Microsoft rethinks copyright protection strategy

Bill Gates highly publicized foray into Hollywood has backfired.
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Last month’s highly publicized foray into Hollywood by Bill Gates has backfired. Responding to a customer backlash, Microsoft has backed away from some of the harsh copyright restrictions that it planned to incorporate in its new multimedia Windows operating system.


Microsoft has backed away from some of the harsh copyright restrictions that it planned to incorporate in its new multimedia Windows operating system. The Windows XP Media Center Edition was originally designed to create a new computing universe where content owners set the rules for users.

In September Microsoft was warmly welcomed at a Hollywood media event and praised by motion picture and television studios for the tough copyright protection systems built into its new Windows XP Media Center Edition. [See 9/9/02 edition of "Beyond The Headlines"]

The new operating system is the centerpiece of a multimedia personal computer system that’s designed to easily integrate broadcast television, DVDs, music, streaming media and several other audio-visual functions into a single device. It's scheduled to be sold by Hewlett-Packard in a new line of multimedia personal computers during the holidays.

In one of its most onerous restrictions, the PCs would have encrypted all recordings and limited their playback only to the PC that made the original recording. Consumer advocates decried Microsoft’s siding with Hollywood’s content owners, and criticized the company for blocking legitimate rights that allow viewers to make personal copies of TV shows and watch them on any set.

Under the revised software, Microsoft said Media Center OS users would be able to burn recorded programs onto DVDs to watch on other computers and, by the end of the year, on stand-alone players. The recordings could also be sent freely to others over the Internet.

Microsoft said its new multimedia operating system would still include the Copy Generation Management System. This means if restrictions—such as blocking digital recording—are encoded into a broadcast by content owners, the computer will still enforce it and deny recording.

Microsoft not only took heat from customers over the restrictions, but from its partners as well. Hewlett-Packard had not been pleased with the prospect of competing with the likes of Sony and Apple, whose products incorporate far less restrictions on file trading.

For more information visit www.microsoft.com.

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