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Dolby Buys MIT's DTV Vote for $30 Million 192

An anonymous reader writes "MIT's campus newspaper, The Tech is reporting that the university will be receiving $30 million from Dolby Laboratories. This payment is in return for MIT's vote on the "Grand Alliance" committee responsible for choosing the audio standard for digital television (DTV). Dolby also appears to have paid off Zenith, another committee member. The professor representing MIT on the committee stands to receive $8 million personally. But here's where it gets truly odd. After dutifully voting for the Dolby standard, MIT attempted to collect on the bribe, but Dolby refused to pay. So, MIT sued to collect. In the end, MIT and Dolby settled out of court. Says The Tech, "There's clearly a conflict of interest," [MIT's Jack] Turner, [associate director of the Technology Licensing Office] says, but, "it can't be avoided. MIT's reputation as being pure... in its academic evaluation of things is very important." Yeah sure."
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Dolby Buys MIT's DTV Vote for $30 Million

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  • by Qui-Gon ( 62090 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @11:47AM (#4637151) Homepage Journal
    8 million dollars!?
  • by Featureless ( 599963 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @11:49AM (#4637178) Journal
    "MIT's reputation as being pure... in its academic evaluation of things is very important."

    Apparently not.
    • "Many millions of dollars were at stake. The contract for Dolby was one of the best things ever to happen to that company. They are now the audio system for every television that will ever be sold."

      And MIT settled for 30 million dollars??! I would have auctioned my vote off! Get Phillips and Dolby in a bidding match? Sky's the limit!

      Haha. I hope Lim feels like a greedy idiot. "Man, if I'd been a little more principled, I'd still have my reputation, and if I'd been a little less principled, I'd be the seventh wealthiest man on the planet. As it is, all I've got is my lousy 8 million bucks, glaven..."

    • by BurKaZoiD ( 611246 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:16PM (#4637297)
      I work for a higher education institution as an application developer. The office I work in is more or less sandwiched between academic affairs and administrative affairs, so I'm privy to a good deal of information about various university dealings, even though I'm just a grunt low on the totem pole. Even though I see and hear alot of things that would piss off alot of parents trying to get their kids in school, something like this still shocks me. I love working where I work, but shit, higher education is one screwed up place. The politics are absolutely UNREAL. It still amazes me the power some individuals wield, especially when they shouldn't be in a position to wield ANY power at all.

      It's too bad I can't comment on some of the just plain wrong stuff I see going on, but I need my job.

      Ok, this post was worthless, mod me down. #;^)
      • Reminds me of the old saying that went something like this:

        Q. Why are the politics in higher education so dirty and cutthroat?

        A. Because the stakes are so small.

    • It has long been my opinion that academia is far more corrupt than government or the private sector. Knowledege of the behavior within the academic research community has led me to this conclusion. Basically, they are on the same tit as everyone else, with the added peppering of their ego and fame. I wouldn't trust an institution such as MIT to do anything other than further the interests of itself and its faculty.

      I respect the institution as an incredible place of science and learning. However, these instituions scruples are not those perscribed by their vague veil of moral and ethical purity.
  • Makes you wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cid Highwind ( 9258 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @11:49AM (#4637180) Homepage
    ...how much money the MPAA has earmarked for bribes to get the signal encrypted.
  • by dgp ( 11045 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @11:51AM (#4637191) Journal
    From DailyWireless [dailywireless.org]:

    "It's lucky 3G spectrum wasn't available earlier in the United States or cell carriers would be dropping like flies. The bungled DTV system saved their ass.

    The FCC assigned a royalty sharing organization, ATSC [atsc.org], to deliver a "unified" Digital Television system. But ATSC had no motivation to use the improved European-developed COFDM DTV system [dtg.org.uk] now the world-wide DTV standard. Unlike ATSC, it works. You can get it free over the air [freeview.co.uk] or in a bus. I believe former FCC director William Kennard is to blame. He didn't want to slow down the "lucrative" 3G auctions. Now we're stuck with a broken DTV system, the VHF auctions are delayed (again), and everyone lost...except the cellular carriers.

    In the UK, all you need is a $99 box with rabbit ears [comet.co.uk]. US broadcasters are stuck. They may eventually be forced into PPV and soft porn since only rooftop antennas can pick up ATSC. The FCC let this happen. It's criminal negligence."

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Soldier on over to the AVS forum [avsforum.com] and observe that lots of folks (myself included) receive ATSC DTV just fine with a simple indoor antenna.
    • by Twirlip of the Mists ( 615030 ) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:22PM (#4637320)
      You know, I do feel obligated to point out that ATSC-standard digital television signals using the 8VSB standard have been broadcast in the US full-time since 1998. You can receive 8VSB transmissions-- for free-- with nothing more than a decent pair of rabbit-ears, or, as in my case, with an inexpensive rooftop antenna. In my house, we watch at least six or eight hours of HDTV a week, and have been since the summer. Just last night, ABC broadcast Saving Private Ryan uncut and unedited in HDTV with, yeah, Dolby Digital sound.

