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MPAA to Senate: Plug the Analog Hole! 734

Posted by jamie
from the op-amp dept.
A month ago, the MPAA filed its report [PDF] with the Senate Judiciary Committee on the terrors of analog copying. I quote: "in order to help plug the hole, watermark detectors would be required in" -- are you sitting down? -- "all devices that perform analog to digital conversions." At their page Protecting Creative Works in a Digital Age, the Senate lays out the issues they'll be looking at, including briefs from corporate groups, and provides a comment form so your opinion can be heard as well. As Cory Doctorow writes: "this is a much more sweeping (and less visible) power-grab than the Hollings Bill, and it's going forward virtually unopposed. ...the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group is bare weeks away from turning over a veto on new technologies to Hollywood." Doctorow's article on the "analog hole" for the EFF does a great job of explaining the issues to non-electrical-engineers, and has many thought-provoking examples of how requiring such technology would be a giant step backwards.
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MPAA to Senate: Plug the Analog Hole!

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  • by Retron (577778) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:36AM (#3578477)
    ....as I can't see the el-cheapo manufacturers in Taiwan wanting to comply with this. What's the betting that equipment from the Far East will come with DVD player style hacks to turn off watermarking?
  • Of course they do! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 00_NOP (559413) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:38AM (#3578487) Homepage
    What else would you expect them to say?

    But please, people, when figfhting back concentrate on the practicalities of this - rather than abstract arguments about freedom.

    The practical arguments are about freedom too - but they express it in a way that matters to people, rather than to philosophers.
  • by Peyna (14792) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:39AM (#3578497) Homepage
    Hmm, a lot of telephone equipment does analog-to-digital and vice-versa conversions. Looks like the baby bells are all in big trouble now! Hahaha.
  • by yogi (3827) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:40AM (#3578499) Homepage
    I am really intrigued to see how they plan to stop me putting a camcorder in front of my TV set, and record ing movies on it. I might even edit the adverts out.

    I bet they won't be able to. It has been shown time and time again that TPM's do not work. Only this week we've had the fun and games with the key2audio/postIt crack.

  • by Levine (22596) <levine.goatse@cx> on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:40AM (#3578501) Homepage
    Show this article to your friends and co-workers. Hollywood's perverse obsession with plugging the analog hole must be brought to light, as must the likely outcome of its agenda.
    I don't know about you guys, but I've been dutifully showing every article and legislative mis-step that Slashdot mentions to my friends and co-workers, trying to convince them of the evils inherent in not writing their Congressperson and expressing their extreme disgust. And you know what, I'm losing friends and coworkers left and right.

    I just want them to be informed, but they seem so apathetic! Maybe the next step is sky writing above their homes...

    levine
  • Are they crazy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CaffeineAddict2001 (518485) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:40AM (#3578503)
    So say i'm using a digital camcorder in the mall and britney's new single starts playing from the loud-speakers does my camcorder shut down because it detects the watermark?

    Total BS, this would ruin consumer electronics if ever implemented.
  • So...... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_2nd_coming (444906) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:43AM (#3578520) Homepage
    I guess the supreme court ruling is irrelivent huh.

    this is the problem in america today. Industry has TO MUCH DAMN POWER. they think they can just ignore rulings that the court places on society. THEY CAN'T, and for the Senate to even consider the issue leads me to believe that those people do not belong where they are.

    the House Majority whip said yesterday, "In a time of war, we can not concern ourselfs about the constitutional problems when passing laws"

    these are the idiots we have working for us. on the one side, we have warhawk who support big Industry, on the other, we have psudo-wanabe-whatever-is-popular-at-the-time-and-n ot-republican idiots who are in the pockets of Big media.

    yes there are a few with redeaming qualities and are not part of the larger crowd, but for the most part, we have a corupt, inept, retarded set of leaders who pass legislation based on the cash they get rather than what their constituents would want, or what there best intrests would be.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:44AM (#3578528) Homepage
    In a previous ??AA article on CBTPTBPAPAwhatever, I mentioned I felt safer because they were unlikely to use the tactic of asking for something much more ridiculous than what they actually wanted, so they can get what they actually wanted in a compromise. Since having copy controls in all devices is what they want, and what they are asking for, the tactic won't work.

    Welp, looks like I was wrong. Bet a dollar this fails, and they "compromise" by only having DRM (digital rights mangler) tech in digital-only devices.

    How the hell did they get so much lobbying power?
  • Deception? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Psion (2244) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:44AM (#3578530)
    Since politics is often the art of compromise, I find myself wondering if this particular proposal is deliberately extreme so that the Hollings Bill suddenly looks more reasonable and has better popular and political support.
  • by Black Aardvark House (541204) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:45AM (#3578533)
    I always had the notion the copyright is a compromise between content providers and consumers. I do believe that creators should be compensated, but it seems to rein in piracy, our fair use rights should be removed. Why is it that we always lose our rights as a "preventive measure" to protect something that really isn't in much danger, in this case, IP? The movie and music industries continue to rake in the big bucks (suject to economic recessions, of course!) while our fair use right to time shift or format shift is taken away?

  • by jgerman (106518) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:45AM (#3578537)
    The problem with that approach is that is (may) imply that these things would be ok if they were practical, which they most certainly are not. Concentrating first on the practical aspects of it, and only secondly on the abstract values takes away from the fact that these types of laws ARE infringing freedom.
  • by CynicTheHedgehog (261139) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:46AM (#3578542) Homepage
    And they can't outlaw equipment that is already in use, and TV capture technology hasn't really changed much. So anyone with an existing card is free to encode to his heart's delight.

    This reminds me of cable descrambling. Yes, it's illegal. Yes, I can get a descrambler from some guy on the street for $50.00 cash, and no one is the wiser. This will just create a black market for encoding hardware...a simple inline analog watermark stripper that can then be fed into a capture device.
  • by Lonath (249354) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:47AM (#3578546)
    Don't see any more movies, don't buy any more CDs, just stop giving them money. Like all of you people who saw Star Wars, you're helping to make useful digital cameras a thing of the past. (I mean digital cameras for the little people since the bigshot movie people won't have to follow this law.)

