The bad news is that they've released this media in Microsoft's DRM format for Windows Media Center.
That's not just bad news because the Media Center contains all kinds of restrictions on user-freedom (though it does). The worst of this is that the Norwegian broadcaster is selling out Norwegian taxpayers by setting them up to pay monopoly rents to Microsoft to the end of time.
Look at it this way: if the broadcaster had released the video as H.264 streams or a innother open format, they would have enabled Norwegians to buy products from any vendor in the world who wanted to make a player for the video that the broadcaster commissioned with public money, for the public's enjoyment.
Instead, by choosing Microsoft, they've put the Norwegian owners of the broadcaster -- i.e. the taxpayers -- in the position of having to pay again for Windows to play back the video that they already paid for once, with their taxes.
What's more, a Microsoft monopoly over the video they release means that Norwegian tech companies can't made products that play back Norwegian video without permission from an American company -- an American company that can withhold permission or charge whatever it wants for the privilege of playing back Norway's storehouse of video.
It's true that Microsoft Windows can play the Media Center PC videos without a download, while H.264 requires you to get new software -- but why is that? With any other video format, the Windows Media Player just automatically gets the patch it needs and you're off to the races. But when it comes to file-formats that threaten the Microsoft dominance in the market, all of a sudden you need to jump through a hundred hoops to get up and running.
Many people have a hard time downloading new software, but every single P2P user (likely also to be the leading users for this service) has already demonstrated her willingness to download and install new apps.
And if it's hard now to get people to download and install non-Microsoft technology that would provide a level playing field to the Norwegian tech companies, imagine what it will be like in Norway after five or ten years of the state broadcaster officially supporting Microsoft -- and only Microsoft -- with the cultural product that is the life's blood of the nation.
Norwegian production companies rely on huge state subsidies, direct and indirect, to fulfill the crucial role of providing cultural identity to a small nation. But Norway's many innovative tech companies provide an equally crucial service to Norwegians: offering economic independence and self-determination. To lock up Norway's culture in a wrapper that can't be opened by a Norwegian tech company is economic and cultural insanity.
If I were a Norwegian taxpayer, I'd be calling my MP and the public service broadcaster demanding redress for this. It's totally, utterly unacceptable for a tax-funded broadcaster to sell out the public and industry to foreign software giants. DRM doesn't work. No show that the broadcaster locks up with DRM will be prevented from showing up on the Internet almost instantly after it airs.
At a time when American state governments are throwing away their Microsoft products in favor of future-proof open standards, Norway has no excuse for selling out to Redmond.
This lockdown only adds cost, subtracts value, and betrays the national interest of Norway. Link
Update: Cort, a Microsoft employee, has posted a long defense of his employer's government-granted monopoly over supplying playback for Norwegian public video. In it, he calls me a liar and a Communist, because I believe that Microsoft should have to compete with other vendors who want to supply tools to work with Norway's public video archive. I've posted a rebuttal to his message board. If you are a Norwegian looking for arguments to deliver to your MP regarding Microsoft's new monopoly over the video you paid for with your tax-Kroner, you might want to reference Cort's piece as evidence of Microsoft's unfitness to receive such a generous state subsidy.
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