      You can also get HDTV via satellite-- HBO and Showtime have HDTV channels-- and in some markets via cable.

      It's a gross exaggeration to say that the DTV system in the US is "bungled" or "broken."
      • My observations: DTV is still an ambigious standard - the story implies the audio portion is still not defined. Walk into a TV store and I dont see any TV makers pushing HDTV capable TVs that are under $2000. In Portland Oregon, there are three broadcast TV channels using HDTV out of 6 major channels here. Portland is a 'large market' i wonder how many smaller cities have no broadcast HDTV - probably a lot. Ive never seen AT&T cable advertise that they have HDTV capable channels.

        Its my feeling that the nationwide HDTV rollout is many years behind schedule - at some point all stations had to have X percentage of broadcasts in HDTV by 2001 or something and they had to roll thhe date back because there was no demand to justify the local broadcaster's investment. If the delays and ambiguity is due to trying to profit off of spectrum sales or undue corporate influence, then Id call that bungled.
        • It's fine to sit around and complain about the current state of DTV rollout, but I think it's unfair to say the FCC bungled it. DTV is a classic chicken and egg problem. No one want's to buy set without content. No one wants to broadcast without viewers. No one wants to make equipment without buyers. One can argue that we'll never want better picture quality so why the government push, but the transition to digital would have happened anyway. Without the ATSC standard, what we would have gotten was our over-the-air analog TV system would have slowly died, replaced by a hybrid satellite/cable system that is not free, and lends itself to monopoly given the high cost of entry. No more local TV news. More nationalization of commerce due to restricted access to local advertizing. Standards are important, and ATSC is the most advanced digital TV standard in the world. Manufacturers, broadcasters and viewers are finally starting to realize the benefits in 2002 with the majority of network prime time available in HD, and 85% percent of homes within DTV boradcast areas, and nearly all major cable companies now committed to HD distribution within 6 months. My friends are starting to purchase equipment based on my experience as an early adopter two years ago. They love the picture quality - better DVD, and MUCH better than satellite or digital cable.
          • Your arguement fully support the FCC being the bungler.

            Its precisely why the government gets involved. Because without the government you DO have a chicken and egg situation. But with the government you have a "lay the egg or go to jail" situation.

            In summary the government is involved precisely to FORCE them to put it out because everyone knows they will not on their own.
        • The article doesn't really imply that the standards are in any way undefined. Those details were set in stone years ago, between 1993 and 1996. The ATSC specs for broadcast digital television are implemented as SMPTE standards, and, as I said in my other post, they've been actively in use for over five years.

          It's true that there's not anywhere near as much HDTV as their is regular TV, but that's to be expected. HDTV requires more bandwidth than regular TV (6 MHz per channel as opposed to 3 MHz for NTSC TV), and production and encoding equipment is expensive. But is it accurate to say that the rollout is "many years behind schedule?" Not really. That's because there isn't really a schedule, to speak of. The FCC has mandated that the chunk of spectrum currently used for NTSC TV transmission will be reallocated in 2007, at which time broadcasters are expected to turn off their analog transmission equipment. That's a long way off, so don't expect to see changes happen in days, or even months. The process takes years.
        • Goddamn it. I had a lengthy reply written, but my cat jumped on the mouse and it got erased.

          Briefly - you're wrong about the TV costs. Go look at the Best Buy circular for this week - there are more sub-$2k HDTV monitors advertised than there are $2k+ ones advertised.

          You're wrong about the standards - they're well defined and sensible. There was no reasonable alternative to Dolby Digital anyway.

          You're somewhat wrong about cable HDTV - there are at least 6 test markets currently, from various providers. It's expected that HDTV cable will be widespread within 3 years. Both Dishstar and DirecTV are adding more HDTV as well.

          You're clueless about the rollout requirements on DTV, but that's ok - so was the FCC. A 10 year changeout on broadcast standards was insane, and that's what was originally mandated. Roughly 75% of all stations requested an extention on the requirement to be broadcasting DTV by May 1, 2002. That means 25% of them are, which isn't bad really. All top 10 markets have the 4 major networks broadcasting (with some caveats in NYC due to 9/11).

          Is DTV behind schedule? Yes. Is it bungled? Somewhat -- the biggest disaster was the FCC stating that cable "must carry" laws did not extend to HDTV. Rupert Murdoch (Fox) is being a total asshole about the entire thing. But it's still happening, sets are falling lower, and the requirement for TVs to include receivers will clinch the deal. The spectrum of the old analog channels will be reclaimed in a decade or so, and that's that.

          Yes... this is the "short" version. Maybe it's a good thing the cat rampaged on my computer.
          • dou! ive had postings killed due to weird things like a pet as well.

            wow. thanks for the info. I went to Costco yesterday and i saw a 32" HDTV set for $900. Thats the lowest price ive seen. The image wasnt that much better on that set but the larger DTV sets were jaw-droppers. the source was DirecTV.

