As we move to a world where all entertainment is delivered digitally, the battle over copyright protection is turning into a full-blown war. And consumer rights may end up being the biggest casualty as media companies hunker down and try to redefine what users can and can't do with the content they've paid for and the hardware they own.
From Apple's iTunes and Real Networks' Rhapsody music network to movie rental sites like CinemaNow and Starz' Vongo, legitimate digital media services are exploding. But each additional option brings a new battle, new restrictions, and even new dangers for unsuspecting users. Copy protection included in Sony BMG audio CDs allowed virus writers to co-opt the system and sneak onto users' PCs. Satellite and HD Radio, which promise higher-quality audio and more content, may become difficult for listeners to record if the music industry has its way. And TV fans are finding that cable stations are limiting their ability to time-shift shows; pending federal legislation may curtail their rights even more.
Worse, since we last looked at this battle in 2002, technology firms, which once struck a balance between the rights of content owners and the rights of users, have sided more and more with Hollywood as they strive to secure the content they believe will help sell their products.
We'll look at the multiple fronts of the digital wars--from file sharing to music to TV--and give you a hint of what's next.