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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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  • They just don't stop, they just don't listen, and they NEVER LEARN. I contact my congressman over this stuff every time, and I will continue to do so.
  • by purpledinoz (573045) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:36AM (#3578476)
    There's no way the MPAA can succeed in this. All analog-to-digital conversion equipement?? I remember using a really simple A to D converter in one of my courses in University. I bet that chip costed a buck or two. Putting anti-piracy measures in it will increase the cost significantly, and for a really simple A to D converter? That's just ridiculous! Who are these morons coming up with this crap? This won't fly... no matter how dysfunctional these law-makers are.
  • Ridiculous! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheNecromancer (179644) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:38AM (#3578486)
    Do these idiots realize that this proposed 'policing' of ADC(analog-to-digital converters) would include things like microphones and portable tape players? I'm sure they use these devices during their board meetings and hearings, and probably discuss confidential and/or copyrighted issues. Who's gonna police these?? Also, they will have to stop using their portable tape players to dictate notes for their executive assistants to scribe, since the information they want scribed could also be considered copyright material!

    Bah, I'm getting my old VCR to plug up someone's 'analog' hole!
  • by frankske (570605) <slashdot.frankbruno@be> on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:43AM (#3578518) Homepage
    So does this mean that every decent Electronics course or manual would be outlawd under the DMCA? After all, an ADC without the fingerprinting layer would be a circumvention device!
  • Um, yeah. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jridley (9305) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:43AM (#3578523)
    That'd be interesting, considering:
    1. They can't get a watermarking system in place that stays the same for more than 6 months. What're they going to do, make law-abiding users buy a new sound card every time their watermarking system gets cracked?
    2. It costs about $10 to build a 16 bit stereo A-D converter that would plug into a parallel port and can be controlled from a driver that would take all of an hour to write. They're thinking in terms of markets they can control such as CD players (it's pretty hard to make your own CD player). This is not such a market and they don't realize that.

    This is getting amusing. The farther they go with this, the more crazy they sound. At this point it's just a question of whether they'll realize they're trying to dig a hole in water and try to make money off the new phenomenon rather than trying to suppress it, or will they just totally flip off the deep end?
  • Re:Ridiculous! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by arivanov (12034) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:49AM (#3578562) Homepage
    This also includes a lot of other things.

    I will give just one example:

    Digital thermometers. And just one example of where they are used - car ignition. All ignition systems have a feedback from engine (and some from air) temperature. Can you imagine your car ignition computer verifying itself not to be involved in copyright contravention activities every time it has to adjust the ignition timings.

    Under other circumstances it would have been funny.

  • Re:Ridiculous! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mikeee (137160) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:50AM (#3578569)
    And camcorders! Can't have anybody ripping DVDs by filming a TV.

    That is some serious crack they get out in Hollywood.
  • by grytpype (53367) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:55AM (#3578597) Homepage
    A less extreme plan is buy everything you want used, like on half.com. The Industry doesn't get any of your money that way.

    Did you know the Industry once tried to purchase legislation that would let them tax the sales of used media? The law now (and then) is that once a copy of a medium is sold, it can be resold without any obligation to the copyright holder (because he got paid from the first sale, "exhausting" his rights in that copy). The Industry failed at that, for some reason.
  • Re:Are they crazy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MasterKayne (234060) on Friday May 24, 2002 @09:58AM (#3578613)
    I think that these sort of laws will eventually pass. Not only because they are perceived to be in the best interest of the MPAA but because they give more power to the government. A statement by Ayn Rand comes to mind.
    There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.
  • by pmz (462998) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:06AM (#3578668) Homepage
    Add to this whether A to D conversion passes the Radio Shack test. How hard can it be to simply build a decent converter from scratch? Or, is this an unusually difficult task?
  • by why-is-it (318134) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:06AM (#3578670) Homepage Journal
    They just don't stop, they just don't listen, and they NEVER LEARN

    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. The MPAA does not have to listen to the likes of us, and the politicians will politely listen, but will not bite the hand that pays to re-elect them.

    I contact my congressman over this stuff every time, and I will continue to do so.

    And I would encourage you, and anyone else who finds this sort of legislation offensive. Unfortunately, until the campaign financing laws are changed in our supposedly superior western democracies to prevent corporations or lobby groups from buying politicians (and legislation), we should not expect the politicians to act on our concerns.