      • Well, bully for you. In my suburban Boston home, the best I can get is spotty DTV reception, some of the time. I live in a prime reception area, and have a rooftop antenna with rotator. I do not expect that I will ever get reliable OTA (over-the-air) HDTV.

        I've come to the conclusion that free OTA HDTV is merely a chimera, a figleaf to allow the Congress to give away hugely valuable spectrum to its friends in the broadcast industry. Now that the broadcasters have their hands on new full 6-MHz channels (free of charge), all this HDTV silliness will be forgotten, and the broadcasters will eventually sell their ill-gotten excess digital capacity to the highest bidder.

        However, the broadcasters may be hoist by their own petard. In order to swindle the taxpayers out of more spectrum, the broadcasters had to pretend to support OTA HDTV. They then had to live with HDTV bitrate requirements in the modulation system design, ultimately resulting in 8-VSB. Now the gift from their Congressional pals may be worth substantially less then they expected, if it's hobbled by a marginally functional modulation scheme.

        • Now that the broadcasters have their hands on new full 6-MHz channels (free of charge), all this HDTV silliness will be forgotten....

          Pure FUD. That's not what's happening at all. In fact, just the opposite is starting to unfold. The major networks-- ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS, UPN, WB-- are rolling out more HDTV content this season than ever before. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but there's some prime-time network programming available in HDTV every night of the week. And, with the sole exception of Fox, we're talking about high-bandwidth 1080i or 720p programming here. What you're describing could happen, but it hasn't so far, and there are no signs that it will, so talking about it is pure speculation.
          • FUD? I wish. Nothing would please me more than to see the 8-VSB system live up to the claims of its proponents. For all that the spectrum giveaway was a colossal injustice, we've made our bed and now must lie in it.

            Unfortunately, my own personal observations at home (and I'm not living in the urban canyons, but in a typical suburb) have soured me on the future of 8-VSB. I hope I'm wrong.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:39PM (#4637401)
      You sound like one of the rubes that believed all of the Sinclair propaganda.

      COFDM has it's advantages, but 8VSB was chosen for good reason - stronger signals over longer distances at the same power levels. This is a valid decision given the sub-urban nature of US viewers. CODFM is a convenient solution for multi-path issues in urban areas, but those advantages were rendered moot last year with the introduction of 3rd generation chipsets that reduce multi-path interference.

      Also, the European system ISN'T HIGH DEF. It's 16x9 standard def. It's comparable to our satellite and digital cable receivers.

      ATSC receivers will be the same price ($99) by next Christmas thanks to the FCC requirement for ATSC tuners to be included in sets larger than 34 inches. The cost of the chip sets are about $100 now. They should drop dramatically (to about $35) now that volumes will be increasing.

      The COFDM vs. 8VSB debate was ended 18 months ago among the DTV adopters. Put it to rest.

    • But ATSC had no motivation to use the improved European-developed COFDM DTV system [dtg.org.uk] now the world-wide DTV standard. Unlike ATSC, it works. You can get it free over the air [freeview.co.uk] or in a bus.

      8VSB does work. I use a pair of rabbit ears and a DTC-100 to pick up local high-definition stations in Indianapolis: WFYI, WISH, and WRTV. Fox also has a digital channel, but it is typically standard definition.

      In the UK, all you need is a $99 box with rabbit ears [comet.co.uk]. US broadcasters are stuck. They may eventually be forced into PPV and soft porn since only rooftop antennas can pick up ATSC. The FCC let this happen. It's criminal negligence."

      Look, I work for a company with an interest (and note that I don't represent Thomson in my statements) but you're buying into another company's propoganda. One can pick up ATSC with an indoor antenna. I'm doing it in my house right now.

      COFDM is a good scheme. The U.S. has a standard, though, and COFDM isn't it.

    • Several years ago, 8-VSB and COFDM were both being demonstrated over the air at the NAB convention in Las Vegas. For 8-VSB to work in the convention hall, they had to use a rooftop antenna, a preamp and a bunch of double shielded 1/2 inch cable. The receiving antenna for the COFDM demonstration was a Radio Shack set top dual bow tie antenna. The antenna was IN THE BOOTH and you could move it around to see the affect on the picture. I was able to move it almost 90 degrees before the the picture was affected. Remember, this was INSIDE the Vegas Convention Center where there were literally THOUSANDS of other TV's, Radios, computers, transmitters and god knows what else (remember, this was the National Association of Broadcasters convention). What this demonstration tells me is that 8-VSB can't work in a moving vehicle but COFDM will. Once again the United States becomes the only one in the world whose pants are on correctly (look dad, Johnny's the only boy in the parade who has his uniform on properly!). By the way, two weeks ago the FCC approved digital radio broadcasting for FM using a system that uses the adjacent channel sidebands. Though it works fine where stations are fully spaced, on the east coast (where many FM stations are grandfathered short spaced) it's likely to not work at all. Even worse, it's likely to cause interference to the analog broadcasts of these short spaced stations. The rest of the world rejected this approach for DAB and instead put it on it's own band. It seems that we never learn from our mistakes in this country, so we repeat them over and over and over!
  • Is everyone corrupt anymore?

