Day 34 - MOB TV

Koh Choon Lin writes:

I am very frustrated by my local media provider, MOBTV, who provides video-on-demand service. It is a subscription-based service that provides viewers with immediate access to their favorite programmes.

According to their FAQ, their subscribers would need a computer loaded with non-free software like Microsoft Windows, Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer with ActiveX. For GNU/Linux users in Singapore, that means we would be unable to access their content. Thinking I could still access the media files using free software, it was then discovered that all MOBTV videos are encrypted with DRM technology and I would need proprietary DRM software to view them. Worse, even though the videos are downloaded onto the computer and can be watched at a later time, they can only be played if one has a valid subscription with MOBTV.

Incredibly, once the videos are removed from MOBTV servers, their subscribers will not be able to view them even if they had downloaded the video to their computer. While free software users in Singapore can only hope for a change in the media market, prudence suggests that there may be more to come and we had better be prepared for the worst after DeCSS was banned.

This follows an amendment to Singapore's copyright law, allowing people with visual impairment to break the encryption on ebooks and other digital media, whilst allowing academics to extract clips from copy-protected movies for classroom use.

"The Copyright Act has also been amended to prohibit home users from cracking obsolete computer programs or video games for which they had lost the access codes, even if they originally bought the items," reports Chua Hian Hou for The Straits Times, going on to say, "For instance, users are still prohibited from using a password generator to generate access codes to play video games or using software like DeCSS to make unauthorised copies of DVD movies. Those found guilty face fines of up to $20,000."