    Do you understand the implications of this? You can't record a couple's first dance at their wedding because the copyrighted music in the background cannot be allowed to be converted from analog to digital. Plz use this example to explain how sick these people are instead of talking about abstract coding ideas. Not being able to record a wedding reception will hit pretty close to home.

  • by blueskyred (104505) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:49AM (#3578565) Homepage
    Page 2, under "The Broadcast Flag" "Detection and response to the Broadcast Flag does not mean less functionality for video devices, including PCs that receive DTV. Rather it adds to these devices the ability to determine the difference between protected and unprotected works. The MPAA and its member companies have no desire to reduce the functionality of PCs or other devices and in fact want them to be MORE functional, not less. That is, so that they are able to provide a secure environment for digital over-the-air broadcast television content, in addition to everything else they do today." That is right up there with "[insert Spyware of choice] doesn't infringe on your rights as a consumer -- it is giving your PC more functionality by allowing us to market to you in select ways with select business partners."
  • The Big Deal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by squaretorus (459130) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:51AM (#3578572) Homepage Journal
    The big deal here is that they are putting restrictions on devices which have legitimate usage.

    My car does 140mph, legally I can only do half that. No legislator would consider requiring all cars to be blocked from these speeds unless the road told the engine manager that this was a race track.

    This is the same thing. I like knowing I can copy CDs - its nice. Most of the time I'm just copying my own stuff, work, photos, etc... all of which would become a pain in the ass with this type of blocking technology.
  • by Croaker (10633) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:52AM (#3578582)
    Congress is spending more and more of its time considering legislation that requires technological enforcement of copyright laws.

    It occurs to me, that if they are keen on using technology to actually enforce laws, rather than relying on the people's own good judgement and respect for the law, then they have much bigger fish to fry.

    Why is it than we've not seen a legislative mandate that requires car manufacutrers to prevent drunk driving? How about limiters that prevent aggressive driving or speeding? Why have we not seen legislative mandates that require gun manufacturers to make guns that can't kill innocent people (or, at the very least, cannot be accidentally fired i.e. by a child)?

    After all, these are issues that *kill* people. And human lives are more important than money, aren't they? Aren't they?

    It's not that the technology in either of those cases is beyond the state of the art. It's that there's no money in it for them. The money in those two cases are in the hands of the automobile and gun manufacturers.

    In the case for building copyright protection into the simplest A to D converters, the money is on the side of the MPAA. The electronics industry's position is unclear for now... they could stand to benefit by this legislation ('oh gosh, Mr & Mrs. Consumer! All of your electronics are now incompatible with the current releases from Hollywood! Tsk. You'll have to buy a totally new set of consumer electronics.'). They can also count on hackers breaking encryption scemes every few years, leading to another change in standards... forcing yet more upgrades.

    I just have an image of all the senators manning a fast food joint "...that's the super legislative combo... would you like fries with that? OK... it'll be $5 Million in campaign donations, please pull up to the window."

  • Target your rant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PDHoss (141657) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:54AM (#3578591)

    My freedom, blah, blah, blah... out of touch legislators blah blah blah. Wanna even a chance to be heard?

    1. Fill out this form. [senate.gov] Really. Don't just read the comments, and don't just post here. Take a minute and write a thoughtful, well argued comment. Senators don't give a damn what people on Slashdot are saying, but they'll give a damn if it's on their own fancy website.

    2. Vote with your vote. Get the hell out there and support candidates that see through all of this crap. As a community, we rant and rave that the whole system is munged then turn around and skip the vote en masse. Ever wonder why no one wants to mess with Social Security? Talk to this very consistent voting group [aarp.org]. Senators listen to votes, not money. They only listen to money because it helps them buy more votes. Don't vote? Don't complain.

    3. Vote with your dollar. If you rant, then continue to support these businesses, you have no one to blame but yourself. Just as politicians only respond to votes, most businesses only respond to money.

    It's got to be more than talk, guys. If we don't start backing any of this up, we'll just be the cranky tech curmudgeons who desperately hang on to the antiquated notion of "freedom."

  • by proj_2501 (78149) <mkb@ele.uri.edu> on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:55AM (#3578598) Journal
    How is this an emergency situation? Please, PLEEEEEEASE tell me you're not serious?
  • by heretic108 (454817) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:58AM (#3578616)
    Sadly, the third part of the report's summary - 'Controlling the Internet' - is much easier than the EFF report on the BPDG suggests.

    All it would require is a law banning all ISPs from forwarding incoming TCP connections, UDP packets etc on to a subscriber, unless such subscriber has a license to operate as a 'server'.

    Similarly, anyone directly connected to the backbone would need a license to accept incoming connections.

    The US could threaten trade sanctions against any other country that doesn't pass similar laws.

    The licensing regime for 'servers' would be onerous, and include things such as mandatory logs with IP addresses, times etc going back 3 years, also a cache of the last 200GB of data transferred. Anyone trafficking in unauthorised protocols, or using unauthorised cryptography, would lose their license.

    That way, only medium-large sized companies would have the funds and resources to fulfil the administrative requirements of license compliance.

    This is war - no sooner has the internet exploded onto the world stage, than the powers that be are fighting tooth and nail to protect their monopoly.