    How do I sign up to be a comittee member so I can get bought with absolutely no reprecussions?
  • by systembug ( 172239 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @11:53AM (#4637197) Homepage
    And Court sanctioned too. I'm somewhat speechless. You americans are a bunch of tough cookies.
  • by ealar dlanvuli ( 523604 ) <froggie6@mchsi.com> on Sunday November 10, 2002 @11:53AM (#4637198) Homepage
    he who sleeps with big corperate monies is sure to get a STD.
  • How much?!? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by natron 2.0 ( 615149 ) <[ndpeters79] [at] [gmail.com]> on Sunday November 10, 2002 @11:53AM (#4637199) Homepage Journal
    This is outrageous! They gave them that much money because they voted for thier product? Is Dolby Labrotories that concerned about competition? Last time I checked they pretty much had market cornered with thier audio playback standards, why wouldn'e anybody vote for them?

    • Last time I listened, DTS sounded better, at least in my home theater.

      I am working with previous generation equipment (and thus, standards) but I believe Dolby Digital 5.1 is something like a 448kbps (per channel) stream whereas DTS 5.1 can be full bandwidth.

      Although these days many DVD's come with both DD and DTS soundtracks which leads me to believe the DTS folks started compromsing on that full bandwidth potential in order to fit on discs.
      • True, but consider the market penetration of Dolby Digital as compared to dts.

        Consider that you can buy a receiver with DD but not dts, but good luck finding one that supports dts but not DD.

        Yes, DTS is a superior format, but it also suffers from significantly lower market share in the home theater department. DVD helped that along with DD being one of the standards (all dts DVDs are still required to contain either a DD or a PCM track to meet the DVD standard).

        With that in mind, I still have to wonder why DD felt the need to pay so much, unless some people were considering 2-channel PCM audio, which would have been absolutely stupid.
  • Whats the point? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brejc8 ( 223089 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @11:59AM (#4637222) Homepage Journal
    Whats the point of having a committee where members openly bribe eachother?
    I was under the impression that MIT was there to represent the people.
    • yeah.. but this kinda things happen.. what amazes me that they sued for not getting their bribes.. clearly admitting that they voted them for the money..

      and i thought this kinda thing would have led to SEVERE DEVASTATION in the claws of the press anywhere in the world with any standards on trusting academical institutions. oh well, maybe next time they won't be bothering to ask from MIT and ask just auction off the whole thing in the first place.
  • Does anyone even consider Digital TV relevant anymore? In this Internet-backed digital age, TV piracy runs rampant. Personally, as long as MIT keeps serving in #tv-rips and #anime-domain I'm not going to DDoS any Dolby servers.
    • Does anyone even consider Digital TV relevant anymore?

      Yup. Last night I watched Saving Private Ryan in 720p/60 with 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound. Unedited. For free. On ABC.

      Digital TV is a mystery to most people because the equipment is still pretty pricey. But that simply means the economies of scale haven't kicked in yet.
  • by Bobulusman ( 467474 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:00PM (#4637228)
    The MIT people choose the format they did because they would have made $8 million in royalties and the like. (This was 1993)

    Then, in 1997, they had a royalty dispute with Dolby over the royalties. The settlement out of court is the $30 million mentioned.

    The interesting part is that that 1993 decision helped make US digital tv use dolby instead of mpeg, like they apparently use in Europe
  • by Blondie-Wan ( 559212 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:02PM (#4637239) Homepage
    From the article:

    Other members of the Grand Alliance cited the Dolby system's American roots and its technical superiority over Musicam, not MIT's financial interest in Musicam's rejection, as the likely reasons for Lim's vote.

    Philips' Musicam system, also known as "MPEG," is related to the technology used in MP3 audio compression, and is the standard for digital television audio in Europe.

    "Jae Lim, independently of any deal, did not want the Philips system to win," said Robert Rast, the leader of the Grand Alliance's Technical Oversight Group, and then a vice president of a firm that was both an MIT partner and competitor, General Instrument Corp.

    "Jae was very pro-American," he said. "He would naturally favor an American system over a foreign system."

    "Jae knew he supported American solutions, so that deal was consistent with that," Rast said. "If it hadn't been consistent, I don't think Jae would have made the deal."

    Putting aside the more worrying issue of conflict of interest, why should whether the standard originated in America be a factor? I do understand the debate is over setting a standard for television in this country, but even so, shouldn't the only important considerations be the technical merits of the proposed standards? Why should it matter where a standard arose? Good grief, are they all suffering from "not invented here?"
    • "Not Invented Here" syndrome is only a small part of it. One big motivation for picking a standard that originates here in America is that it means the licensing fees will be flowing into the United States intead of out of it. This is economic protectionism, in a sense. Why is it wrong for the United States to bias technical decisions in favor of home-brewed standards? Other countries (especially Japan) do this all the time.

