.

Why does all this ripping require a server? The encoding process is very time consuming! Still, ripping is useful because a standard 7 GB DVD can be literally ripped in half, into a 4 GB MPEG 4 version. A good quality 750 MB AVC H.264 rip looks good on a laptop, and an even smaller version is necessary to be realistically playable on the new iPod.

Of course, watching two hour movies on an iPod is a bit impractical given its battery. A more likely use of a ripping server would be to deliver broadcast television programming to the iPod for casual viewing, just as we can do today with VCRs and other DVRs.

Next up: another reason Apple needs to deliver the Xserve mini:

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Idea 6: Personal WebObjects


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