    The problem is of course that the people who benefit the most from the present system will almost certainly fight the hardest to maintain the status quo.
  • by Art Tatum (6890) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:13AM (#3578699)
    And if they pass the same kind of stupid laws here in Europe... well, I can always think of moving to Morocco, or India

    Yep. Well, at least until the U.N. Council on Global Governance [www.cgg.ch] gets hold of things--at which time there will be nowhere left to run from bad laws.

  • My submission (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mr. Fred Smoothie (302446) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:21AM (#3578742)
    Note the last paragraph in particular. I think everyone here should take pains to let the Congress know about the direct, measurable economic harm that will befall other industries if this type of legislation passes.
    As a professional programmer, a movie and music afficionado, and a concerned citizen, I urge the committee to take care not to cater to the narrow interests of a single industry at the expense of the public good.

    Most of the arguments put forth by the MPAA and RIAA for extra legislation to protect digital content are either red herrings or self-contradicting. Looking at a single one of their arguments is illustrative of their overall ingenuousness.

    They argue that broadband needs to be promoted, and that the only way people will pay for broadband access is if there are an abundance of copyrighted works. At the same time, they argue that there's already IP theft of movies online on a massive scale, so digital creative works need to be protected.

    So clearly, demand for broadband services is not in anyway tied to lack of availability of digital creative works online, since they are there already (and being illegally copied)

    In fact, anyone who's studied the issue of broadband at all knows that the so-called "last mile" problems in the telecommunications industry (and the associated pricing, choice and quality issues) are much more likely to be stifling the growth of demand for broadband services than the ficticious shortage of quality creative digital content.

    I am already paying a tax on blank CD's because of the RIAA's a priori belief that I'm a criminal; why should they be legally entitled to extra protection?

    How will the congress protect me from abuse in the technological measures that the content industry is asking for? How, for instance, will the Congress assure that the technical measures adopted don't keep me from legally copying content from and to machines in my home? From a home machine to a internet-connected laptop when I'm on the road? What about the times when I want to record or play my own movies? Will I be forced to purchase expensive, professional-quality audio and video hardware and software just to edit my own 5-minute home movie?

    I submit that the only beneficiaries from the type of legislation that the MPAA and RIAA are asking for will be the current powerhouses in the creative content distribution industry. The public as a whole will suffer.

    And one last concrete note: I have spent thousands of dollars of my own personal money in the last several years on computer, audio and other electronic hardware. I've also made hundreds of dollars worth of purchases of CD's. I will not purchase any device or medium which I believe sqelches my own creativity and ability to do what I want with ideas, images, sounds and information which is mine (through lawful aquisition or the fruits of my own creative labor). I am sure I'm not alone. Ask your constituents in the software, computer, and consumer electronics manufacturing and retail industries how they feel about that outcome.

    Sincerely,
    Dave Neuer

  • Won't help them any (Score:1, Interesting)

    by psychopenguin (228012) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:22AM (#3578745)
    Explain to me how a watermark detector is going to prevent someone from setting up a camcorder at the prescreening of a movie and putting it out as a movie clip before the movie even releases? They are trying to find a technical solution to a non-technical problem and trying to overemphasize the existance of this problem that has actually declined over the years.
  • Good point (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:26AM (#3578789)
    Those are all good examples of other attempts to legislate personal responsibility through the manufacturer.

    That being said, however, I think what the original poster was pointing out was the speed with which federal government listens to things when business wants something as opposed to individuals. There are movements to do all of the things you mention, but they don't seem to have had the same impact as what the MPAA is doing. Maybe the MPAA sounds just as reasonable to legislators as smart guns, but I don't think so.

    I think the original poster was pointing out that all those things haven't been passed (although the MPAA stuff hasn't--but c.f. the DMCA), and it may be because the manufacturers don't support them. If they did, we might see engine governors, smart guns, etc.

    The fact that there have been so many efforts to get engine governors without any real legislative attention whatsoever, but immediate attention when the MPAA wants anything, is disturbing. I think the original post was pointing out a disturbing trend in which individual citizens have to comprise a massive number before they amount to anything, but business merely has to mention something.
  • patent? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:28AM (#3578815)
    Why doesn't someone just design and then patent an ADC that has this watermarking technology built in? I don't imagine any of the *AA's have done it yet, and ADC's are pretty simple circuits...just come up with some lame watermarking scheme, implement it and patent it. Guaranteed you'll get the patent. Then, you have THEM at your mercy (or they haul your ass into court trying to void your patent).
  • by Hiro Antagonist (310179) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:38AM (#3578914) Journal
    I'll make this short, but sweet.

