Cory Doctrow has a brilliant article on why the next generation of DVDs ("HD" and "Blu-ray") are bad for the consumer and bad for the media companies. Bad for the consumer, because the media companies continue to extend their control over your TV viewing habits; his argument about why its bad for the media companies is less convincing.
His explanation of the origins of high-definition TV is priceless:
The NAB [National Association of Broadcasters] panicked -- there's nothing a corporate welfare bum hates more than an end to its government handouts. So the broadcasters cast about for an excuse, any excuse, to continue to hold onto our valuable radio spectrum while doing nothing much with it.And once they came up with hi-def TV as an excuse, and the FCC handed the broadcasters even more spectrum, they proceeded to absolutely nothing with the spectrum for another twenty years:
The broadcasters approach spectrum like a dragon approaches gold: it is something to be hoarded and jealously guarded, but they're not much interested in using it. So they took all that high-def spectrum and built a nest of it, rested their ponderous, scaly bellies on it, and never lit it up.
Doctrow points out something that I've mentioned before — according to the Blu-ray and HD-DVD specs, the media companies can disable your equipment by remote control:
The new HD technologies include anti-user nasties like "renewability" -- the ability to remotely disable some or all of the device's features without your permission. If someone, somewhere, figures out how to use your DVD burner to make copies of Hollywood movies, they can switch off *everyone's* burner, punishing a limitless number of innocents to get at a few guilty parties.I've mentioned this ability of the media companies — or a hacker — to turn your expensive TV equipment into a pile of useless junk as a reason not to bother spending any money on the next-generation equipment. On further reflection, it occurs to me that when, e.g., Sony (the most likely culprit in my opinion) does this for the first time, they'll open themselves up to a massive class-action lawsuit as lawyers argue over whether Sony properly warned purchasers and whether they have a legal right to disable someone else's equipment. Still, the best move a consumer can make is to sit on his hands and not purchase HD-DVD or Blu-ray.