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Downloadable DVDs?

National | Digital revolution poses challenges to intellectual-property rights, classified ads, and branch banks

Issue: "Daniel of the Year 1999," Dec. 18, 1999

Hitting the pause button on DVds
An unknown Norwegian computer programmer may have slowed down the growth of DVD, at least according to some in the electronics industry. He discovered the codes that allow computer software to read DVDs, proving that users can download DVDs onto their hard drives from the Web and other sources. The $40 billion recording industry is trying to stop people from passing around unauthorized copies of copyrighted material on the Internet and on disk. Now fears mount that more people will post entire DVDs on the Web, letting others suck them down with high-speed connections. This piracy fight among big corporations affects independent artists who want to use the same technology to distribute their own work and find an audience. Japanese manufacturers are delaying the launch of a new DVD audio machine, touted as the next generation of home music entertainment, due to piracy fears. Even though customers have already ordered DVD audio units for about $1,000 each, Panasonic and JVC are hitting the pause button on their release. "The concerns came from the music industry, which expressed its need for a more robust encryption system than had originally been proposed," said Bill Pritchard, a spokesman for Matsushita's Panasonic Consumer Electronics subsidiary in America. That means a better copy-protection scheme. But copy protection always raises the question of how normal people are to back up a recording legitimately. The fight over copying won't be over soon. If ever. @jobsearch
Want a job? The Web is becoming a top place for employers and prospects to go hunting, giving the old classified ad a run for its money. In many fields, like engineering and computer programming, the Web is becoming a necessity. According to Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., more than 2.5 million resumés float around cyberspace and nearly 30,000 job-posting websites. Why? Often the sites charge no entry fee and people can place a resumé or a job listing easily. A job can be posted and filled in the same day. For future employees, the online job search takes away trips to a copy place to run off resumés and address more letters. The job seeker simply edits his resumé and cover letter in a word processor, saves it to disk, and sends it off. As a result, resumés fly into human-resources databases. Irving-based GTE Corp. says it receives 30,000 email resumés a year. A new breed of digital headhunter has also been formed, searching for just that right person. The online job search shows one of the key functions of the Internet: It is wide and fast. People can drill down through information to find what meets their exact requirements. In this case, they can find a receptionist, a marketing director, or even a CEO. This shows that the Net does not merely push the real world under a digital carpet; it makes the real world move much faster. Pruning branches
Online banking: no lines, no extra fees, instant access! Banks around the world are pushing this service to customers as a new wave of convenience. As a result, depositors' reliance on a local branch can greatly decrease. Online banking is usually free and accessible 24 hours a day (except, of course, when the server crashes downtown). A customer usually can pull up his balance, view his recent activity, transfer money, and pay bills. Often he can pay off a credit card before the bill arrives. As a convenience, this lives up to the hype. Yet this explosion has seen the rise of the local bank's new competitor: complete online banks like Net.B@nk, CompuBank, and Security First National Bank. In exchange for higher interest rates, people can make deposits in a financial institution that exists solely online-with no branches at all. This good deal, however, involves a tradeoff: To escape the local teller entirely, cyberbank customers must either have checks direct deposited or mail them in. Since no-branch banks have no ATMs, often depositors must go to no-fee ATMs at credit unions or pay the extra fees at another bank's machine. (For those who need to curb spending, this may be a good option.)

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