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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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« Solum the First Amendment, Copyright and Originalism | Main | A Beam in Hollywood's Eye »

January 09, 2004

HP Goes Off the Rails

Posted by Ernest Miller

Things must really be bad at Hewlett-Packard since CEO Carly Fiorina sounds quite desperate in her keynote speech at CES as C|Net News reports (Fiorina calls for defense of digital rights). How strange the spectacle of a major computer manufacturer calling for an all out war on what computers enable:

"[Copyright infringement is] illegal and wrong, and there are things we as a computing company can do" to prevent it, Fiorina said.
The HP chief added that starting this year all HP digital entertainment products will use software that respects the copyrights of artists. The company will actively promote copyright protection and step up efforts with antipiracy and consumer groups [which consumer groups would those be?], she said.

Does Fiorina think that by saying these things it will make her and her company more popular with the beautiful people of Hollywood, with the in crowd? Hollywood has never respected the tech industry; as far as Hollywood is concerned technology exists to increase their profits, period. To the extent that the technology industry has different ideas, Hollywood sues and legislates against it. Would there be PCs or an internet if Hollywood were in charge? Yet this is the group that is now giving Fiorina their approval:

In a show of support for HP's stance, Fiorina was joined on stage by Interscope Geffen A&M Records Chairman Jim Iovine as well as artists Dr. Dre, U2 guitar player The Edge, Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Toby Keith and other music executives.

Such celebrity worship is simply sad. Even worse is the schizophrenia evidenced by the next line of the article:

HP also provided a glimpse of new products that would allow for easier use of digital media.

Since when has DRM made the use of digital media "easier"? All DRM systems that I've worked with have only served to increase frustration. And what is this "allow"? A subtle reference to the fact that DRM "allows" one to do what would otherwise be considered a right?

Apparently, HP will happily be used by Hollywood for some mythical short term gain in the consumer electronics market. Consumer electronics is a viciously competitive market. Yet HP seeks to thrive in this marketplace by ceding control of the future of HPs primary market (computers) to Hollywood. This is the epitome of a sucker's deal, one the shareholder's of HP will regret.

HP sells really nice computers, which are essentially being commoditized. So what do they do? Seek partnerships with content companies. Brilliant strategy - not!

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | News | Tools


1. Cypherpunk on January 9, 2004 11:02 PM writes...

The presence of recording artists on the stage is hardly "celebrity worship". Rather, it is a reminder that violations of copyright hurt the very people who create the music we love. For too long, music downloaders have comforted themselves with the lie that they are only harming faceless record companies which exist to take rapacious advantage of music creators. I predict that we'll see more grass-roots musicians speaking out on this issue.

As for Fiorina's motivations, I'd suggest that she sees which way the wind is blowing. I've predicted elsewhere that music piracy will soon reach its peak, that the widespread availability of legal, honest, honorable and economical alternatives will change the way we think of file sharing. Combine this with the more tightly integrated DRM systems coming with Microsoft's next OS and we have both a carrot and a stick to encourage this change.

Furthermore, these forces will bring the tech and content companies together, no longer fighting at cross purposes. We are seeing only the beginning of this trend.

Rather than being out of step as you see it, Fiorina's speech is the wave of the future.

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2. Mark on January 13, 2004 12:23 PM writes...

Desperate is probably the right word, especially considering that it indicates that she isn't reading analyses produced by people in her own labs.

Stuart Haber, Bill Horne, Joe Pato, Tomas Sander and Robert Endre Tarjan at HP's Trusted Systems Laboratory authored a paper titled *If Piracy is the Problem, Is DRM the Answer?* where they state "We conclude that given the current and foreseeable state of technology the content protection features of DRM are not effective at combating piracy."

The paper can be found at:

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