Balkanizing demand

Greedy con­tempt for con­sumers’ choice in the pro­tec­tion of closed hard­ware is increas­ing­ly com­mon. bq. On Thurs­day how­ev­er Apple warned that it may also block access to iPod using Har­mo­ny the next time it updates the soft­ware used to run the device. “It is high­ly like­ly that Real’s Har­mo­ny tech­nol­o­gy will cease to work with cur­rent and future iPods,” the com­pa­ny said in its terse state­ment. (“Finan­cial Times”:http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1087374078987&p=1045050946495) Legal sanc­tion for the clo­sure of con­sumer hard­ware to mod­i­fi­ca­tion by users or to the use of third par­ty soft­ware mocks the only jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the monop­o­lies cre­at­ed by IP laws: to encour­age the growth of inno­va­tion and to spread its ben­e­fits. Licensed by the mad breadth of copy­right ‘anti-cir­cum­ven­tion’ laws, firms that make con­sumer prod­ucts seem to be falling over them­selves to screw their own cus­tomers. An out­stand­ing exam­ple: the appar­ent inten­tion of Sony and NEC to close their devices even to bat­ter­ies from third par­ty ven­dors (see “this”:http://weatherall.blogspot.com/2004_07_01_weatherall_archive.html#108976389997567069 from Kim Weather­all). The stu­pid­i­ty of this pol­i­cy of balka­niz­ing demand is that it not only angers cus­tomers, it prob­a­bly shrinks the whole mar­ket place.

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