BROADBAND AND DIGITAL RIGHTS

By NBF News
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BROADBAND Internet access, often shortened to just 'broadband,' is a high data rate connection to the Internet- typically contrasted with dial-up access using a 56k modem.

Dial-up modems are limited to a bit rate of less than 56 kbit/s (kilobits per second) and require the dedicated use of a telephone line - whereas broadband technologies supply more than double this rate and generally without disrupting telephone use.

Although various minimum bandwidths have been used in definitions of broadband, ranging up from 64 kbit/s up to 4.0 Mbit/s, the 2006 OECD report is typical by defining broadband as having download data transfer rates equal to or faster than 256 kbit/s, while the United States (U.S) Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as of 2010, defines 'Basic Broadband' as data transmission speeds of at least 4 megabits per second (Mbps), or 4,000,000 bits per second, downstream (from the Internet to the user's computer) and 1 Mbit/s upstream (from the user's computer to the Internet).    The trend is to raise the threshold of the broadband definition as the marketplace rolls out faster services.

Data rates are defined in terms of maximum download because several common consumer broadband technologies such as ADSL are 'asymmetric'-supporting much slower maximum upload data rate than download.

As the bandwidth delivered to end users increases, the market expects that video on demand services streamed over the Internet will become more popular, though at the present time such services generally require specialised networks. The data rates on most broadband services still do not suffice to provide good quality video, as MPEG-2 video requires about 6 Mbit/s for good results. Adequate video for some purposes becomes possible at lower data rates, with rates of 768 kbit/s and 384 kbit/s used for some video conferencing applications, and rates as low as 100 kbit/s used for videophones using H.264/MPEG-4 AVC. The MPEG-4 format delivers high-quality video at 2 Mbit/s, at the low end of cable modem and ADSL performance.

Broadband technology in Nigeria
The standard broadband technologies in Nigeria are VSAT,  ADSL and cable Internet. Newer technologies in use include VDSL and pushing optical fiber connections closer to the subscriber in both telephone and cable plants.

Fiber-optic communication, while only recently being used in fiber to the premises and fiber to the curb schemes, has played a crucial role in enabling Broadband Internet access by making transmission of information over longer distances much more cost-effective than copper wire technology.

Public Wi-Fi networks are found in a few areas, and in some cities and towns Internet Service Providers are installing municipal Wi-Fi networks. Broadband mobile Internet access has become available at the consumer level, using the HSDPA and EV-DO technologies. The newest technology being deployed for mobile and stationary broadband access is WiMAX.

With the introduction of iBurst technology recently, it is clear that the landscape will change even some more and great penetration in the deployment of broadband will be seen.

Government should be encouraged to engage in additional infrastructural development for internal country wide fiber supported by reducing the licensing fees for frequencies to encourage cash strapped organisations roll-out their technologies.

This is the right time and the correct approach to ensure that we deepen and increase number of actually subscribers that can have access to broadband. This should however be done through serious players that have demonstrated ability and skill in the industry with relative consistence.

Broadband and understanding digital rights
Broadband Internet service has the effect of seriously broadening one's world. It's incredibly fast and, considering that the vast majority of information on the Internet is simply text, one can do an incredible amount of research into any given topic in a very short amount of time.

Of course, there is a great deal of video and audio content available online, as well. Not all of this content is legitimate and, to avoid running afoul of the law, one must understand a few basic things so that they can differentiate the legal from the pirated.

Video sharing sites oftentimes have material, which may have been uploaded by people who ripped it from a television recording or directly from a DVD. While this material is available for a given amount of time, it is most often quickly removed due to copyright infringement. When sharing any video or audio online, remember that it's always best to avoid uploading anything of a commercial origin. This means music, film clips, television clips and so forth. Many users inadvertently steer right into pirate waters and get themselves in trouble doing so.

Downloading is the next hazard. While peer-to-peer file sharing is a hugely-useful and worthwhile technology, it is also the area where the most illegal activity is found. Remember that there are different laws that apply when sharing information online. It is definitely illegal to create a 'mix' of songs and to offer it to friends across the Internet. The entertainment companies dedicate a lot of time and effort into fighting this and doing so, even by accident, can get a user into a lot of trouble.

It is always illegal to upload any recorded material in its entirety to any site. Remember that this applies to anything copyrighted. Even though most of it will be movies and albums, uploading the digitised version of a book is just as illegal as uploading a movie. When a user buys a product such as a movie or an audio recording, they do not own it outright. They own a license. Part of the terms of the license requires that the material will not be duplicated or sold and violating this license can get the user in a lot of trouble.

There are many legitimate ways to get free entertainment online. Some bands offer tracks from their albums on social networking sites. Some bands have even combated piracy by allowing their fans to set their own price for purchasing an album. While stealing is always wrong, make no bones about it, piracy is simply stealing just as running into the video store and pilfering a DVD would be stealing, many entertainment companies have begun making free offerings as an enticement.