    The United States was founded by people who believed in the public good. They set up commissions for public libraries and promotion of the arts, while at the same time granting inventors and authors the ability to profit from their works until they faded into the public domain. Our most hallowed documents, our most cherished music, even our national anthem come from the re-use of work written by authors and musicians a generation before.

    Yet, the MPAA and the RIAA want to tell *me* that this is Unamerican. That my role in society is not as a citizen, or a voter, or a patriot -- but solely one as a consumer. Had this been the prevailing attitude in the late eighteenth century, there would be no Congress, no Senate, no President, no freedom; we would all be loyal subjects of the King, and Benjamin Franklin would be remembered as an eccentric intellectual imprisoned and executed for copyright violations.

    I am not a consumer, or a "content provider", or a market statistic; I am a *citizen*. Please treat me like one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:44AM (#3578976)
    Hell, I built a simple a-d converter in one of my labs. Took twenty minutes. They didn't teach us how to build a drm system, however.
  • call it "The Lone Gunmen". "They control the airwaves. They control access to TV." Dude, you need to up your dosage.

    "They" play what people want to listen to. "They" are providing a service. If you don't want to pay, that's fine--don't use the service.

  • Re:Deception? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by acceleriter (231439) on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:55AM (#3579050)
    Isn't that what we thought about the original Hollings bill?
  • by krist0 (313699) on Friday May 24, 2002 @11:16AM (#3579209) Homepage Journal
    I'm Australian, living in the Netherlands, but anyways,

    I remember as a kid, I wanted to go to America to work, I remember having to wait for months for games to come out on the NES/SMS, yet I would read American games magazines and they where out there....same with movies, we could wait 6-12months for new movies......

    Things still havent changed much, music releases are mostly on par globally, games and movie releases arent (BladeII is coming out in June I think, maybe July....) and I think this is a large source of this piracy (I already saw a dodgy screener of BladeII)....the reason being not for gain or to subvert the system, mearly because of the fact that we have to wait so long to see/play anything over here.

    Which I actually find pretty amusing. I could imagine that alot of this perceived problem is actually caused by us outside of america, so when in america, we see a bill being passed like this, its kinda amusing....its not right, but its still funny.....its almost like in america, they believe the internet is theirs, they own it, they can regulate it....trully arrogant and bound to fail.

    but I appear to have gotten myself sidetracked....as a kid, i wanted to live in america, but after recent events, the government openly telling people "dont question us", the feds with almost absolute power to get any info on anyone without reason, the tracking of H1B visas and now, chips in ADs....I am sure that if they are putting in cpus in them, i'm sure tracking functionality cant be far away, i mean, i could imagine they would mainly target techie gear, soundcards/vidcapture cards.....i think i will stay away from america now, far far away.
  • by elmegil (12001) on Friday May 24, 2002 @11:21AM (#3579256) Homepage Journal
    Yep, it's all our fault that the RIAA/MPAA can't be bothered to actually try to price their commodities competitively (there is a level at which it's easier to buy a legit copy than pirate one with glitches/compression in it), and would rather abuse the legislative process to force their vision on us, completely bypassing the rights of the public to fair use of copyrighted material under any circumstances, not just stopping piracy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24, 2002 @11:23AM (#3579278)

    If cold-war fearmongering is the only way to get through to your fellow USians, then use it to your advantage:

    Point out to them that these draconian measures are exactly what the Communist Soviet Union imposed on its citizenry until the fall of the Soviet Bloc. Armed guards at every photocopier, every typewriter registered with the government -- it's simply the pre-computing-era equivalent of a watermark in every device; an unambiguous way to associate individual devices with the media created on those devices. A great tool for totalitarianism.

    Think twice about writing your new political manifesto on that shiny new PC... the watermark imposed by the RIAA/MPAA will ensure the government can track down who wrote such heretical, dissident material. I wouldn't be surprised if the politicians know of this side-effect, and are gleefully going along with the MPAA/RIAA's lobbying as a convenient cover for their own agenda.

  • Re:Are they crazy? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sjames (1099) on Friday May 24, 2002 @11:29AM (#3579332) Homepage

    O.K., you're in a public park having a family outing. You are video taping your youngest for posterity. To your amazement, right on camera, he speaks his first words!!! (takes his first step, whatever). Unfortunatly, to your disgust, the latest synthetic boy band comes on the radio the people over by that tree are listening to. Your camcorder shuts down.

    On the other hand, if you carry a simple transmitter that emits a watermarked white noise stream (baseband radio transmitter), will security and/or traffic enforcement cameras cut out? If they're allowed not to, won't they become a big black market item?