      If the United States mandated a digital television standard that required the use of an audio (or video) standard based on foreign IP, it would not play well politically, and would have the effect of leeching more money out of this country. It's bad enough that there are no domestic producers of television sets left in the U.S. Since this country seems best at generating IP rather than manufacturing, licensing fees are a good way to funnel some of the wealth back to U.S. institutions.

      In response to someone in another branch of this thread who chalked this up to nationalism, I would counter that this move is no more nationalistic than similar technology decisions made in countries like Japan or France.
  • bribery! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zenst ( 558964 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:02PM (#4637241) Homepage Journal
    If this was a government and not a University wouldn't we call this kind of thing bribery and corruption? Still guess we can't grumble as university students of today are tomorrow's politicians.
    • Re:bribery! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by siskbc ( 598067 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:11PM (#4637279) Homepage
      Still guess we can't grumble as university students of today are tomorrow's politicians.

      Well, I don't think MIT turns out too many politicians - they turn out exclusively scientists and engineers. If it was politicians, I wouldn't care - we know they're a bunch of scoundrels - but what is truly frightening is that the ethics of scientists are supposedly held in higher regard than those of politicians. "Bias" is a much dirtier word in science than in politics. So to have MIT students see their advdisors and teachers getting rich off of graft is a very sad thing indeed.

      One more reason I'm glad I didn't go to MIT for grad school.
      • Re:bribery! (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mrjah ( 574093 )
        Well, I don't think MIT turns out too many politicians - they turn out exclusively scientists and engineers.

        Try looking slightly beyond the boundaries of the U.S. Having accomplished that initial feat, I suppose the name Netanyahu might ring a bell. Or the names of past presidents of Colombia, Puerto Rico, or Costa Rica. Or, come to think of it, the names of significant non-Presidential U.S. politicians.

        Not to be an ass, but... The MIT paper "The Tech" has a running list of notable politicians from MIT, for those who want to do 30 seconds of research before posting. It is not comprehensive, but it's a good start.

        One more reason I'm glad I didn't go to MIT for grad school.

        If you're worried about problems like MIT's current flap, then I suppose you didn't go anywhere for grad school. Name a significant research institution that doesn't occasionally find ways to put itself in this situation.

        Gimme a break.
        • First, I'm sure MIT had a few politicians in a few banana republics. But it's not a politician factory like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, etc. Not a criticism, just a statement of fact. That you can find 4 politicians, and are actually able to name one, seems to prove the general thesis.

          Second, you are right - no institution seems immune. However, MIT does seem to set the standard for places not named Bell Labs or Livermore.

          As for grad school, I'm at Caltech. Yeah, we have our issues, but nothing like that.
    • Re:bribery! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by matrim99 ( 123693 )
      If this was a government and not a University wouldn't we call this kind of thing bribery and corruption?

      No. We'd call Dolby a Special Interest Group, and call the money a "campaign contribution".
      Same thing, different labels.

  • ...from what I read in the article, it seems that philips paid this guy because both of their standards were about the same, and performed the same, and they all agreed, so he accepted the payment so that MIT's work wasn't all for naught.

    Which sounds like a pretty good idea to me. I mean, why have competing standards and go through all the expense of that when they're nearly the same, and one side is willing to be bought out and move on?
  • Real Web Address (Score:3, Informative)

    by no soup for you ( 607826 ) <jesse DOT wolgamott AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:06PM (#4637258) Homepage
    MIT's The Tech [mit.edu] is actually located at http://www-tech.mit.edu/... way to check those links.
  • This is outragous (Score:2, Insightful)

    by voudras ( 105736 )
    Lets just stop calling this "voting" and start calling it scoring - "MIT gets paid <large sum> to score for Dolby!".

    Whats even worst is that they took them to _court_ over it - am i the only one that things this is disgusting? what the fuck is the point? where are we headed if we can clearly, publicly buy off votes and even bring people to court when the bribe isint paid?

  • by __aaahtg7394 ( 307602 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:08PM (#4637266)
    After reading the article, i'm a bit less outraged. The 30M$ is royalty payments, apparently on technology developed at MIT. The professor in question is the sole inventor, which is why they're giving hime 8M$ of it.

    Please read the article, it's actually a bit more of "Dolby tried to screw MIT out of royalties" instead of "MIT accepts bribe to vouch for Dolby standard."
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Please read the article, it's actually a bit more of "Dolby tried to screw MIT out of royalties" instead of "MIT accepts bribe to vouch for Dolby standard."

      Please read the article more carefully. Dolby is paying MIT $30M in royalties FOR A USELESS TECHNOLOGY! If MIT's own DTV standard had been chosen, they would have earned substantial royalties, but since they sold out to Dolby, they missed the boat. But, Dolby paid them anyway! That's why it's vote-buying.
    • by dipipanone ( 570849 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:24PM (#4637326)
      Please read the article

      Pot, kettle, black. Which parts of these paragraphs did you not understand?