    The most powerful way to fight - stop going to movies, even 'Star Wars' etc - discourage your friends - boycott Hollywood.
  • by rainwalker (174354) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:01AM (#3578634)
    Emergency situation?? What are you talking about!! Could you be referring to this new-fangled technology that allows home users to record sounds on wax cylinders, or shiny compact discs ("CD"'s)?? Please explain yourself, because you come across sounding highly clueless.
  • by Niles_Stonne (105949) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:02AM (#3578639) Homepage
    I was reading people's comments on the senate's comment listing, and one of the statements that I read was great:


    snip
    4. As a 30-year government employee, I find myself wondering why the government is even involved in what is clearly an industry problem. The only reasons I can come up with aren't very flattering to the politicians. We're talking about entertainment media here, not government security. Why should I have a problem getting a payroll out because some entertainment exec can't solve his own internal industry problems?
    snip

    The initial comment was written by "Glenn Thompson" from Gold Beach , Oregon.
  • More scenarios: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by teamhasnoi (554944) <.teamhasnoi. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:04AM (#3578653) Homepage Journal
    From the article: This is meant to work like so: You point your camcorder at a movie screen. The magical, theoretical watermark embedded in the film is picked up by the cop-chip, which disables the camcorder's ADC. Your camcorder records nothing but dead air. The mic, sensing a watermark in the film's soundtrack, also shuts itself down.

    With this as the norm, and advertisers increasingly pushing new and more invasive ways to get their "content" to you, the abillity to record anything would be put in jeopardy. Billboards could prevent a photo of the skyline. Political speeches could be buried by someone playing "Who let the Dogs Out" on a boombox. Homemade Christmas videos would be a thing of the past, with copyrighted logos and packaging preventing recording, not to mention sound effects and music from toys.

    MY question is: Is content really in that much trouble? Are books, movies and music copyrights being violated so much, that oppressive hardware solutions are the only answer?

    I grew up thinking that copyright was to protect ME. If I wrote a song, or a paper, copyright would prevent someone from taking some or all of it and repesenting it as _their own work_. It now seems that that is not the case anymore, and copyright is being used to prevent duplication for ones own use (FAIR USE), and CREATION of content by the individual.

    I urge everyone reading about this on /. to bring the message to people who aren't /.ers. The 'average joes' (w/ apologies to average joe ;) need to hear about these proposals. Too often, these things remain unheard of by the voting public. The media owned by the media protecting the media. Please spread the word.

  • by browser_war_pow (100778) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:04AM (#3578656) Homepage

    is the nexus between the logic the MPAA uses and the logic gun control advocates use.

    1. Gun ownership is dangerous, ownership of analog and unprotected digital systems is dangerous
    2. We have to close the gun show/analog loophole (bring both completely under government regulation)
    3. CSS=DVD equivalent of trigger lock

    My dad is very conservative. He originally sided heavily with the content creators until I started to explain their logic from the perspective of gun control. I showed him how Handgun Control Inc uses the exact same logic against the NRA and he was amazed to see that I was right! It is an inherent lack of trust for what citizens will do in a vacuum of federal regulation of individual rights. It is the belief that a group in society will be irreparably harmed by the majority having access to something that a small minority considers dangerous.

    Let's look at a few more basics. Gun control advocates are elitists typically. They aren't John Q. Blue-Collar Citizen. At the "million mom march" only around 100,000 people showed up. The NRA has a membership well over 5,000,000. It's a similar situation only we have 3 Handgun Control Incs (BSA, RIAA, MPAA) and no NRA. That is what we need, our equivalent of the NRA. A large organization that can fund campaigns above and beyond what the small, elitists can.

    We have easy existing issue to relate ourselves to. We are not anarcho hippies wanted, we are the IP equivalent of those opposed to gun control. The RIAA is not a trade organizatin defending industry interests, it is trying to do to IP law what gun control advocates are trying to do to the 2nd amendment. Just a thought on how to get more people to see our angle.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:06AM (#3578666)
    Dmitry skylerov is stilled being pursued legally for discussing rot-13 during a conference speech.

    The people writing the laws are not reasonable men. Expect anything.
  • by Mr.Sharpy (472377) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:15AM (#3578715)
    I think at least part of the reason why we are seeing these proposals one right after another is because the ban on soft money is right around the corner. When it takes affect, it will be at least a little harder for these groups to line pockets and buy congressional delegates. The MPAA, RIAA, etc. are really wanting to do these things while their influence is at it's max.
  • by Darth Paul (447243) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:17AM (#3578726)
    ... watermark detectors would be required in all devices that perform analog to digital conversions. In such devices (e.g., PC video capture cards), the role of the watermark detector would be to

    When people like us say A-D converter, we think of devices that convert a continuous signal into discrete levels.

    However, when the **AA says A-D converter, they're thinking about content stored on analog media being moved onto digital media.

    I'm sure the MPAA ain't thinking of digital thermometers or such lower level devices (though if a black marker can be a circumvention device, why not a digitherm?). They're thinking of analog content, in the form of audio cassettes, VCRs, TV, the like. Same 2 words, but their interpretation is completely different to the technical interpretation we're used to. Almost, a storm in a teacup. The MPAA doesn't care about your wristwatch, your alarm clock! (I suppose they're not smart enough to realize the potential circumvention uses of such harmless devices *grin*)

    What would be an absolute tragedy though, is if this misunderstanding of a technical term became enshrined in law. Then, one day some idle lawyer could pounce on the idle wording and start issuing C&D's to, say, alarm clock manufacturers.

  • by the_2nd_coming (444906) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:24AM (#3578770) Homepage
    we need a bill o'reily interview of a great leader for our cause.

    we need some one to organise a march on washington.

    we need someone like Al Sharpton who is outspoken to go around the nation and have mini-protests in the state capatals.

    we need leaders for this movment who can get meetings with Senators and Presidents.

    we need a loud abnoxious voice.

    and most of all, we need some one that can get folks, who are not in the know, to move and take action, to vote for certain people and to boycot certain businesses publicly and loudly.

    until we get that, we will not win.

