FC: Hollywood wants to plug "analog hole," regulate A-D converters

R. A. Hettinga rah at shipwright.com
Fri May 24 21:24:08 EDT 2002

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Status:  U
Date: Fri, 24 May 2002 11:27:13 -0400
To: politech at politechbot.com
From: Declan McCullagh <declan at well.com>
Subject: FC: Hollywood wants to plug "analog hole," regulate A-D converters
Sender: owner-politech at politechbot.com
Reply-To: declan at well.com


From: "Trei, Peter" <ptrei at rsasecurity.com>
To: "'declan at well.com'" <declan at well.com>
Subject: MPAA wants all A/D converters to implement copyright protection.
Date: Fri, 24 May 2002 11:17:08 -0400

My mind has been boggled, my flabbers have been ghasted.

In the name of protecting their business model, the MPAA
proposes that every analog/digital (A/D) converter - one of
the most basic of chips - be required to check for US
government mandated copyright flags. Quite aside from
increasing the cost and complexity of the devices many,
manyfold, it eliminates the ability of the US to compete
in the world electronics market.

If this level of ignorance, chuptza, and bloodymindedness
had been around a hundred years ago, cars would be
forbidden to have a range greater then 20 miles, to
protect the railway industry, and transoceanic airline
tickets would have a $1000/seat surcharge, to compensate
the owners of ocean liners for lost revenue.

I know that Tinsletown is based on dreams and fantasies
(as well as the violation of Edision's movie patents), but
someone needs to sit these people down and teach them
the lesson that King Canute taught his nobles.

Peter Trei
[The above is my personal opinion only. Do not
misconstrue it to belong to others.]


Date: Thu, 23 May 2002 16:06:08 -0700
Subject: Hollywood wants to plug your analog hole
From: Cory Doctorow <cory at eff.org>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan at well.com>


Hollywood Wants to Plug the "Analog Hole"

*New MPAA report reveals chilling agenda*

=The Big Picture=

The people who tried to take away your VCR are at it again. Hollywood has
always dreamed of a "well-mannered marketplace" where the only technologies
that you can buy are those that do not disrupt its business. Acting through
legislators who dance to Hollywood's tune, the movie studios are racing to
lock away the flexible, general-purpose technology that has given us a
century of unparalelled prosperity and innovation.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed the "Content
Protection Status Report" with the Senate Judiciary Committee last month,
laying out its plan to remake the technology world to suit its own ends.
The report calls for regulation of analog-to-digital converters (ADCs),
generic computing components found in scientific, medical and entertainment
devices. Under its proposal, every ADC will be controlled by a "cop-chip"
that will shut it down if it is asked to assist in converting copyrighted
material -- your cellphone would refuse to transmit your voice if you
wandered too close to the copyrighted music coming from your stereo.

The report shows that this ADC regulation is part of a larger agenda. The
first piece of that agenda, a mandate that would give Hollywood a veto over
digital television technology, is weeks away from coming to fruition.
Hollywood also proposes a radical redesign of the Internet to assist in
controlling the distribution of copyrighted works.

This three-part agenda -- controlling digital media devices, controlling
analog converters, controlling the Internet -- is a frightening peek at
Hollywood's vision of the future.

=Hollywood Tips its Hand=

The "Content Protection Status Report"
(http://judiciary.senate.gov/special/content_protection.pdf) points to
future where innovation and fair use rights are sacrificed on copyright's
altar, where entertainment companies become *de facto* regulators of new
technologies, deciding which mathematical instructions are mandatory and
which are forbidden.

The first part of the document details the efforts of the Broadcast
Protection Discussion Group (BPDG: http://bpdg.blogs.eff.org/), which will
release its final standard for the regulation of digital media technology
at the end of May. The BPDG's standard would ban the production of digital
television devices that had not been approved by three Hollywood studios.
Approved devices will only interoperate with other approved devices. The
combination of legal restrictions on digital television devices and
licensing restrictions on the computer technologies they can interface with
gives Hollywood an absolute veto over all new digital media technology
without the need for unpopular, sweeping legislation like Senator
Hollings's Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA).

=Plugging the Analog Hole=

But the most disturbing pieces of the Status Report comes later in the
document. The second section, "Plugging the Analog Hole," reveals
Hollywood's plan to turn a generic technology component, the humble
analog-to-digital convertor, into a device that is subject to the kind of
regulation heretofore reserved for Schedule A narcotics.

Analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) are the building blocks of modern
digital technology. An ADC's job is to take samples of the strength
(amplitude) of some analog signal (light, sound, motion, temperature) at
some interval (frequency) and convert the results to a numerical value.
ADCs are embedded in digital scanners, samplers, thermometers,
seismographs, mice and other pointer devices, camcorders, cameras,
microscopes, telescopes, modems, radios, televisions, cellular phones,
walkie-talkies, light-meters and a multitude of other devices. In general,
ADCs are generic and interchangeable -- that is, a high-frequency ADC from
a sound-card is potentially the same ADC that you'll find in a sensitive
graphics tablet.

Hollywood perceives ADCs as the lynchpin of unauthorized duplication. No
matter how much copy-control technology is integrated into DVDs and
satellite broadcasts, there is always the possibility that some Internet
user will aim a camcorder at the screen, always the shadowy fan at the
concert wielding a smuggled digital recorder, always the audiophile jacking
a low-impedance cable into a high-end stereo. These bogeymen plague
Hollywood, and each one uses an ADC to produce unauthorized copies.

Accordingly, the report calls for a regimen where "watermark detectors
would be required in all devices that perform analog to digital
conversions." The plan is to embed a "watermark" (a theoretical, invisible
mark that can only be detected by special equipment and that can't be
removed without damaging the media in which it was embedded) in all
copyrighted works. Thereafter, every ADC would be accompanied by a "cop
chip" that would sense this watermark's presence and disable certain
features depending on the conditions.