      The settlement of a lawsuit over an MIT-Dolby royalty sharing agreement under which Dolby was slated to pay MIT if either's audio system proposal were accepted -- that is, if Philips Electronics' competing "Musicam" system were rejected -- placed Lim in the unusual position of receiving millions of dollars from Dolby partly as the result of having voted in favor of Dolby's system, over Musicam and MIT's own system, on a technical advisory committee to draft the industry's unified recommendation as part of a government-run national standardization process.

      "Any implication that Jae's decisions [were] biased by potential future royalties is totally wrong," he said. "We never cast a vote for a system that did not show itself to be superior based on third party test results," Preston wrote in an e-mail statement. However, Preston continued, "the MIT audio system performed best in the tests, and the Dolby [system] was nearly the same."
      The article clearly makes the point that the MIT system (the one that Jin invented, I assume) was technically superior, but Jin and Dolby carved out a deal between themselves that gave both Jin, Dolby and MIT a cut of the winnings, regardless of who won.

      Once the financial issues were stitched up, Jin was free to cast his vote with Dolby, despite independent tests showing that the MIT system was superior -- and his allies appear to be arguing that his motivation was patriotic rather than financial.

      Now in future, would you please not lecture other people unless you've read and understood the article yourself?
      • Jin and Dolby carved out a deal between themselves that gave both Jin, Dolby and MIT a cut of the winnings, regardless of who won.

        Yes, which is not an issue in my opinion. It's a conflict of interest, but both his interests were served, as well as the public's.

        The "issue" is that he voted for a technically inferior system over the technically superior one. The article claims that Dolby is only slightly worse than the MIT system.

        Also, the technically superior one he helped develop (one can only assume). So it's safe to assume that he would see some benefit from this as well.

        For compatibility, all involved should have gone with the Philips system, which the Europeans were already working with. But the Philips system was technically inferior to both MIT and Dolby.

        Dolby seemed to already have more support, so Jin could compromise and support Dolby, ensuring that a quality system was used.

        So: to sum up: Jin probably had a stake in the MIT system being adopted, but was willing to compromise.

        The MIT and Dolby systems were about the same quality, while the Philips was clearly inferior. The board was already leaning towards Dolby, and by voting for MIT, Jin might allow Philips to snatch away the standard. So, voting for Dolby was a compromise that benefitted all involved.

        (not that this is exactly what happened, i'm sure, but i think it does have some impact on things. You can see things like this happening in public development all over; best current example is LVMS in the linux kernel. Not all of them involve money as blatantly as this one, however.)
      • The article clearly makes the point that the MIT system (the one that Jin invented, I assume) was technically superior, but Jin and Dolby carved out a deal between themselves that gave both Jin, Dolby and MIT a cut of the winnings, regardless of who won.

        Correct, but if anything, this mitigates Lin's conflict. To begin with he only stood to gain financially if the MIT system is approved, so they worked out a deal with Dolby, that they would share royaties if EITHER if their systems were approved. If the MIT system had won they would be paying money to Dolby. That gave LIN 2 horses in the race instead of one. He still could have voted for the MIT proposal, but he didn't because it wasn't going to win.

        All of this is moot, however, because everybody on the "alliance" presumably had a bias towards their own proposal, and in the end this is just a proposal to the FCC that made the decision.

        Peter Fannon, then the director of the FCC's Advanced Television Test Center, echoed her remarks. "It made no difference to the [FCC television committee] what individual business deals these guys made," he said, because the FCC later evaluated the Grand Alliance's proposal to make sure it was acceptable as the national standard and at least as good as what each individual Alliance member had previously proposed.
    • Read it again. He cast a "crucial vote" on which format would become the HDTV audio standard and chose the one he developed at MIT. I'm sure he knew at the time he and his school would make millions. The end result still casts MIT as ethically repugnant.
      • How many candidates vote for their opponents in elections? Even though they stand to make lots of money, they vote for themselves (in general).

        The MIT system was technically superior to Dolby, by apparently a small margin. The votes were already swaying towards Dolby, so to ensure that a quality standard was used, he voted for Dolby. The small margin be damned.

        See also: United States Presidential Election, 2000; the effect of Nader on Gore's constituency, with an emphasis on the outcomes.
  • by mao che minh ( 611166 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:11PM (#4637275) Journal
    You have to start questioning the point of having this commitee. Furthermore,you have to doubt it's validity outright. I think that there is much to learn from this though. This gives us an insight into what is happening in those exchanges between politician and MPAA/RIAA lawyers/spokes people. They will win legistlation with money, we must win it back in the hearts of the people (and it will take a lot of people).
  • "My Lord, is that....legal?
  • by grungebox ( 578982 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:18PM (#4637303) Homepage
    Why did they need to take Dolby's bribe? Couldn't they get their students [wired.com] to help [caesarspalace.com]?
  • by ancarett ( 221103 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:18PM (#4637307)
    These kind of secret backdoor deals taint the supposedly open review process. How secure can we feel with the standard of DTV given this kind of collusion between MIT and Dolby?