    I am not black or even a minority, but durring all this legislation crap, I have come to respect sharpton and Jackson for what they are, they are outspoken leaders who get the attention of the public and rally folks around thier causes.

    we need some one like that right now.
  • by Niles_Stonne (105949) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:32AM (#3578859) Homepage
    In this article: U.S.: Shoe bomb suspect confessed [msnbc.com] it was stated:
    He ... claimed to have chosen to attack an airplane because he believed an airplane attack, especially during the holiday season, would cause the American public to lose confidence in airline security and stop traveling, leading to a substantial loss of revenue,
    which would, in turn hurt the American economy


    Now the MPAA wants to make a device that is used in MANY, MANY devices cost 3 or 4 times as much, including massive redesign efforts throughout the electronic components industry. Tell me that that won't cause our electronics industry to slow down... (after all, we were just surpassed significantly in supercomputer performance [slashdot.org])

    The increased cost of the ADCs will be presented to the consumer... EVERY CD player, EVERY VCR, EVERY other electronic component will increase in cost something like $5.
  • by shaldannon (752) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:34AM (#3578876) Homepage
    Don't these guys have anyone /technical/ advising them? Let's say I go to a Big Budget Movie with Anti-Piracy Watermark (TM) and take my Anti-Piracy CamCorder (TM) with me to bootleg the movie. (I don't do that sort of thing, but this is an example...)

    We'll ignore for the minute that most of the piracy of movies that goes on is by insiders. We'll also ignore the fact that you can get the movie from less than legal channels without taping it, allowing you to actually enjoy the movie in the theatre rather than taping it.

    Back to my case. If I'm taping this movie, there are two suppositions involved related to watermarking: audio and visual. The technical question is: How on earth do you put watermarking in a visual medium without people seeing it and in an audible medium without people hearing it? On a movie screen, if you put a visual watermark in, even on every Nth frame, it's still going to be apparent that something is going on. Likewise with an audible watermark. If you insert some kind of sound clip, you have to avoid the low frequencies (it'll be drowned in the bass) and the high frequencies (people will take notice).

    I don't frankly see a legitimate technical way to do this. Sure, you can try putting in embedded electronic codes to keep someone from copying something (e.g., CD/DVD to tape), but there will still be enough legacy devices running around that you can't retrofit, and in any case, people will crack the protection-scheme-of-the-month.

    Maybe I've missed something (please let me know what, if I have), but I don't see that these propsed laws are technically feasible. Mind, I'm not inclined toward protectionist laws anyway, which is all this is. There's no difference between trying to get laws passed to prevent people from exercising their right to fair use and trying to get laws passed to increase tariffs on, say, steel. In this regard, unfortunately, the Bush administration is likely to be supportive of the recording industry...after all, we can't let the high-rolling Hollywood execs (who fund political campaigns) suffer in abject poverty because of the thieving consumers.
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:42AM (#3578958) Homepage

    The purpose of copyright law is to promote wide distribution of quality content and information.

    The mechanism of copyright law was designed to protect powerless content producers from powerful content publishers.

    Custom and usage has turned that on its head. The law now primarily protects the powerful publishers, and it does so more each year. Copyright law does not promote quality, nor does it encourage migration into the public domain, the original and quite explicit goal.

    The goal of commercial publishers is now clear. It is to buy laws that - de facto - prevent self publishing by raising the technological and cost bar so high that only established interests will be able to distribute work that can be used by a significant proportion of the people. Instead of protecting talented people from ruthless publishers, copyright laws will soon mandate the effective enslavement of the very people they were meant to protect.

    This is not what copyright law was invented for. And it was an invention. There is no "natural" or "social" law or convention that prevents people from sharing or repeating information. Copyright law was invented, and it was invented with a particular purpose in mind. We have now very nearly inverted that purpose through creeping amendments and fiddling with the original laws.

    If you do write to your elected representatives, I'd suggest that you make it clear that you understand this, that you haven't been brainwashed by Disney into believing that only huge commercial publishers should control all distribution and dissemination of information, that you want a complete cleanout of copyright laws, and a return to the original intent.

    Once more for luck: the original and explicit intent of copyright law is to promote the distribution of information and content from individual producers to individual consumers by ensuring that distributors - those with the money and power - could not dictate terms, steal work, and become even richer and more powerful at the expense of the people at either end of the chain.

    I'd say we're well overdue for a return to that situation, and I'd bet good money that a vast majority of (nameless, faceless, powerless) authors, musicians, scriptwriters, and garage inventors would agree.

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:43AM (#3578965)
    Y'know what amuses and disturbs me to no end? Politicians will go out and spit on the Constitution with no shame, as long as it pleases their corporate masters. However, if you suggest reforming the campaign finance system, they'll all unite to rail against this "Unamerican suppression of 1st Amendment rights".

    Keep in mind that the only people who will be allowed to mention a politician within 60 days of an election (after the next election, of course) will be those self-same "corporate masters". And the politicians themselves.

    Certainly YOU won't be allowed to say anything in public opposing the reelection of any of these congress-entities, without violating the "campaign finance reform" law. After all, YOU are a "special interest"...

  • My Comments (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mansing (42708) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:55AM (#3579048)
    "Owners of copyrighted works remain concerned that valuable digital copyrighted works are subject to infringement when distributed in American homes to analog television sets in free over-the-air terrestrial broadcasts, and in peer-to-peer online services."

    I have three comments on the above statement.

    The first is that valuable works are already being transmitted over-the-air via terrestrial broadcasts. And consumers in their homes can record these broadcasts already using a VCR. I cannot understand how one can differentiate between digital content and analog content when displayed by an analog television set. While placing rights management on analog television signals may look like a solution, it places the full cost burden for protecting those copyrights on the owner of that analog television set. If such a law were enacted, every television set currently in use would be unusable and have to be replaced. And anyone who owned and used their current television set would be a criminal.

    In addition, the airwaves are a public resource whose use is governed by the FCC. If a law were enacted to halt free and public use of the frequency spectrum, doesn't that defeat the purpose of having that frequency spectrum be public?

    The second point to be made concerns the aggregation of the public frequency spectrum and peer-to-peer networks in use over the Internet while discussing potential law. These two must be kept separate, as they fall under two very distinct categories of governance. As the frequency spectrum is regulated and licensed on behalf of the public by the FCC, the Internet has no such regulatory rule or licensing. In addition, the FCC can license only those transmitters that reside inside US borders. With the Internet, any regulation cannot be mandated by a single country.

