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On Broken Windows, Pointless Patents, Standard Battles And DVDs No One Wants

from the well,-it's-doing-something dept

Many folks are familiar with the so-called broken window fallacy, where people think that breaking something should be considered good for overall productivity, since it creates more work to do. It seems that perhaps we’re facing a similar story with the ongoing (and ridiculous boring) next generation DVD standards battle. There are, of course, two main standards fighting it out, and neither side will agree to just create one standard to focus on. That basically slows down everything. Consumers won’t buy because they don’t want a DVD player that only is going to play a fraction of available movies (or, worse, get stuck with the “losing” side and have nothing to show for it). Studios hate to pick sides for the same reason. Everyone slows down and nothing happens. Sometimes, this can be okay, as the two sides can fight it out for dominance on quality — and the better solution will win. However, with DVDs, the longer they wait, the more likely it is that both offerings will be obsolete by the time either has established itself. So, now, some folks at Warner Brothers have decided to apply for a patent on a disc that would play both types of DVD standard. However, this seems like a lot of wasted effort, to create a patent for something that shouldn’t even be needed in the first place. If a standard had been set earlier, then this wouldn’t have been needed, and now an extra cost will be added to the market, just because no standard could be agreed to.

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Comments on “On Broken Windows, Pointless Patents, Standard Battles And DVDs No One Wants”

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Reed says:

Format Wars

Picking standard just doesn’t happen anymore, take DVD plus and minus. Companies are so busy trying to shut-out anything that could compete with their model they effectively shut-out innovation. This will likely continue as long as corporations are given so much power in government. Praise the United Corporations of America, because without them we might actually enjoy our lives.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Does anyone claim the Blu-ray/HD-DVD battle do

The broken window fallacy isn’t being invoked by anyone here

Well, I think it is, inherently, in the idea that this patent is somehow “good for society.” People are talking about how it’ll help fix the problem of the broken standards battle… but it shouldn’t even be an issue if the standards system had worked.

claire rand says:


actually a content company holding a patent on such a device is a two edged sword.

on the plus side (froma consumer point of view) it should stop a signle manufacturer making such a device, and then your basically stuck with it.

on a negative side (from a consumer point of view) the content company can add all sorts of ‘requirements’ to license the patent.

as has been noted though… with the costs of hard drives comming down all the time, i can see a time where you have a small pocket sized removable drive replacing all these discs anyway. take that to blockbuster (etc) and grab a copy of the film, watch as long as you want, copy as much as you want.. the film becomming a vehicle for advertising and merchandising anyway.

essentially the film becomes a loss leader… with the benefit to the studio of practically zero distribution costs.

i’m in the process of specing my next PC, ‘bluray’ & ‘hd-dvd’ don’t feature, and won’t until there is a single standard, *and* it lacks the DRM / region coding rubbish (or it can be cracked to remove it)

Don says:

Not sure this is relevent but...

I don’t think this is the right use of the Broken Windows fallacy. I think the Broken Windows theory trumpeted by Guilliani and others is that if one lets a broken window linger in a nieghborhood, pretty soon the whole neighborhood is trashy. That said…

I think it’s a great idea that a company out there has patented a dual standard disc. At the very least they can also develope a dual standards player, meaning the early adaptors with get the chance to test both standands, and eventually the market will ween out the loser.

Vinnie says:

Re: Not sure this is relevent but...

It looks like you are thinking about the wrong broken windows analogy. I think you are referring to the theory put forth in “Fixing Broken Windows” by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. The theory the story refers to is the parable of the broken window by Frédéric Bastiat. Roughly the fallacy goes that a broken window is good for the economy because it gives work to the carpenter who replaces the window, which gives work to the glass-maker who makes the window, which gives work to the miner who mines the raw materials, and so on and so forth.

However there are economists that feel that this is inaccurate, and actually leaves out specific costs that are generated by the entire process.

Sanguine Dream says:

Here is to hoping...

that a third type will come out of nowhere and become the next-gen standard. Since I didn’t own a DVD player until 2 years ago (which was stolen and I only use my PS2 not) I can safely say it will be a while before I start picking up a new format. That plus the fact that I only like 20 DVDs (haven’t bought any since the Firefly boxed set about six months ago) + the 3 at a time I get from Blockbuster Online.

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