Many television programmes also have all of their episodes online, as well. Be sure to look for these legitimate sites. Not only are they safer and legal, they also offer much better quality than do pirate versions of movies and television shows.

Reliance on digital media for entertainment
As technology advances and our lives become more dependent on computers and digital files to serve our entertainment needs, protection for copyright holders and content providers becomes even more important. Software, music, movies, and books have all evolved into being distributed almost entirely by electronic means. Reducing a three-hundred page book or an entire CD-Set to multiple files that can be saved and stored on any number of devices sets the entire process up for abuse.

While we marvel at the ease of downloading music, installing software instantly, or watching movies on demand, the continued ability to do these things affordably and quickly depends on the level of protection afforded to content providers and copyright holders.

Costs of digital piracy are high
Artists, writers, record companies, and movie distributors would be unable to continue providing digital content if electronic piracy was left unchecked. These industries depend on steady consumer demand and require a sustainable revenue stream to continue providing digital media at prices consumers will pay.

The annual cost of illegal music downloading alone is staggering:

• $12.5 billion of economic losses every year
• 71,060 U.S. jobs lost
• $2.7 billion in lost wages
• $422 million in lost tax revenues
The Institute for Policy Innovation Information for Nigeria is not readily available, but this shows that a percentage of what the problems are at present.

This evidently has impacted as well on our movie and music industry greatly. No wonder that the efforts of Nollywood has not ramp up significantly the way it should in the first place. We can help the government using technologies to reduce copyright issues and corruption clearly.

What is digital rights management?
One way of providing digital copyright protection is through digital rights management, or DRM. Digital rights management is any type of technology that stops or limits the practice of illegal digital copying.

This can be anything from a company restricting its employees from forwarding certain emails, to a movie distributor encoding software on its DVDs to limit the number of copies a user can make, or a software company limiting the installation of its software to only two computers.

The Netflix example
The Netflix business model is based on meeting steady consumer demand by providing instant delivery of movies to customer's TV sets via streaming video, and mailing DVDs to customers around the country within 1-3 days.

In order for movie studios and other content providers to allow Netflix to distribute their movies in this manner, they require the company to satisfy concerns that their content is adequately protected from unauthorised copying and use. digital rights management provides content providers with this assurance.

How DRM technology works
The best DRM technology carefully balances the rights a consumer has when buying content from a provider (viewing content on multiple devices, installing software on another computer owned by the consumer, backing up files for storage, etc.) with the copyright protection rights of the content provider and content owners.

Netflix uses Microsoft PlayReady technology and a format called Protected Interoperable File Format (PIFF) for use in all Netflix ready devices and applications. This application allows consumers to view all of the movies and content they are entitled to, while restricting unauthorized copying or commercial use.

Copyright law: The fair use doctrine
Consumers, who purchase digital content are allowed the 'fair use' of the purchased content. The fair use doctrine is the cornerstone of copyright law in the United States. Where the fair use doctrine becomes complicated is in determining exactly what fair use is.

How the fair use doctrine is applied to digital content will answer the following questions: how many copies of a music file is a consumer entitled to, how many computers may a consumer install a purchased software program on, or how many times may a customer watch a rented movie.

Implementing an effective digital rights management plan

A digital rights management plan operates on four levels:

• Obtaining a copyright for the content
• Managing the distribution of the content
• Determining what a consumer is allowed to do with the content

• Controlling what the consumer actually does with the content

In essence, a good DRM programme has to define three distinct entities - the consumer, the content itself, and the consumer's rights to use the content.

Finally the DRM programme must manage the relationship between all three of them, and control the distribution of the content.

In the Netflix example above, the Play Ready application validates the copyright protections and restrictions on using the content, registers the devices the consumer owns, and then allows the delivery of the specific content to only those devices for a specified time period.

This allows Netflix members to instantly watch movies over the Internet on a wide range of devices, but restricts members from copying movies and distributing content to unauthorised people. In this example, 'fair use' is being able to watch content on as many devices the authorised consumer owns, but restricting the ability to physically copy the digital content to portable media such as a DVD.

The future of DRM
As the balance between consumer's rights to use digital content and content owner's copyright protections continues to evolve, applications to manage this balance will continue to be developed. More playback devices will be invented, and more copyrighted works will be converted to digital content.

The book publishing industry is going through this evolution now, and as more and more books are distributed electronically, DRM applications specifically for the book publishing industry will be manufactured.

In addition, hackers will continue to try to break DRM codes to attempt to download and copy digital files for unauthorised use, and users will become more demanding and sophisticated. Video streaming and instant downloads may not be enough to sustain an almost insatiable demand for immediate access to digital content on numerous devices.

• Onyekwere is the chairman of Linkserve Broadband