There is a bit of a tizzy going around some of the blogs I frequent about the Nikon D2X. You see, Nikon has decided to encrypt some of the information in their NEF or “raw” format, so that you need to use their utilities or their SDK to get appropriate color correction of pictures from their applications. This shouldn’t be a really big deal, because apparently they did a really poor job, and a couple of people have already reverse engineered the encryption. But there is a small problem: it’s possible for Nikon to sue people who circumvent such a measure under the DMCA. It might not actually be a DMCA violation: after all, for it to be a violation of the DMCA there has to be some copyright of the underlying data, and it is hard to imagine that the white balance data is copyrightable. It’s also pretty clear that the encryption of this white balance data doesn’t actually serve any copy protection. This recalls some of the findings in the recent Lexmark cases, and should be struck down on a similar finding.
But they could definitely make life miserable for software developers in the mean time. They may not win, but they really don’t have to prevail in court. They can just write checks until they do.
What is truly mystifying is why Nikon chooses to limit the functionality of their hardware. Why they choose to screw their customers. Why they choose to slow the adoption of their equipment. Nothing about this policy serves their customers in the slightest degree. Presumably they think they can make some money by licensing their SDK to developers. Hey, here’s an idea: stay out of the software business, except to the extent that it allows you to make better cameras. Then, sell more cameras.
Dpreview.com (an excellent website by the way, highly recommended before any camera purchase) has an article which reproduces Nikon’s response to this controversy.
Through use of the Nikon Software Developer Kit, authorized developers can produce software by applying creative concepts to their implementation and adding capabilities to open Nikon’s NEF file and use NEF’s embedded Instructions and Nikon’s Libraries. Nikon photographers reap benefits from independent developers’ approaches, because it allows the photographer to open and process their NEF images.
So, tell me Nikon: how are your customers well served by denying motivated developers from developing software for your cameras? Just what does a developer need to do to become “authorized”? Do they need to demonstrate some really cool application? Insight into digital imaging? I suspect not. I suspect that the way they become authorized is by signing a licensing agreement and a check.
I’m a software developer, and I’m a consumer of digital products including cameras. The two are not disjoint things: I’m capable of operating in both spheres and I like products (indeed, seek out products) which enable me to operate in both spheres. Your design decisions make it very easy for me to select my next digital camera: hello Canon.
Nikon’s press release ends with the incredibly condescending line:
Nikon continues to welcome dialogue with bona fide software developers.
Kiss my ass Nikon. I don’t need your bone fides to develop software.
Canon: are you listening? Don’t follow them down this path.