    The third point is to examine, honestly, why the current copyright laws are inadequate. In the case of analog television sets, what has changed since the advent of the VCR? Can't the VCR be used to make unlawful copies of copyrighted material? The fact that the signal is digital or the content is digital is immaterial to the violation of copyright law. Can it honestly be said that other copyrighted works, such as books, are less vunerable to having their copyrights violated? The question for the content providers to answer is why does a digital representation of a work deserve a higher standard to protect it.

    In the end, the costs to the public must outweigh the needs of one industry to protect its business model. America has always been called "the land of opportunity." Rather than squelching opportunity by legislating, the US Government in all its branches should be promoting new ideas and opportunities. I would hope that the public of the US, and the potential opportunities they have, will be a more powerful ideal to uphold.
  • by Ashurbanipal (578639) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:57AM (#3579066)
    When you make a budget, always include a bogus item (example: .5 million paperclips) for the bean-counters to eliminate. Otherwise, they will cut something real. The beanie boys have to justify their existence by quantifying how much money they saved the company through budget analysis and streamlining.

    When you lobby for something from the government, always extend your request well into the realm of the ludicrous. That gives the lawgivers something to eliminate, thus demonstrating their statesmanship, technical savvy and willingness to compromise.

    So; if you want to pass a law requiring digital copyright protection in all computers, ask for digital copyright protection in toasters and vibrators too. Then weep crocodile tears when your real legislative objective becomes "a reasonable compromise between affected parties".

    "You know, a DEAL deal. Maybe he's a republican!" -Crapgame (Don Rickles) in "Kelly's Heroes"
  • repeating history (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geoff lane (93738) on Friday May 24, 2002 @11:00AM (#3579086)
    No audio watermark scheme has ever succeeded. I remember schemes for record, tape and CDs and none of them survive. What are the odds this one would?

    Remember, the one audio recording format that RIAA did manage to enforce copy restrictions on, DAT, is dead.

    The limited play CD is dead.

    People may not understand the legal technicalities
    and will just return equipment to the shop if it doesn't record what they want to record. If that happens to much the shops will just stop stocking the hardware.

  • by cje (33931) on Friday May 24, 2002 @11:07AM (#3579140) Homepage
    My software team develops and maintains a very complex system that generates user products from Level 0 data obtained from a certain Earth-orbiting spacecraft [usgs.gov]. Part of this spacecraft's main instrument is an ADC that converts reflected radiances in several spectral bands to digital values that are then either transmitted back to Earth-based receiving stations via X-band or satellite relay systems, or stored in a solid state recorder for later retrieval.

    If Mr. Valenti believes that the ETM+ instrument's ADC needs watermark detection capabilities, then I suggest that we send him into low Earth orbit to do the installation personally. (Preferably, this would be a one-way ticket, of course.)
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday May 24, 2002 @11:43AM (#3579442) Journal
    Hmm, a lot of telephone equipment does analog-to-digital and vice-versa conversions. Looks like the baby bells are all in big trouble now! Hahaha.

    They'll just get an exception.

    Of course the exception won't cover the converters in your computer's sound card or any add-on VoIP adapters you could use as the hardware component of a network telephone. So your alternative to their service will cost more, and will flake out if someone is playing a watermarked recording or radio program in the background.
  • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Friday May 24, 2002 @11:52AM (#3579523)
    It's a thoroughly ridiculous concept. You can't ban an A/D or D/A converter any more than you can ban air or kittens or potatoes.

    Trying to ban A/D converters is like trying to ban tea or koolaid. "Oh, my tapwater won't work with this teabag from Japan."

    It's obvious that nobody involved has talked to an Engineer, or even an Engineering student. You can make an A/D converter from a handful of resistors and an op-amp. Any reasonably intelligent person could wire one together in, say, 5-10 minutes. (More time = more bits). Then you store the digital data stream in whatever digital format you want, and use the same converter (essentially, but not technically correct, wired backwards) on the other end to do the D/A conversion. It's super easy to do.

    Ooh. On second thought, maybe I do want this legislation to go through. I'll make a friggin' fortune making mod chips for all kinds of devices. It's not like US law applies to me.
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday May 24, 2002 @11:55AM (#3579541)

    Really everyone, think about the potential here!

    Play a copy of Pocahontas out of your car window, and never get another speeding ticket again. You are now invisible to radar.

    Plan to hold up a bank? Bring along a portable TV and shut the cameras off. Also works at ATMs.

    Worried about being wiretapped? Develop a tolerance for N'Sync. Always play it in the background.

    Still want to rip cd/movie/analog data? Replace your a/d chip with a simple resistor tree and bank of opamps as comparitors [ualberta.ca] and you're good to go.

    This is a hacker's dream come true.

    Weaselmancer

    PS: It's a sad, sad world when a frikkin resistor tree is illegal because it's a circumvention device.

  • by AB3A (192265) on Friday May 24, 2002 @11:59AM (#3579566) Homepage Journal
    This isn't just an issue about legislating ADC chips. This is an issue about respect for the law and respect for the people.

    Legislators need to realize that with their power to legislate also comes the responsibility to understand the issue. If they fail to understand the major ramifications and issues they're legislating, then some form of the Hippocratic Oath ought to hold: "First do no harm."

    When literate, educated people are forced to frequently violate laws because they are impractical and unreasonable, it will lead to a general disrespect of all laws good and bad. This is the slippery slope toward anarchy.

    Were this the only such misguided proposal floated in front of Congress I would say it's the industry association's fault or it's congresscritter ____'s fault. But this is not unique. It happens at all levels of our government on a regular basis.

    The problem is that the technically literate people are not adequately represented in government. We do not normally review stupid legislative gaffs unless they're so egregious that they would change the lives of everyone in our society for the worse.

    The technical groups in our society are getting soft. There is more to this fight than working for the EFF. The EFF only fights the dumb laws already on the books. Other organizations ought to advocate sustainable, reasonable technical policy and legislation. The issue isn't whether a decision benefits liberals or conservatives, but whether it is understood well enough, and whether it can work at all.

