What happens with digital rights management in the real world?

Yeah, yeah, we know how technical that title sounds. Certainly not a big grabber of a headline. But it was written by Brits, you know. And it’s info we here at beautiful downtown TVWriter™ think everybody who creates and then releases his/her brainchildren into the interweb stream should know:

Woman using iPad tablet computer at home to browse iTunes digital music storeby Cory Doctorow

I’ve been writing about “digital rights management” (DRM) for years in this column, but here I am, about to write about it again. That’s because DRM – sometimes called “copy protection software” or “digital restrictions management” – is one of the most salient, and least understood, facts about technology in the contemporary world.

When you get into a discussion about DRM, you often find yourself arguing about whether and when copying and sharing should be allowed. Forget that for now. It’s beside the point, for reasons that will shortly be clear. Instead, let’s talk about the cold, hard legal, technical, marketplace and normative realities of DRM. Let’s talk about what happens with DRM in the real world.

In the real world, “bare” DRM doesn’t really do much. Before governments enacted laws making compromising DRM illegal (even if no copyright infringement took place), DRM didn’t survive contact with the market for long. That’s because technologically, DRM doesn’t make any sense. For DRM to work, you have to send a scrambled message (say, a movie) to your customer, then give your customer a program to unscramble it. Anyone who wants to can become your customer simply by downloading your player or buying your device – “anyone” in this case includes the most skilled technical people in the world. From there, your adversary’s job is to figure out where in the player you’ve hidden the key that is used to unscramble the message (the movie, the ebook, song, etc). Once she does that, she can make her own player that unscrambles your files. And unless it’s illegal to do this, she can sell her app or device, which will be better than yours, because it will do a bunch of things you don’t want it to do: allow your customers to use the media they buy on whatever devices they own, allow them to share the media with friends, to play it in other countries, to sell it on as a used good, and so on.

The only reason to use DRM is because your customers want to do something and you don’t want them to do it. If someone else can offer your customers a player that does the stuff you hate and they love, they’ll buy it. So your DRM vanishes.

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Peer Production: BECOMING RICARDO is Back

Becming Ricardo Cast

BECOMING RICARDO is the American dream – a web comedy series made by Hispanics (are we allowed to say that? It’s so hard to keep track of what’s politically correct when you only read entertainment sites), featuring Hispanics and done so well that whatever your background  you’re going to identify with the characters and root like hell for them.

Especially if you’re a TVWriter™ type visitor and can fully appreciate the pull of a career in showbiz the way Jesenia’s character, Ricardo, does.

Time now for episode three, FIRST DAY ON SET. Enjoy:

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Go to BECOMING RICARDO’s website for more

DOCTOR WHO’s Dirty Little Secret?


Speaking of DOCTOR WHO (well, sorta), as everybody who visits TVWriter™ knows, we’re huge WHO fans. Which means that we spend way too much time searching the web for little tidbits about the show, the people who made and are making it, and its history.

A week ago we stumbled across a review of a book about the series that we’d never heard of before. When  we read the review, we saw why. JN-T: The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner, by Richard Marson Miwk, goes into facets of the life of a man who may well be the Old WHO’s most beloved producer and is mighty strong stuff, especially when its obvious audience is a fandom where most controversies swirl around missing episodes and continuity errors.

In many ways, this book is TMI gone wild, but after due deliberation it seems to us that its subject definitely is worth presenting and discussing, especially in light of the BBC’s ongoing investigations into the horrific sexual conduct of the late Jimmy Savile.

In other words, we’re all headed for hell anyway so let’s go down, down, down in style:

 Back in time: A frank new book about Doctor Who is full of shocking claims
by Matthew Sweet

Doctor Who is the most documented programme in the history of television. It has generated hundreds of scholarly books and articles. Over 34 years Doctor Who Magazine has examined every episode, spin-off novel, audio drama and comic strip in microscopic detail. Remnants of rejected scripts from the bottom drawers of dead screenwriters have been reconstructed and recorded. The memories of production team members have been sifted by convention delegates and the makers of DVD extras. Every dispute, tantrum, writ and nervous breakdown; every all-nighter at the keyboard or in the Colony Room has been logged, archived, discussed. We – and when I say “we”, I probably don’t mean “you” – know that Ridley Scott was originally on the rota to design the Daleks, that Tom Baker looks weird in “The Ribos Operation” because a dog bit his face down the pub, and that the galactic co-ordinates of the windswept planet of Kastria are the phone number of the Doctor Who production office, circa 1976. If the discourse of Doctor Who were the subject of a Doctor Who story, the cliffhanger would reveal that it had evolved into a pulsing entity bent on cataloguing the universe to destruction.

