TRON and the CBDTPA
by Gordon Mohr
Fortune's story last week This is War, about the tug of war between Hollywood and Silicon Valley over technological copy-controls, has a gem of a quote from a Disney lobbyist:
"There is a thing in the computer called the CPU, the central processing unit, right?" says Preston Padden, Disney's chief Washington lobbyist. "All the bytes go through there, and we're looking to come up with reasonably standardized watermark detection [that] can effectively read for watermarks on all the content coming through."
It seems as if Mr. Padden got his understanding of computers from a screening of TRON,
Disney's 1982 techno-fantasy populated by anthropomorphic software fighting a totalitarian "Master Control Program" (MCP). The MCP wants to absorb all other software, and control all Input/Output channels to the outside world, as part of a plan for domination -- first of cyberspace, then of the outside world.
Problem is, in our real world of 2002, Disney wants all hardware and software manufacturers to submit to MCP-like controls in the service of enforcing intellectual property rights.
Maybe Mr. Padden's screening ended early, but he would be wise to note that by the end, the insurgent program Tron destroys the MCP. The program-people and I/O towers are freed -- allowing the full diversity of unfettered communication, in the service of user needs, to proceed again. It's really quite beautiful. Eisner, Padden: a remedial viewing is in order!