  • by ronfar (52216) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:20PM (#3579704) Journal
    The philosophy behind "unenforcable" laws is very simple. It's not the idea that our government gets everyone, or even the majority of people who break a particular law. It is the idea that they can, given the opportunity and inclination, enforce it whenever they feel like it. For example, say your local camera store imports non-screwed-up camcorders from overseas, which will correctly record family events such as weddings even while copyrighted music is playing in the background.

    Well, the Feds find out, and put the owner of the shop in prison for multiple violations of the analogue hole act. Maybe at the behest of one of his law abiding competitors, such as Walmart, who have been scrupulously complying with the analogue hole act and only selling screwed-up camcorders.

    You, the uber-geek individual can still take a trip to Hong kong, Taiwan or wherever they still sell non-screwed-up camcorders, and probably get it back into the U. S. with no problem. Just as individuals purchasing pirate DVDs in those places probably won't have a problem, but shops that import them are basically only able to operate under the protection of organized crime.

    Of course, God help you if you get someone with any governmental power after you if you have any of these things. They will cheerfully see to it that you, the individual, are prosecuted for the crime of having a non-screwed-up camcorder, even if your real crime was embarrasing them politically.

    I wouldn't dismiss this, it can and will be used against us.

  • by chriso11 (254041) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:27PM (#3579745) Journal
    I'm pretty sure there will be test modes to disable the copyright control circuits also - during development, they may need to disable the controls to acurately evaluate the device performance.

    Also, perhaps some magic marker tricks might do the job too :)
  • by dattaway (3088) on Friday May 24, 2002 @12:42PM (#3579848) Homepage Journal
    Its worse than that. Op amps can easily be built from discrete transistors. ADC's from discrete components are a basic lab project in an electrical engineering course. Go to school and its just one of the time honored things to learn. This was even before fast computers were a threat to the Industry.

    So, they'd need to put copyright controls on every three pin silicon junction device. Now *that* is going to be an engineering miracle.

    I predict a future when every person is going to learn a little bit more about basic electronics to fight back for basic communication rights. Either that, or we will be reduced to copying musical works with smoke signals.
  • by ronwolf (141966) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:05PM (#3579982)
    In today's NYTimes [nytimes.com] (registration blah blah) there's a big op/ed piece on the subject of Hollywood versus, well, everyone else, and why the public and it's representatives in Congress just don't get it.
  • Neil Peart was right (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ZillyMonk (581377) on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:07PM (#3579993)
    This is beginning to sound a lot like the "Temples of Syrinx" movement of Rush's album 2112:

    "The massive grey walls of the Temples rise from the heart of every Federation city. I have always been awed by them, to think that every single facet of every life is regulated and directed from within! Our books, our music, our work and play are all looked after by the benevolent wisdom of the priests..."

    We've taken care of everything, The words you hear the songs you sing, The pictures that give pleasure to your eyes...


    Creepy.
  • Re:The Big Deal (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24, 2002 @01:27PM (#3580121)
    Legislated speed limiters are already here.

    You want proof? My Geo can't break the 90 MPH barrier...

  • by pedro (1613) on Friday May 24, 2002 @02:57PM (#3580660)
    Another reason that this will never fly is that the aggregate costs of implementation will far exceed any losses recovered. In fact, it will cost more to implement this moronic idea than all of the revenue these companies make *combined*!
    It's an unfunded mandate, folks.
    If these assholes want this so bad, let *them* pay for each and every instance of the hardware/software required to conform.
    The *AA's would be bankrupt overnight.
    Morons. Furrfu!
  • Re:Saving Milkmen (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 24, 2002 @03:12PM (#3580744)
    My Mother told me that when she was a teenager, the dairy industry got a law enacted that made it illegal to sell margarine mixed with yellow dye. The dairy industry thought that this would protect the butter market.
  • by MrIcee (550834) on Friday May 24, 2002 @04:31PM (#3581119) Homepage
    A restriction such as what they are attempting would be fairly easy to defeat by anyone who really wanted to.

    One possible method would be to have something BEFORE the ADC that plays with the analog signal. For example, if you invert and phase shift and generally muck with the signal such as it is no longer the same, I doubt the 'cop' chip will find a signature whatsoever.

    Then, after the ADC, an algorithm reverses the original filter to produce the now digital-copy.

    Perhaps they would have better luck trying to make our ears and eyes illegal.

    (Btw... what would happen now to someone who had purchased copyright use... no equipment would allow them to use it, regardless. idiots)

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