p2p news / p2pnet: Halloween is traditionally the time when the undead walk; preposterous monstrosities that no-one could imagine living stumble and moan through the land.
So, “guess what the entertainment industry decided to dust off for an extra spooky session with the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday?” asks the EFF’s (Electronic Frontier Foundation) Danny O’Brien
“Why, yes, they are bringing the broadcast flag. And, certainly, there is talk of their henchmen at the RIAA clumsily re-animating their insane digital radio requirements.
“But that’s not spooky enough for the MPAA. For their party trick this year, they want to take one of the most basic and ubiquitous components in multimedia, and encase it within a pile of legally-enforced, complex, and patented proprietary technology – forever.”
Or as he puts it on Boing Boing, “Hollywood has fielded a shockingly ambitious piece of ‘Analog Hole’ legislation while everyone was out partying in costume. Under a new proposed Analog Hole bill, it will be illegal to make anything capable of digitizing video unless it either has all its outputs approved by the Hollywood studios, or is closed-source, proprietary and tamper-resistant. The idea is to make it impossible to create an MPEG from a video signal unless Hollywood approves it.
“This is like the Broadcast Flag on steroids. The Broadcast Flag only covered TV receivers. This covers everything with an analog video input. If this had been around in 1976, the VCR would have been illegal. Today, it would ban Mythtv, every tuner-card in the market, and boxes like ElGato’s eyeTV the Slingbox and the Orb and the vPod. This is a proposal to turn huge classes of technology into something that exists only at the sufferance of the studios.” >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Halloween on the Hill
By Danny O’Brien – Deep Links
Ladies and gentlemen, the MPAA have chosen Halloween week to resurrect their most misconceived monster ever: the Thing from the Analog Hole.
Feel free to flick through this new Halloween document: it’s a legislative draft proposed by the MPAA for a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property, on the topic “Content Protection in the Digital Age: The Broadcast Flag, High-Definition Radio, and the Analog Hole,” on November 3rd.
On Thursday, they’ll be no doubt declaring this law’s passing to be vital to the entertainment industry’s survival, just as Jack Valenti told the same committee that the home video-recorder would kill the film industry.
Here’s what the proposed law says, in a nutshell:
Every consumer analog video input device manufactured in the United States will be, within a year, forced to obey not one, but two new copy restriction technologies: a watermarking system called VEIL, and a rights system called CGMS-A (we’ve covered CGMS-A before; we’ll talk a bit more about VEIL soon).
And what might these MPAA-specified, government-mandated technologies do?
They prescribe how many times (if at all) the analog video signal might be copied – and enforce it. This is the future world that was accidentally triggered for TiVo users a few months ago, when viewers found themselves lectured by their own PVR that their recorded programs would be deleted after a few days.
But it won’t just be your TiVo: anything that brings analog video into the digital world will be shackled. Forget about buying a VCR with an un-DRMed digital output. Forget about getting a TV card for your computer that will willingly spit out an open, clear format.
Forget, realistically, that your computer will ever be under your control again. To allow any high-res digitization to take place at all, a new graveyard of digital content will have to built within your PC.
Freshly minted digital video from authorised video analog-to-digital converters will be marshalled here and here only, where they will be forced to comply with the battery of restrictions dictated by Hollywood.
In this Nightmare Before Turing, video content will be crippled, far more than it ever was in its old analog home. They will only be able to be recorded using “Authorized Recording Methods”, or “Bound Recording Methods”, and the entire subsystem will have to obey “robustness” requirements that will make circumvention for fair use – and open source development in general – near impossible.
The unprotected analog outputs of computers will be, in perpetuity, restricted to either DRM-laden standards, or to a “constrained image”, “no more than 350,000 pixels”. Analog video which has been branded as “do not copy”, will last for only ninety minutes only in the digital world – and will be erased, literally frame by frame, megabyte by megabyte, from your PC, without your control. You’ll watch a two hour film, and as you watch the final half hour, the first few scenes will be being dissolved away by statute.
Moore’s Law won’t dictate how technology might improve and innovate any longer: in this Halloween future, the new limit for technological innovation is No More’s Law, where your specs are spelled out and frozen by Congress in a law drafted by standards that were laughable in the last century.
And this is just a plain description of how this might affect our technology.
Quite beside that, the law is littered with throwaway requirements that would smack our economy and social norms in the face as well.
The MPAA, for instance, graciously permits a few, precious, normal analog-to-digital convertors to exist. But only on “professional devices”.
What’s a professional device? Well, just as in the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA), it’s a device that is intended for use by recording professionals. (AHRA you will recall, was the law that mandated copy protection on all but “professional” DAT recorders, thereby killing the technology almost stone dead in the commercial marketplace).
Unlike that Act, in the MPAA’s new bill, “if a device is … commonly purchased by persons other than [commercial copiers], then such device shall not be considered a ‘professional device’”.
In other words, you can sell standard unrestricted digitizers, until you become too popular. Then magically, you’re liable. For not more than $500,000 or five years imprisonment for a first offence. Good luck explaining that market condition to your backers.
Oh, and don’t think you can just obey the law as it stands now: if the VEIL technologies prescribed by the law become “materially ineffective”, then the government can upgrade those standards, and demand compliance on the new spec.
The trustworthy, well-funded technological powerhouse they’ve chosen to give this new responsibility of monitoring, designing, and managing the upgrading of every video convertor in the United States? That uncontroversial institution, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
It’s genuinely shocking to us that the entertainment industry would bring even one of their standard technological pipe-dreams to the table now, even as they are still reeling from the reception the broadcast flag has so far received in the courts and in congressional committees.
But to bring this: an invasive, future-crippling Frankenstein monster of a DMCA anti-circumvention bill, bolted together with an overbroad broadcast-flag restriction, to stand guard at every exit from the analog video world into digital future, is breathtaking.
It’s bad enough that Hollywood’s customers have had to drag them and their content kicking and screaming from dying business models into a new era. Now they seem intent on putting up government roadblocks to stop any of us from leaving their Haunted Mansion of dying analog video media, into world of a living, developing, digital future. Spooky indeed.
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