Deep down, most Doctor Who fans prefer this discourse to be about provisional story titles and the limited lift capacity at Lime Grove studios. Their interviewees, however, have begun to talk about more personal matters. The honesty of the former colleagues of the first Doctor, William Hartnell, has ensured that his racism is now part of the accepted narrative of his life. His onscreen companion Anneke Wills has described how she escaped from an abusive marriage to Michael Gough into the ashram of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. In the current issue of Doctor Who Magazine, Frazer Hines – who played Jamie, the only companion to merit a mention in Joe Orton’s diaries – talks about the stops second Doctor Patrick Troughton would make on the drive home from TV Centre: “We’d go to three different houses on the way,” he recalls. “He’d knock on the door, give this woman some money and then we’d drive off. I’d look the other way.” Slowly, all those details about scene-shifters’ strikes and monsters built from fox skulls and condoms are being augmented by stories of the everyday emotional sturm und drang of the people who walked through those sets and ran away from those monsters. This is not happening to the cast and crew of Casualty, because a world without Casualty would be only marginally different from this one – whereas for many of us, a universe without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about.

JN-T: The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner will test the limits of that appetite for information. It is the frankest book ever written about Doctor Who, and contains material that could not have been published in the lifetime of its subject, a bookie’s son from Birmingham who became the programme’s longest-serving producer.

Nathan-Turner oversaw Doctor Who throughout the 1980s – its most eclectic decade, in which the style was sometimes Play for Today, sometimes Play Away. He produced a story that comprises a shot-for-shot homage to Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bete, and another in which a leather-clad Beryl Reid fights Cybermen on a spaceship. He produced episodes about a police state in which the chief torturer is a robot made of Liquorice Allsorts, and others about a giggling slug who wants the galactic broadcast rights to execution videos from a planet whose rulers are fond of phrases such as: “I want to hear you scream until I’m deaf with pleasure.”

This was also the decade in which the BBC’s institutional indifference towards Doctor Who – a factor since its birth in 1963 – hardened into hostility, with cruel consequences for Nathan-Turner. In November 1983 the series was celebrating its 20th anniversary with a Radio Times cover and a film-length special called “The Five Doctors”. Fifteen months later, Michael Grade, controller of BBC1, was publicly dismissing Nathan-Turner’s production team as complacent and their work as tired, violent and unimaginative. For Grade and his colleagues, Doctor Who and its producer had become an interlocked pair of problems. “I wanted him to fuck off and solve it – or die, really,” says Jonathan Powell, the BBC’s former head of drama, in one of the many brutal remarks collected in Richard Marson’s book. “But it had probably gone beyond solving. The only way of resuscitating it would have been to put a new producer on it – but we didn’t want to resuscitate it.” Had Powell and Grade known about some of the incidents described in JN-T, they might have been able to kill both producer and programme at a stroke.

Halfway through his story, Marson drops his bombshell. At the age of 17, he was dispatched to Television Centre to write a set report on a story called “Resurrection of the Daleks”. After the recording, he was propositioned by Nathan-Turner in the bar. The following year, on the promise of some stills from an imminent story, Marson made an after-hours visit to the Doctor Who office, where he endured a sexual assault at the hands of Nathan-Turner’s partner, Gary Downie, who worked as the show’s production manager (he died in 2006). Given the age of gay consent in 1985, this constituted a double offence. Marson’s account, though, sounds a surprising note of black humour: he hid from Downie in an adjoining room, readying to defend himself with the nearest object to hand – the script for episode two of “Timelash”. Marson knows that for Doctor Who fans, this amplifies the indignity – episode two of “Timelash” is awful.

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Peer Production: DOCTOR WHO joins INSPECTOR SPACETIME -for a Movie!

InspectorSpacetimeLogoby Travis Richey

Greetings, Inspectators!

In conjunction with our third standing-room-only panel at Gallifrey One, Siv-Art Productions is proud to announce that the web series that’s been praised by MTV, Entertainment Weekly, Nerdist, the AV Club and the Huffington Post, as well as named “the best of TV on the web” by USA Today, has a brand-new guest star!

The Seventh Doctor himself, SYLVESTER MCCOY (“Doctor Who”, The Hobbit) is joining the guest cast that already includes Robert Picardo (The Doctor in “Star Trek: Voyager”, “Stargate: Atlantis”), Chase Masterson (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”), and Mayim Bialik (“Big Bang Theory”, “Blossom”). They’ll all be joining existing cast members Travis Richey (Inspector Spacetime on “Community”), Eric Loya, and Carrie Keranen.