    With stuff this egregious, where are organizations such as the IEEE or ACM? Can't organzations such as these have point out that this legislation is impractical and misguided without passing judgment on the RIAA's and MPAA's efforts?

  • by ninewands (105734) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:03PM (#3579586)
    Just remember, we may not have the economic muscle to BUY Congressmen and Senators, but WE can do something the MPAA CAN'T do. We can VOTE. Mybe we can't BUY them, but we DAMN sure can REPLACE them.

    As my father always told me ... "If you don't vote, you deserve the government you get."

    If you breathe and are eligible, register and vote. Even if you are NOT eligible, volunteer to help in a campaign. Only by participating can we take back our government.
  • by Beliskner (566513) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:10PM (#3579631) Homepage
    You are right that the MPAA (et. al.) do not stop. But they DO learn. In fact, they have learned all to well. They have learned that sufficiently large donations to politicians result in legislation that protects their interests at the expense of the puble, and past legal precedants be damned
    They don't expect it to pass, same as CDPBBTA didn't pass. They're checking for weaknesses, seeing which senators vote which way, and then they'll pay them off one by one until all important votes have been taken out. This law will pass eventually, maybe after 10 iterations.

    MPAA knows the game plan all too well. One day you'll pick up the phone to your senator one time too many and he'll send you to jail for harrassment. The MPAA knows this and so will keep hammering at the legislators' door with variations on the CDBPPTA until this passes. Same as sysadmins gets pissed when one user calls for tech support 5 times a day. People bitch about that guy that has trouble inserting a floppy disk so calls tech support all the time, that's exactly how all our congressmen will look at us IT people and EFF if we constantly bug them.

    We've already got a taste of MPAA tactics with how they treat Kazaa, only unorthodox and semi-legal tactics succeed (like selling a system under litigation for the purpose of evading this litigation).

  • by joshki (152061) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:32PM (#3579782)
    Call me crazy, but I don't buy it. Post a link or some more info if you want, but prosecuted for having faucet washers in your tool drawer??? Yes, I know they could possibly be used to make a silencer... From what I've seen though, in cases like this it would probably be very similar to the "burglary tools" law -- if you have a crowbar, it's not a burglary tool. OTOH -- if you're caught breaking into someone's home with a crowbar, then it's a burglary tool and you'll be prosecuted for its possession -- in addition to breaking & entering. I'm guessing that if something like your faucet washer story ever did occur, that's how it happened. Joe Schmoe gets caught with a bunch of silencers made of faucet washers, then he's prosecuted for making silencers and for having the materials to make them with.
  • by Dr. Zowie (109983) <slashdot@defores[ ]rg ['t.o' in gap]> on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:39PM (#3579830)
    24 May 2002

    I am particularly concerned about the "Content Protection Status
    Report" filed by the MPAA on 25 April 2002, which speaks of an alleged
    need to ``plug the analog hole'' (their words) in the distribution of
    copyrighted works such as movies and music.

    The MPAA would like to implement universal analog watermarking of
    their music and movies, and would like to encourage legislation that
    requires all A/D converting devices to detect (and, presumably,
    respond to) their watermark signal. This idea is fundamentally
    flawed, because it seeks to solve a global problem with a local
    solution. The MPAA's tract contains at least three hidden assumptions
    that are wrong: (1a) that it is possible to prevent _all_ illicit
    production of digital copies of analog works, or (1b) that reducing
    illicit A/D conversion will also prevent illicit distribution of those
    works; (2) that it is reasonable to require manufacturers of A/D
    converters -- extremely general devices with applications throughout
    society -- to include useless (to most applications) detection
    circuitry; and (3) that it is right to prevent citizens from enjoying
    the fair use of copyrighted audio and video information that they own.
    In short, the MPAA idea is wrong because it cannot work; because the
    restrictions they propose would be overbroad, imposing impossibly
    difficult restrictions on an entire industry; and because the restrictions
    would violate the quid pro quo exchange of rights that is the basis of
    copyright law.

    (1) The MPAA proposal cannot work

    The MPAA hopes to solve a problem -- the allegedly widespread copying
    and illicit distribution of audio and video works -- by attacking a
    slightly different one. The current proposal seeks not to prevent
    digital copying but to prevent the conversion of analog signals to
    digital ones, presumably preventing widespread copying by making it
    more difficult to convert hard-to-distribute analog signals into
    easy-to-distribute digital ones. The problem is that, once a single
    digital copy is made, that digital copy may easily be spread far and
    wide via file sharing or the world wide web. Raising the difficulty
    of the initial conversion will not prevent the production of
    high-quality digital copies.

    A very similar case now exists with ``pirated'' digital movies which
    are often recorded in the theater by people with digital video
    cameras. Considerable effort is required to generate a digital movie
    by copying it in the theater, but (as the recent pirated pre-release
    of the _Star_Wars_ Episode II movie shows) once a single copy is
    available tens or hundreds of thousands of copies may easily be disseminated.

    Even if, as the MPAA suggests, ``analog watermarks'' become universal
    in movies and audio streams, and A/D conversion devices that do not
    recognize those watermarks become illegal, such A/D conversion will
    still continue both within the United States (by scofflaws) and
    outside of the United States (by foreign nationals who are not
    restrained by U.S. law). But because of the power of the digital
    distribution medium, even a tiny number of people can let the digital
    cat out of the analog bag proposed by the MPAA, nullifying the goal
    that they hope to achieve.

    (2) The MPAA proposal unduly restricts an entire industry unrelated to
    the publishing industry

    Analog-to-digital converters are simple, general purpose circuits with
    uses at every level of society. For example, digital still or video
    cameras, nearly all modern automobiles, all cellular telephones, all
    digital telephone answering machines, and most PC computers contain
    A-D converters that are capable of digitizing music content. A-D
    converters have too many specialty applications to mention, both as
    individual modular integrated circuits and as complete appliances.

    Preventing analog to digital conversion of copyrighted material would
    require every such circuit to have a watermark detector and
    corresponding digital signal processing capability. That would impose
    undue burden on the manufacturers of such devices.