    From the Tech article:

    "It was very closely held information that there was an agreement between MIT and Dolby," Rast said. "It wasn't something that everybody knew about at the time," he added. "It wasn't common knowledge."

    "I think the other members [of the Alliance] would have been quite upset" if they had known about such an agreement, said Joel Brinkley, the author of Defining Vision, a comprehensive account of the HDTV standardization process, and a reporter for The New York Times.

    "I was not aware of it, and I was speaking to all of them," he said. "Many millions of dollars were at stake. The contract for Dolby was one of the best things ever to happen to that company. They are now the audio system for every television that will ever be sold," he said.
  • by CatWrangler ( 622292 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:23PM (#4637324) Journal
    Starting in the 80's, Universities began to rely less on government, and tuition, and more on private industry for the money to perform research.

    This is a clear example of the bastardization of higher learning because of the influence of money. 2+2=4 even if the boys at Pfizer want it to be 5... It may be tempting sometimes to come up with the answer of 5, when somebody is paying you multi millions to do so.

    Perhaps it is a good opportunity/time to re-evaluate the funding of research and development at universities. A proposal I would like to see is that government heavily subsidizes the research, but all the profits from products that come from the research are plowed right back into universities general funds, paying for more research as well as lower tuitions, and more outright scholarships.

    • Sorry, but I'm not quite coming to the same conclusions that you apparently are.

      (It sounds to me like you're saying universities need to be exclusively funded by a combination of government and tuition - because anything else "taints" their decisions and "pureness" of education provided.)

      I do agree that any of these "back door deals" are completely dishonest, yet I don't think more govt. funding is going to be the real "fix" we need.

      As has been brought up in many a past Slashdot discussion, universities and colleges have a major problem with overpaying their deans and other high-level faculty members. A good start to budget-cutting would begin by dropping the needless "perks" such as free housing or vehicles for these people, already earning upwards of $100,000 per year to be the political "go between" and figurehead for the schools.

      If government is going to provide funds for education, it seems more "focused" if they at least provide them directly to students, for use at the school of their own choosing. By awarding research grants or other such funding to particular universities - they're already "playing favorites", and encouraging wastefulness. If you let the students vote with their dollar for the schools they want to attend, the universities are forced to compete based on their own merits and perceived educational value to students.

      If they try to take short-cuts, such as accepting millions/billions from private industry in return for approving products as "best technology" without doing the studies, or outfitting the campus with a single vendor's "gifts" -- they'll eventually lose credibility, and therefore customers (students).

      Even though some of us don't seem to like to admit it (probably because the services provided are so important), colleges and universities are nothing more than *businesses*. They should be left to run like businesses.
      • As has been brought up in many a past Slashdot discussion, universities and colleges have a major problem with overpaying their deans and other high-level faculty members. A good start to budget-cutting would begin by dropping the needless "perks" such as free housing or vehicles for these people, already earning upwards of $100,000 per year to be the political "go between" and figurehead for the schools.
        I'm not so sure I agree. The problem with public education is that we don't pay enough to attract the best people. (A few of the best people do it anyways, but we're just taking advantage of them). $1e5 is a good salary, but is it such an outragegous sum? An engineer can make that much. I am far more skeptical of CEOs appointing themselves 10x that compensation as they drive their companies into the ground.
  • A mockery! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Performer Guy ( 69820 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:26PM (#4637336)
    The whole point of granting some esteemed organization a vote and membership on a committee is that they use their judgement and weigh greater interests in the ballance, not whore themselves to the highest bidder.

    There is absolutely no point in giving MIT another vote on any panel. They'll just use it like a cash windfall which it's NOT supposed to be. We could actually sell standards control to the highest bidder and put the cash to some use, we don't because it's obviously a bad thing. MIT doing this by proxy is no better, in fact it's worse because they betray a trust.
    • The whole point of granting some esteemed organization a vote and membership on a committee is that they use their judgement and weigh greater interests in the ballance, not whore themselves to the highest bidder.
      This is exactly what MIT did. They realized that if they had backed their own standard, they might have become the "spoiler" that got Phillips' inferior standard chosen. They wanted to ensure that one of the two superior standards won, so they voted for Dolby.

      Does Ralph Nader ring a bell?
      • No it is not what they did. They sold their vote in a secret alliance to deliberately keep a *foreign* technology out, by their own admission. By their own admission in testimonty they say the knew their chosen technology was not superior. They were on this committee because they had invented a codec and their hat was in the ring. They SOLD their vote rather than voting on merit.
  • by donheff ( 110809 ) <donheffernanNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:29PM (#4637348)
    As I read the article, it sounds like the whole point of the Grand Alliance was to get the various parties to agree on a standard. Whicj is exactly what they did. MIT and Dolby had competing approaches and MIT made a deal with Dolby to drop their's in favor of Dolby's for a Financial return. Zenith did the same thing. The MIT rep profitted, but he would have profitted if the MIT approach was selected. This would be a big deal if the group was supposed to be a bunch of unbiased technical wizzes choosing the best product, but it wasn't. This is like MS and IBM agreeing on a .NET approach.
  • by nedron ( 5294 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:32PM (#4637367) Homepage
    Dolby was accused of similar tactics during the time the DVD spec was being defined and ratified. That's allegedly why DTS (a better codec than DD) was locked out of being a primary alternate to PCM tracks on DVDs.

