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Electronics giants raise ruckus over Project Canvas

Free? Open? We can't allow that...

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To repeat, the technology that Project Canvas is developing is an open standard that any box maker or online service can use for free as long as they abide by the rules of the standard to ensure universal compatibility. It's the same with any industry standard.

It's all a power play. On one side are traditional CE makers who want to keep their grip on Internet technology, controlling where users can browse and which videos they can watch. On the other side is Project Canvas. Its members, at least in this instance, want to open up an important piece of Internet technology and give it free to anyone who wants to use it to develop products and services that meet the published standards.

Perhaps most telling is that the objecting CE makers have not offered up any of their technology as an open and free standard that any equipment maker and online service can use to allow consumers to view Internet-delivered video.

Project Canvas has supporters. The advertising association ISBA told the BBC Trust that it supports Project Canvas "subject to caveats including economic regulation similar to linear channels and prevention against 'gatekeeper' practices".

The BBC Trust took comments on the proposed Project Canvas until last week. It will publish its preliminary conclusions by June 8 and then open up for another round of comments until June 22. It will announce its final conclusion on July 24.

Simultaneously the UK's Ofcom regulator is doing an analysis, which may further delay or even kill off Project Canvas. The three Canvas members had hoped to have initial products and services ready by early 2010.

A number of economists have said the UK now has the weakest economy in Western Europe. One of the UK's acknowledged strengths is in creating content - books, movies, TV shows, plays, art, music and the like. After all, Shakespeare and the Beatles were Brits.

Without Project Canvas the UK's creative video producers will be subject to foreign organizations when it comes to distributing video entertainment and information content online.

Surely now is not the time for the UK to let an organization dominated by Asian companies with their own proprietary interests determine the future prosperity for one of the country's few growth industries.

This article ran first in the Rider Research publication The Online Reporter.

Copyright © 2009, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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