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.

The objective of a law like this is to make "unauthorized" synonymous with
"illegal." In the world of copyright, there are many uses that are legal,
even -- *especially* -- if they are unauthorized, for example, the fair-use
right to quote a work for critical purposes. Any critic -- a professor, a
reporter, even an individual with a personal website -- may be lawfully
copy parts of copyrighted works in a critical discussion. Such a person may
scan in part of a magazine article, record a snatch of music from a CD or a
piece of a film or television show in the lawful course of making a
critical work.

And you don't need to be a critic to make a lawful, unauthorized copy! You
might be someone who wants to "format-shift" some personal property -- say,
by scanning in a book or transferring an old LP to MP3 so that you might
take it with you while travelling with your computer. This is absolutely
lawful, but under the "analog hole" proposal, providing the tools to make
such unauthorized uses would be illegal.

=Unintended Consequences=

It's outrageous that Hollywood would demand a law that intentionally breaks
technology so that it can't be used in lawful ways, but the unintended
consequences of this regime are even more bizarre.

Virtually everything in our world is copyrighted or trademarked by someone,
from the facades of famous sky-scrapers to the background music at your
local mall. If ADCs are constrained from performing analog-to-digital
conversion of all watermarked copyrighted works, you might end up with a
cellphone that switches itself off when you get within range of the
copyrighted music on your stereo; a camcorder that refuses to store your
child's first steps because he is taking them within eyeshot of a
television playing a copyrighted cartoon; a camera that won't snap your
holiday moments if they take place against the copyrighted backdrop of a
chain store such as Starbucks, which forbids on-premises photography
because its fixtures are proprietary works.

As was mentioned, ADCs are fundamental, generic computing components, found
in medical and scientific equipment, computers, and a variety of consumer
electronics. Surely Hollywood doesn't mean to suggest that geologists will
have to equip their seismographs with cop-chips (lest they should
accidentally record a copyrighted earthquake)?

It seems likely that they do. The primary difference between most ADCs is
the frequency at which they run. Two ADCs of like frequency and bitrate can
be interchanged. If any "free" ADCs are allowed into the marketplace, they
will surely find themselves repurposed in camcorders, samplers, and
scanners (oh my!).

=The Scourge of P2P=

Hollywood's report to Congress includes its third legislative goal:
"Putting an end to the avalanche of movie theft on so-called 'file-sharing'
services, such as Morpheus, Gnutella, and other peer-to-peer (p2p) networks."

Here, rather than making "unauthorized" and "illegal" synonymous, Hollywood
is seeking to overturn the Betamax doctrine -- the principle that a
technology is legal, provided that it can be used to accomplish legal ends.
VCRs are legal, even though they can be used to make illegal copies of
copyrighted works, because they can *also* be used to make legal copies of
personal works and copyrighted works (in the case of time- and

P2P networks -- such as the Internet -- are not infringing in and of
themselves. "P2P" describes a technology where the system's control is
largely or entirely decentralized. P2P application networks are turned to
all manner of ends, from sharing classroom materials and independently
produced media to distributing large scientific problems associated with
the search for a cure for AIDS to providing a distributed proxy service
that allows Chinese Internet users to circumvent China's national firewall
and read uncensored news. True, they can also be used to make unauthorized
-- and even illegal -- copies of copyrighted works, but the Betamax
doctrine does not establish as its standard that no illegal uses be
possible with a technology; only that a technology have some legal use.

What's more, thoroughly decentralized networks like Gnutella have no
control-point. There is no central server, no standards-body, no
exploitable point where leverage can be applied to control what is and is
not available on the network. The Internet is fundamentally constructed to
permit any two points to communicate, and as long as this is true, Gnutella
and its brethren will thrive.

Which begs the question: How will Hollywood put "an end to ... movie theft
on ... p2p networks?" Short of dramatically re-architecting the Internet it
seems inconceivable that P2P will ever controlled or eliminated.

But dramatic redesigns of the Internet are well within Hollywood's stated
desires. In 1995, Hollywood's representatives in government penned "The
Report of the Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights," calling for a
neutered Internet whose functionality had been magically constrained to
"permit [rights-holders] to enforce the terms and conditions under which
their works are made public."

We can only guess at where these delusional technological speculations have
wandered in the intervening years, and this "Content Protection Status
Report" is a good and grim indicator.

=Take a Stand=

Hollywood's legislative agenda may be ridiculous, but it is hardly
unlikely. The BPDG is bare weeks away from turning over a veto on new
technologies to Hollywood. They are doing so with the cooperation of the
technology companies that are willingly participating in the BPDG process.
If just one major computer company would step forward in the press and in
Congress and object to the BPDG's mandate, the entire rubric of a
"consensus" upon which the BPDG depends would collapse.

The BPDG mandate is critical to Hollywood's legislative agenda. With the
BPDG mandate in place, an ADC control law and a radical Internet redesign
are attainable goals.

If you work for a technology company, please ask your favorite senior
manager or corporate officer to contact the EFF. We'd be delighted to
deliver a briefing on this and help make the decision to stand up.

As an individual, write to the companies you are a customer of. Take a look
at your computer and your consumer electronics: they have been built by
companies that are either willingly participating in the BPDG or have not
come forward to oppose it. Only once these companies realize that their
customers care about liberty will they find the courage to oppose
Hollywood's powerful Congressional representatives, like Senator Ernest
"Fritz" Hollings (D-Disney).

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.

Cory Doctorow
Outreach Coordinator, Electronic Frontier Foundation
415.726.5209/cory at eff.org

Blog: http://boingboing.net

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R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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