Back in March, I ranted (and learned a lot about) the proprietary nature of the RAW image format stored in digital cameras, and the headaches caused by this non-opennness for people who simply want to shoot RAW and be able to get those images into their photo cataloguing software of choice.
Now it turns out that not only are RAW formats proprietary, they’re also sometimes encrypted, which means they can’t be read by any software other than that provided by the camera manufacturer. Photoshop is often considered the most capable software available when it comes to reading RAW images, but Adobe was so afraid of being sued under the DMCA if they reverse-engineered the formats that they decided not to support them at all.
Does a camera vendor have a legal right to tie their hardware’s output to a particular piece of software? I suppose they do, technically speaking. But they do so at the expense of the consumer, roping users into a counterproductive closed loop. There is no technical reason why white balance information should be encrypted; the reasons are all economic/political. My hope is that this move will backfire on Nikon and that consumers will revolt (hackers have already broken the encryption, by the way). What bothers me is that the camera industry is apparently taking cues from the DVD industry, which has convinced most consumers that it’s OK to build encryption standards directly into hardware. Not a healthy trend.