How Will Veil's Technology Plug The Analog Hole?
By Mark Hachman
November 2, 2005

Proposed legislation to close the analog hole has thrust a small company
that developed interactive toys into the spotlight.

Veil Interactive, which has partnered with companies like Warner Bros. to
create a line of action figures that interact with televisions is also the
creator of the Veil Rights Assertion Mark (VRAM), a technology that could be
used with an analog version of the existing Content Generation Management
System technology to disseminate digital-rights-management technology into
consumer-electronic equipment.

The technology is at the heart of proposed legislation that Hollywood and
several computer and consumer-electronics companies have begun circulating.

According to Scott Miller, executive vice president of business development
at Veil, the company first proposed the technology in 2003, as part of an
analog reconversion discussion group, the technical name for the "analog
hole" the legislation would attempt to close. At that time, Hollywood was
looking for something like a "watermark," an indistinguishable identifying
piece of information that could identify digital content.

At the time, the Veil technology "represented the best solution for carrying
content information," Brad Hunt, the chief technical officer of the MPAA,
said in an interview.

Like a watermark inserted into the content stream, the Veil VRAM is
detectable either by its presence or absence. By its presence, the VRAM
asserts that the content creator holds and wishes to exercise his rights.
The CGMS-A technology, meanwhile, is contained within the vertical blanking
interval (VBI), which is normally used to carry information such as
closed-captioned data. "The good news is that the [CGMS-A] technology is
outside the signal," Hunt said. "The bad news is that it can be lost."

The VRAM and CGMS-A technology represent two separate methods for managing
the rights attached to a content stream. If the VRAM is present but the
CGMS-A technology is not, it's an indicator that the content is legitimate
and that rights have been asserted, Miller said.

However, this does not mean that the consumer therefore has the rights to do
with the content as he wants. If the CGMS-A technology is not present, the
content will be treated as "view-only," which will enable the content to be
viewed but not recorded, Hunt said. The idea is if the CGMS-A is not
detectable, the VRAM will be, and any recording and playback devices will
know that rights are being asserted, he said.

Likewise, a standard VGA cable from a PC to a computer monitor will also be
treated as a scenario where CGMS-A data does not exist, and consumers will
not be able to record the video that's playing on their PC, the MPAA's Hunt

Under the proposed legislation, detection mechanisms would be built into the
analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters in recording and playback
hardware to sense the VRAM technology. For example, if a consumer should try
and record a high-definition HBO movie to a Blu-Ray disc, the content will
be encrypted and flagged, so that the disc's contents will not be copied
again. Pay-per-view content will not be recordable at all.

According to Miller, any technology can be broken by pirates.

"The simple answer is that there's no guarantee of the security of the
system," he said. "Professional pirates can break any system. What we're
looking to do is place an impediment in front of honest people that don't
know that they're doing something wrong, so they will know they're doing

As an example, Miller described a scenario where a consumer might hook a
playback device into the input ports of a recorder. "Those inputs and
outputs serve a purpose, but they might not know that they're creating an
illegal act," Miller said.

The MPAA's Hunt said the VRAM and CGMS-A technologies were necessary, as
part of an incentive to shift the industry into an all-digital world.

"Sometimes I think that people feel that the MPAA is a bunch of Luddites,"
he said. "In this case, we are trying to incent the consumer to embrace the
digital conversion, the digital connection...and that's why we need to drive
this technology forward."

Editor's Note: This story was corrected a 3:02 PM to clarify the
relationship between the presence of the VRAM and rights asserted under

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