    (3) The goals of the MPAA proposal are flawed and contrary to the spirit
    of copyright law

    The MPAA seeks to prevent certain types of access to copyrighted
    analog audio and video works, but doing so would also impopse sweeping
    restrictions on perfectly legitimate activities using those
    copyrighted works.

    For example, once a piece of music is digitized it is possible and
    (with modern software) easy to analyze exactly nuances of voice and
    timing that are otherwise very difficult to discern. Furthermore,
    music is often stored much more compactly in compressed digital form
    than in the original CD form. By copying and compressing the music on
    CDs, a music lover can store the equivalent of 2,000 CDs in a single
    hard drive with less volume than 10 CDs (in jewel cases), reducing the
    need for large racks of CDs. By digitizing and compressing music
    signals, users can transfer audio signals to much more mobile and
    convenient devices for travel, remix sequences of audio tracks, enhance
    particular aspects of the sound, and generally make much better use of
    their copyrighted material than they could without doing so.

    Similarly, broadcast video is often digitized by the modern digital
    equivalent of a VCR -- a digital personal video recorder such as those
    made by TiVo. This enables much easier time shifting and storage of
    video than is possible with a conventional analog VCR. These uses of
    broadcast video have been upheld by the Supreme Court for analog recordings,
    and digital storage is simply a more effective way to engage in these
    legal uses of broadcast material.

    Conclusions

    In general it is not wise to restrict the _tools_ required to engage
    in an activity rather than the activity itself. Doing so requires
    legislators -- who are wise but not inhumanly so -- to anticipate
    every possible use of the tool. For example, an unmodified hi-fi
    stereo amplifier can be used to fill a room with music, as a high
    precision AC power supply for delicate equipment, for degaussing video
    monitors, as a sound synthesizer, as a PA -- all legal. But it can
    also be used for public performance of copyrighted music, for
    telephone wiretapping, for eavesdropping, or to make unlicensed
    LF radio broadcasts -- all illegal. Yet we distribute hi-fi stereos
    without requiring them to have subsystems that prevent them being
    attached to the telephone network or to a large external antenna, and
    without limiting the amount of output power (which would prevent using
    them for public performance).

    A/D conversion of electrical signals and even of audio and video signals
    are general enough activities that the MPAA's ideas are not only infeasible
    but also just plain wrong.
  • by drew_kime (303965) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:42PM (#3579851) Homepage Journal
    I would like to urge those who claim to represent me to please recognize that the existing proposals are clearly not in my interests.

    * Enacting the type of controls proposed by the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America would, if perfectly implemented, completely eliminate my ability to exercise Fair Use rights in the content I have legally acquired.

    * Any attempt to implement digital watermarking on every Analog-to-Digital converter would make literally thousands of common products impossible to manufacture economically. For a few examples: Consider that you would, as a conservative estimate, more than double the complexity, size and cost to manufacture of hearing aids; design of medical sensors and tools would be set back decades as the increased size of components would make them unsuitable for microsurgery; automobile emissions controls would become less efficient as their behavior would be dictated by artificial constraints imposed by the watermarking technology.

    * Common consumer devices would function erratically as they attempt to prevent recording of watermarked content. For example video cameras might become non-functional at wedding receptions if the DJ is playing any watermarked content. Digital telephones would cut out if there is a TV or radio nearby playing watermarked content.

    * Content would be unavailable after copyright has expired. Any content controls would have to be automatic, with special actions necessary to access it. Once the copyright term has expired, there is no economic incentive to the previous copyright holder to provide this mechanism. All content controlled by such a mechanism would disappear forever into a vault to which it is illegal to create a key.

    * Finally, even if it were possible to create a technological solution that provided exactly what the content industries are requesting, there is no precedent for requiring the $600 billion tech industry to absorb the expense to satisfy the $35 billion entertainment industry. It is not at all unreasonable to suppose that the direct costs of complying with these requirements would cost more in real dollars than the entire value of the entertainment industry. Given that the only possible justification for enacting these controls is to protect the entertainment industry, it seems that causing a greater loss to the technology industry is the wrong way to go about it.
  • by Beliskner (566513) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:26PM (#3580117) Homepage
    I'm only 24, but I have quite a bit more ethics and much more of a sense of responsibility when it comes to music piracy
    So you think you have high ethics? So you think you are closer to God? Well how about this...

    The (RI|MP)AA are trying to set a precedent here that they can corner a market and then litigate more advanced technology out of business or cripple it.

    If they succeed, then this precedent will be used in future by the oil companies to litigate advanced vehicle technology out of business (electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles, hydrogen-powered vehicles). They will say that millions of workers employed by Shell/Amoco will be fired, massive supertankers would have to be scrapped. The entire distribution network would be crippled (like record companies' physical CD distribution network). Shell owns the drill platform and therefore how you use *our* oil is *our* business, where are you going? Why? What's your address? What's your job? If you have a Ford pay $10 per gallon, if you have a GM pay $5 per gallon. Result: All major cities underwater, global warming, locusts everywhere, water shortages, harsher weather.

    Worse, Amoco could make their gas incompatible with Shell, your car would either work with one or the other. Shell knows they're losing business by not doing this, but it's their oil, their product so surely they can do whatever they want with it. Music actually belonging to the record companies doesn't seem so cool now does it?

    The whole reason the free market system was invented was because consumers requested products, and companies would provide these products for a fee. PERIOD. The fact that they're ignoring the Internet as a more efficient distribution network is an abomination to the free market system. RI|MPAA are therefore anti-capitalist organisation and should be banned by the WTO, especially in the light of the DVD region system which is a non-WTO-ratified barrier to free trade, and is thus discriminatory. As a citizen I demand this product as copyable mp3, it's the companies' job to supply me with it, not stick it in jail.

    This is indicative of the whole general state of America. WE ARE THE CONSUMERS, how dare they try to screw us (apart from financially).

