"Analog hole" legislation introduced

12/18/2005 7:28:09 PM, by Eric Bangeman

A frightening bit of legislation was introduced to the US House Judiciary
Committee on Friday. The Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005
(PDF) is sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. John Conyers
(D-MI) (PDF) and would close that pesky analog hole that poses such a dire
threat to the survival of the music and movie industries. The bill was
originally planned for introduction in early November, but was tabled after
hearings held by the House Subcomittee on Courts, the Internet, and
Intellectual Property.

Calling the ability to convert analog video content to a digital format a
"significant technical weakness in content protection," H.R. 4569 would
require all consumer electronics video devices manufactured more than 12
months after the DTCSA is passed to be able to detect and obey a "rights
signaling system" that would be used to limit how content is viewed and
used. That rights signaling system would consist of two DRM technologies,
Video Encoded Invisible Light (VEIL) and Content Generation Management
System‹Analog (CGMS-A), which would be embedded in broadcasts and other
analog video content.

Under the legislation, all devices sold in the US would fall under the
auspices of the DTCSA: it would be illegal to "manufacture, import, offer to
the public, provide or otherwise traffic" in such products. It's a
dream-come-true for Hollywood, and in combination with a new broadcast flag
legislation (not yet introduced) would strike a near-fatal blow to the
long-established right of Fair Use.

According to Reps. Sensenbrenner and Conyers, the legislation is absolutely
necessary because of the dire threat PCs and the Internet pose to the
content-creation industry's very livelihood. Apparently, it's not nimble
enough to keep up with advances in technology. Says Rep. Conyers:

    "As one of our most successful industries, it is important that we
protect the content community from unfettered piracy. One aspect of that
fight is making sure that digital media do not lose their content protection
simply because of lapses in technology. This bill will help ensure that
technology keeps pace with content delivery."

Ah, yes. The piracy bogeyman. In the same press release, Rep. Sensenbrenner
points out that a "software pirate" in Alexandria, Virginia pled guilty to
"making $20 million in sales of counterfeit intellectual property." However,
the honorable representative from Wisconsin fails to understand that the
software market relies on a completely different distribution model than
does broadcasting, instead choosing to throw big numbers around in an
attempt to make this misguided bill sound like it makes some small shred of
sense for consumers.

Reading through the proposed text of the DTSCA, it is easy to see the hand
of the MPAA at work. The proposed legislation defines four "Technical
Content Protection Responses" that consumer devices will have based on the
type of signal transmitted in a broadcast.

    * Copy Prohibited Content, which would mark the transmission as off
limits for copying or recording of any kind
    * Copy Unlimited No Redistribution Content, which means that the analog
content could be passed through to a digital device for copying, but
redistribution would be limited
    * Copy One Generation Content, which would allow viewers to make a
single generation of copies
    * No Technical Protection Applied, programming that could still be

It doesn't take too much imagination to see where this is headed.

    Once the MPAA and pals have their way, you're going to pay through the
nose for even the most basic of Fair Use rights. You're going to pay for the
right to rewind and "re-experience" content. The Copy Prohibited Content
class, complete with its asinine insta-delete feature is nothing but a back
door into attacking what the content industry hates most: your ability to
timeshift content.

And this bill is ridiculously hard on timeshifting. Section 201 (b) (1) of
the DTCSA gives you all of 90 minutes from the initial reception of a "unit
of content" to watch your recordings. Heaven forbid you get a long phone
call or an unscheduled visit from a neighbor when you're engaged in some
delayed viewing‹once that 90-minute window closes you're out of luck until
the next broadcast.

Our Fair Use rights have been on the endangered list for the past several
years, and the passage of this legislation would mark a habitat loss so
severe that it would threaten the very survival of the species. No matter
what the MPAA and RIAA tell us, it's not about piracy. It's about squeezing
every last dollar out of our pockets if we want to do anything other than
watch a live broadcast.

This is bad legislation for everyone except Hollywood and its lackeys. If
you are represented by a member of the House Committee on the Judiciary,
contact him or her and make your feelings known. Given what's at stake here,
expressing your views to your congressional representative and senators is
an excellent idea as well. 

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