July 11, 2007 SDF Gary Sasaki OCAP

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On July 11, 2007 at Pillsbury Winthrop in Palo Alto, SDForum’s Emerging Technology hosted DigDia’s Gary Sasaki presentation on Open Cable Application Platform (OCAP). There is nothing open about it.

In the past I’ve always benefited by listening to Sasaki. By following his advice, I’ve bought consumer electronics that have stood the test of time. I can still take pictures and download images from cameras I bought years ago. My television can still receive old style NTSC signals and new High Definition programming. The rule seems to be buying a device that has lots of ways of getting content in and out. Flexibility and portability is key.

Recently I bought a DVD recorder and hooked it up to my cable box. I tried to record a show for viewing at a later date. A message appeared on my TV saying that it was not allowed. It was then I learned about the dark side of OCAP.

OCAP enables interactive TV. Usually deliver by a cable company through a set top box (STB). It is the latest attempt by cable companies, content providers and equipment manufacturers to control what you see and the way you see it. Earlier failed attempts include acronyms like DVB, MHP, GEM, DASE, DAVIC HAVI, JavaTV and ARIB. OCAP chance for success depends on whether the public buys into it.

The scary part of OCAP is that manufacturers are building monitor applications that can control access to content. Imagine of you couldn’t visit this website because some company decided they did not want you to see it? OCAP can do that.

Let’s get back to my DVD recorder. I wanted to record a political debate about Network Neutrality, the idea that the Internet should be remain open to all regardless of levels of service. This seems like a clear example of OCAP interfering with my access to free speech.

What is the solution? Well I guess you could write your political representatives, but they have lots of campaign contributions from OCAP supporters. It wouldn’t hurt, but I have a better idea.

Ignore them. Don’t buy into their services or formats. Keep using open source software and non-proprietary formats. Don’t watch their content on their devices.

This is easier than you might think. YouTube is an example of people creating and watching their own content without the “help” of mainstream media. In fact, so many people are doing this it is becoming “mainstream media”. Let the media moguls become marginalized like record companies and video stores.

The music industry did not learn what these guys must learn. Make it hard to use your product and people will use something else. Ordinary people can be more innovative than any room full of lawyers.

By the way, I returned the DVD recorder and am in the process of returning my cable box. If they won’t count my vote, they can’t count my money.

Copyright 2007 DJ Cline All rights reserved.