  • by jimmcq (88033) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:40PM (#3580188) Journal
    It's a similar situation only we have 3 Handgun Control Incs (BSA, RIAA, MPAA) and no NRA

    I thought the EFF [eff.org] was our NRA.
  • by Odinson (4523) on Friday May 24, 2002 @03:02PM (#3580680) Homepage Journal
    In case you didn't notice, there is an opportunity to comment.

    Here is what I wrote...

    Dear Sirs or Madams

    The effectiveness of DRM will be proportional to the damage it does to both the Personal computer market and to effectiveness of enforcing United States intellectual property law overseas. The global market will not accommodate the legal enforcement of digital rights management and will benefit financially from the restricted position of American business, while American business suffers. The personal computer market is as successful and lucrative as it is as a direct result of the flexibility personal computers allow, if that flexibility is reduced it's value to the information market and it's positive influence on the economy are reduced as well.

    Discouraging American citizens from infringing on copyright would be just as effective and far less financially damaging to our economy if it was done through compulsory licensing. This would more closely match an ideal free market. In addition, shorting copyright stay would force the industry to become more competitive with their time limit and subsequently more appealing to customers with their products. A copyright reform solution would also match more closely with a strict interpretation of the constitution, which explicitly states copyright is to be for "limited times", "To promote the progress of science and useful arts".

    As a strictly technical matter, DRM is only effective if the free use and processing of information on computers is diminished to nearly nothing. As an economic matter, we should not cripple the massive industry of flexible electronics in the United States for the smaller copyright industry.

    Thank You for your time.
    Matthew Newhall
    A.S. Computer Science
    President of LILUG
    Long Island Linux Users Group
    http://lilug.org/
    president@lilug.org

  • by JohnDenver (246743) on Friday May 24, 2002 @03:02PM (#3580683) Homepage
    Talking about A to D converters is pointless...

    1. They will obvious make exceptions if they want this law to pass.
    2. As long as you're debating about A to D converters, no average person is going to care what you're saying.

    Make this situation relate to people

    If you tell people this bill aims to outlaw thier Tivo's, and copying from VHS to DVD, they will wonder why.

    THEN you can talk about A to D converters

    There will be more laws

    Even if the MPAA doesn't pass this bill, they will submit another. I'm sure they've gone through a number of ideas for bills and scenerios for getting them through.

    One will get passed

    As soon as this issue reaches a critical mass the MPAA/RIAA is BOUND to pass another law, as the general sentiment from the public will be, "they had to do something, we can't let mass piracy go rampant."

    How can we detour mass piracy while preserving fair use?

    Unless you don't believe in copyrights, you should be talking about this question, because it's the question the public wants an answer to. You're trying to convince the average person we need to preserve fair use, right? Isn't P2P piracy an abuse of fair use? People want to preserve fair use, but not at the expense of the copyright. How can we return the system to what it was before Napster?
  • by ebusinessmedia1 (561777) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:14PM (#3581026)
    In the way of a thought experiment, let's create an imaginary scenario where the tenets of this bill are accepted by the Congress, and the legislation passes, thus causing all the changes desired by the commercial proponents of this bill.

    Is there any guarantee that the above scenario would result in an increase - or even maintain the status quo (in terms of real profits) - of the digital content industry? What if profits continue to decrease?

    What happens if widely available workarounds to CDBTPA-inspired technology are created and made available via distributed networks - do we turn the hardware industry and consumers upside-down again to keep the creators of digital content happy?

    What if some creators of digital content *want* - as a part of their business model - to encourage the free copying and distribution of their digital content? What if the number of people/companies desiring this as a means to distribution eventually *outnumber* those who currently hold copyright (e.g. the proponents of the CDBTPA legislation)? How then does the proposed CDBTPA technology *impinge on the rights of this new group*? Furthermore, what if variations of the latter model were so successful as to be adopted by current producers of digital content? CDBTPA legislation would make it impossible to do so.(note: there are already profitable examples of this model in existence - more will surely appear as creative entrepreneurs find ways to attach unique value to digital content in ways that result in profits *in spite of* the prolific (encouraged by said companies) reproduction and distribution, by consumers (i.e.viral marketing), of their digital content)

    The problem scenarios listed are but just a few that could occur if this bill were passed.

    The proposed CDBTPA legislation - if passed - will cost consumers, technology equipment manufacturers, and ultimately the very producers of content that it purports to protect , *more* in terms of lost revenues and inconvenience than the theoretical savings promised by the bill's proponents.

    Additionally, if one considers 1) the massive task of altering probably hundreds - if not thousands of discrete hardware and software products slated for manufacture and distribution to consumers; 2) the cost of infrastructure to monitor (police) behavior at both the commercial and consumer level; 3)the real confusion - and likely mass resentment - caused by introduction of a technology that forbids behavior (fair-use copying of digital content) that has heretofore been understood as a non-issue by consumers (who, by the way, are voters); 4)the real cost of consumers having to either replace current hardware/software products that permit the copying of digital media.

    If one considers the above - in addition to the fact that eventual workarounds to even the best digital copy protection technologies (whther implemented in hardware or software)are all but inevitable - one has to wonder how the CDBTPA legislation has made it into serious consideration.

    Let there be no doubt that copying digital content for free distribution to others is stealing. New technologies have made it possible to make this kind of theft easy. There is however, no excuse for theft - whether it is easy to do, or not.

    However, to make the assumption that because individuals who have access to the means to copy digital content for illegal distribution *might* do this - and further force upon those individuals real social costs and inconveniences to keep them from doing what they *might* do - is to in a not-so-subtle way criminalize those individuals, and make them pay penalties for the wrong behavior of a relative few.

    My hope is that the Congress will take a more robust look at the original intentions of copyright; and, that the purveyors of digital content consider that as social and technological landscapes change, so can their respective business models. Change coming from the creators of digital content - constructed in a way that enhances current products, while adding new kinds of value that digital technologies permit - will in the long run be much more productive than creating inconvenience and cost to millions of consumers and thousands of consumer electronics manufacturers.

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