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Subject: [IP] more on Spielberg loses out at the push of a button

  • From: David Farber <>
  • To:
  • Date: Wed, 11 Jan 2006 13:41:25 -0500

Begin forwarded message:

From: Bob Frankston <>
Date: January 11, 2006 11:41:08 AM EST
Subject: RE: [IP] Spielberg loses out at the push of a button

This is closely related to the NYT page one story on diabetes in NYC.

People have a tendency to ignore evidence. Murphy's Law is always with us -- what can go wrong will go wrong.

DRM systems must fail if any component of the system fails for any reason - be it pressing the &quot;wrong&quot; button or attempting unauthorized innovation. In this case the system was acting as designed -- better to prevent copying that allow for recovery.

Resilient systems allow for success despite failures and allow for overall system redesign.

It's not just DRM -- systems that are task-oriented tend to fail if users act outside the scenarios or attempt unanticipated combinations. Bluetooth being a prime example system that works as planned but fails as unplanned.

Instead of recognizing that there is a system-design failure people see only the proximate cause -- the wrong button or, in diabetes, people who don't take care of themselves.

One worrisome version of this is to accuse those of not acting according to the proper scenarios as being wrong and treating them as disruptive and going against the proper order of things. After all, why do you need protection from the rules (or the law) if you are acting properly?

In a complex world understanding how systems work should be part of basic literacy.

The NYT story shows how the health care system resists preventing illness because the compensation system is heavily weighted towards expensive treatment. This isn't new but the story provides a dramatic example of how local behavior composites into a dysfunctional system.

FYI NYT/C = New York Times/City


I have to resist my tendency to look more deeply into those issues lest I confuse things. I could point out that DRM prevents the movement of the decoding into software and thus prevents improved design of systems as a hole but then I'd have to blur the distinction between DRM and other design constraints. What makes DRM special is the degree to which it is a defining constraint rather than a choice.

I also don't want to speculate too much about design choices in health care. I don't know all the reasons but I can understand how it is easy to create fraudulent bills if you are providing counseling and not treating anything. Thus it is prudent to view such costs with suspicion. Expensive treatment is expensive and thus one can afford the overhead to cover the administrative costs of assuring proper payment.

In writing this I can't help but think about attitude towards child abuse by priests -- it's blamed on the moral failure of priests rather than on a system that makes such failures likely. Failures are not always systemic -- we need to be able to understand systems so we can recognize tradeoffs.

-----Original Message-----
From: David Farber []
Sent: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 10:25
Subject: [IP] Spielberg loses out at the push of a button

Begin forwarded message:

From: Brian Randell <>

Date: January 11, 2006 4:38:01 AM EST


Subject: Spielberg loses out at the push of a button


Here's a nice front page story from today's (UK) Guardian, about

region-protected preview DVDs, and how Steven Spielberg is likely to

lose his chance of getting a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and

Television Arts ) award for his latest film.



> Spielberg loses out at the push of a button


> Xan Brooks

> Wednesday January 11, 2006

> The Guardian


> From Jaws and Close Encounters through to War of the Worlds, Steven

> Spielberg movies have rarely had trouble connecting with audiences

> in the UK.


> But the man who put a capital B into the contemporary blockbuster,

> whose films have grossed billions and whose name is usually the

> stamp of glorious cinematic success, has been humbled. By a button.

> Pushed, it seems, mistakenly.


> This has had a profound effect on the director's latest opus, at

> least as far as the members of Bafta are concerned. By tomorrow

> they have to nominate the films they think worthy of accolade, and

> Spielberg's Munich was expected to be among them, tipped for awards

> both in Britain and at the Oscars.


> But the preview DVD sent to the academy's members is unplayable on

> machines used in the UK. As a result the majority of Bafta's 5,000

> voters will not have seen the film, due to be released in Britain

> on January 27, and can hardly be expected to recommend it for acclaim.


> Sara Keene at Premier PR, the company coordinating Munich's Bafta

> campaign, blamed the mistake on human error at the laboratory where

> the DVDs were encrypted. &quot;Someone pushed the wrong button,&quot; she

> said. &quot;It was a case of rotten bad luck.&quot; She insisted that the

> film's distributor, Universal, was not at fault.


> The problem, it appears, was partly down to teething troubles with

> the limited edition DVD players issued last year to Bafta members.

> Developed by Cinea, a subsidiary of Dolby, the players permit their

> owners to view encrypted DVD &quot;screeners&quot;, but prevent the creation

> of pirate copies. Munich screeners were encoded for region one,

> which allows them to be played in the US and Canada, rather than

> region two, which incorporates most of Europe.


> The faulty DVDs only reached Bafta members on Saturday, which meant

> the film had already missed out on the first round of voting on

> January 4. In a further twist to the tale, a previous batch mailed

> out before Christmas were reportedly held up by customs officials

> in the UK. &quot;It's been quite a cock-up,&quot; said one Bafta member, who

> spoke on condition of anonymity.


> &quot;We were promised that they were going to send screeners before

> Christmas, but they never arrived. Now we finally have a copy but

> there is no way we can watch it.

>  . . .

Full story at:



School of Computing Science, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon



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