    I've seen people in the theatrical sound industry rakishly refer to Dolby as the "Microsoft of film audio".

    • This is a hot topic that isn't so easily explained away so simplistically.

      DTS is bit-inefficient, and is very bandwidth hungry, as it compresses less.

      DTS isn't _just_ a codec, you get the engineering and mixing services with it, and I suspect that the engineering has a lot to do with the improved quality. I believe that Dolby allows just about anyone to get an encoder, DTS only has a few labs that are allowed to use it.

      Another problem with DTS on a DVD is that DTS takes about 2x the bandwidth to get the better quality audio, and depenging on the situation, the improvement is marginal for most people. Full-bandwidth DTS takes 15% of the available bandwidth available for DVD-Video, in some cases, taking away from the bandwidth available from the video compression and actual disc space for value-added material, such as extras. The highest bitrate DD uses about 5% of the available bandwidth per track.

      Another handicap of DD is that sometimes mixers make sacrifices to make it more downward compatible with ProLogic decoders.

      One thing that DTS is pretty well known for doing is mixing their audio to be an average 4dB louder than DD at the same reference level - for someone that isn't on to that trick, DTS is definitely going to sound better, clearer. not _just_ on the merits of the codec. A lot of people might not be able to tell the difference as quickly.
  • by nizo ( 81281 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:45PM (#4637426) Homepage Journal
    1. First you get the money offerred.

    2. THEN you vote as asked (if you want future bribes).

    I mean if someone offers you a bribe, are you expecting them to keep their word later as well???
  • Kind of Funny... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Milinar ( 176767 ) on Sunday November 10, 2002 @12:45PM (#4637429) Homepage
    Since the founder of bose works for MIT. [emediaplan.com]
    • That the founder of Bose works for MIT is a self-irony, if you have actually listened to his speakers next to any other mid-fi brand's.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 10, 2002 @01:13PM (#4637565)
    Let me tell you a story... I live in Brazil. Brazil sheduled for the middle of 2002 the date to choose wich HDTV standard it will adopt (the american, european or japanese). The big TV stations from Brazil tested all tree against every possible thing: cable transmition, air transmition, ghosts from reflection, moving targets (inside a bus, a train, etc...). NO OTHER COUNTRY DID THIS. The conclusion? The american system sucked, because it only worked OK with cable distribution (90% of brasillians don't have cabe TV). The european was so-so and the japanese was damn fucking good, becase it was difficult to find a place were it didn't worked. So what system was chosen?

    None. The date of the decision was cancelled, and a full boeing of americans went to Brasilia (the Capital) to bribe people. Now you see the potiticians saying that "oh,wehave to choose this based in the economy, not tecnical meriths... The americas will let us export TVs for the USA!" Ok. Let's see:

    1>Brazil makes 2 TVs and sells one to USA and other to some brazilian, gets money of 1 from the USA and other is paid with brazillian cash.

    2>Brazil sends 70% of boths TVs price to USA for "royalties".

    Veeeery smart.
    • ...which is still a net influx of dollars. Exporting is good, but diversifying your exports is even better.

      At any rate, my sense is that it's much more important for a developing world economy to factor in market globalization concerns--even over technical concerns--than it is for, say, the US. It's probably a necessity. The US can devalue both technical and globalization concerns due to its monolithic nature. Lucky us. This is continually becoming less and less true, thank goodness.

  • Being from MIT myself, I have actually read the article that is being referred to here and although I agree it was a pretty poor thing to do, it's not as bad as it sounds. The truth of the matter is not that Dolby bought MIT's vote for $30 million, but that if the standard was chosen MIT would be in line for $30 million in royalties. In the end it's more halfway between bribery and voting for oneself than strict bribery.
    • You're right. Also, if you leave a suitcase of money somewhere and then tell a lawmaker that you'll give them a suitcase of money after they vote for some legislation you want, and then later you tell them where that suitcase is and they just "happen to walk by and pick it up" - that's not a bribe either. It's just a funny coincidence!!
  • Is it just me or does the "Grand Alliance" sound like a bunch of guys sitting around wearing blue water-buffalo hats? (apologies to the Flintstones).

    Seriously though, that is one arrogant name.
  • works much the same, but I'd like to see Dolby or any other big company pull a $40 million dollar check out of, say, Fritz Hollings slobbering mouth.

    I'd rather wrestle a pit bull for a pork chop.

    (btw, to confirm the "S" in Hollings' name I looked him up on google with:

    riaa representative "back pocket" congress)


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