Because of all these incredible casting additions, we’ve decided that instead of a second season of the web series, we’ll be doing a feature-length film! “Untitled Web Series” will now become The Inspector Chronicles: Untitled Motion Picture About A Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time!! See The Inspector like you’ve never seen him before! See him face villains he’s never faced before! And, of course, see him flee like he has never fleed before! Flown? Flew. Fled. …like he has never fled before!


The film will be directed by acclaimed director Nicholas Acosta and produced by former Director of Development for Marvel Studios, Golan Ramras! Acosta directed the Prequel Episode that was just released for the series, which blew away all expectations about what this creative team could accomplish.

Executive Producer and star Travis Richey (“Pretty Little Liars”, “Community”) had this to say about the series’ latest casting coup: “As a lifelong Doctor Who fan, I was thrilled with the possibility to work with Sylvester McCoy! We’ve been working on this for the last year or so, and I finally got a chance to meet Sylvester in October in London, where we discussed the project over tea. Come on. That’s the kind of thing this small-town kid from Wisconsin never thought he’d be able to say…”

Co-writer and co-star Eric Loya exclaimed, “If the coolest thing I ever did was play a scene opposite Mayim Bialik’s voice, I’d be a happy man. But to get to write for and act with actual Doctor Who and multiple Star Trek alums? I can’t even wrap my brain around this!”

Director Nicholas Acosta (Riddance, Friend Request) couldn’t help geeking out a little bit himself, “Doctor Who and Radagast the Brown with The Inspector? I feel like the universe is going to explode.”

Sylvester McCoy himself commented, “It’s a brilliant piece of work! Marvelous, and I really want to work with The Inspector!”

The film is currently entering the pre-production phase, and is seeking help from fans while we also seek investors. You can help become part of this acclaimed series by pledging as little as $1 here:

Please DONATE if you can! There are some fantastic perks available, which you can view at the link, and of course you’ll have the Inspector’s eternal gratitude! Which, considering he’s an immortal being, “eternal gratitude” is a pretty big deal…

We’re thrilled to be bringing this to you, and we can’t wait to get started! But, until then:

  • And join us on Facebook for the latest news, giveaways, and TONS of behind-the-scenes content!
Thank you so much for your enthusiastic support!!
Travis Richey
     The Inspector

Writing Sucks

Oh that crazy, zany Chicago literary elite, why are they always so…right?

writingsucks-624x358by Wyl Villacres

Writing sucks. Seriously. And not in the Dorothy Parker “I hate writing, I love having written” bullshit way, either. I mean, the act of putting words on paper is shitty, and she’s right in that regard, but the things that come after are just as bad. Because when you’re writing as your form of art, the second half of the writing process is even worse. Or at least for me it is.

I want to start off by saying that I’m not going to come around to some fantastic conclusion about why it’s important to preserver and how practice makes perfect or even-if-you-fail-you-still-need-to-do-it because 1. I don’t know you or your life so how could I give you advice? 2. I suck at this whole thing, so I don’t have the resume to back any advice I’d give, and 3. I don’t even have advice for myself. This isn’t a place to find answers, because in the end, all I have are questions. But writing, hacking away in my apartment or in the coffee shop, between jobs or at absurd hours, starts to get horrifyingly solitary, and I need to be in public.

Writing, to me, is some form of penance I suppose. Like whipping yourself to prove your devotion to your god (which I saw in The Da Vinci Code movie). A sort of I’ve done some fucked up things that I need to relive or I hate this part of myself, so I will assign it to a character Sisyphean task. And then to go back and worry about a story arc or a plot line or imagery or any number of things to make sure your story is more full, only to go back again and again, only to go line by line to make sure everything, every secret or failure, every hope or desire, every horrific side of yourself that normal people keep buried is worded as clearly as possible is fucking abysmal. It’s like shitting your pants and having to tell everyone you pass on your way home that you shat your pants, and making sure to describe the consistency and remind them how horrifically embarrassing it is. Every day. For hours at a time.

And sure, sometimes writing can be cathartic. But that’s the personal stuff. That’s the journal stuff that never sees the light of day. That’s the folder within a folder that you keep for you. The catharsis ends when you start working on it with the idea that someone else might want to read about that one time, when you went to sleep-away camp, you had your first kiss and it was pretty much everything you expected and not in a good way. The writing seems like a pointless venture half of the time as you end up stopping before the story is complete because, really, no one cares about how drunk you got that one time. And torturing yourself with every keystroke is fun and all, but when you consider the ceaseless march of time and how every wasted story brings you one minute close to your death, writing starts to seem like something you might as well have given up long before you sunk your money into the degree.

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