The entertainment industry got an early Christmas present in the form of The Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005 (pdf). A bill they hope will become law and help to kill off any remaining means of enacting your Fair Use rights on any media you buy in the future. The folks in Hollywood aren’t stupid. They know that any broadcast flags or other copy protection schemes they put into their media won’t mean a damned thing if you can just hook your video player up to your video card’s analog port and just capture the video as it plays back—the so-called analog hole—unless they somehow force hardware makers into adhering to the copy protection. If this bill goes through that’s exactly what they’ll get:
Calling the ability to convert analog video content to a digital format a “significant technical weakness in content protection,” H.R. 4569 would require all consumer electronics video devices manufactured more than 12 months after the DTCSA is passed to be able to detect and obey a “rights signaling system” that would be used to limit how content is viewed and used. That rights signaling system would consist of two DRM technologies, Video Encoded Invisible Light (VEIL) and Content Generation Management System—Analog (CGMS-A), which would be embedded in broadcasts and other analog video content.
Under the legislation, all devices sold in the US would fall under the auspices of the DTCSA: it would be illegal to “manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide or otherwise traffic” in such products. It’s a dream-come-true for Hollywood, and in combination with a new broadcast flag legislation (not yet introduced) would strike a near-fatal blow to the long-established right of Fair Use.
The rationalization, of course, is piracy. Something that even this scheme will fail to curb to any real degree and the entertainment industry knows the truth about that fact already. As I said, they’re not stupid. What this is really about is making sure they have the option to nickel and dime your ass to death if you want to enjoy features you currently get for free such as time-shifting of programs or the ability to rewind a movie and watch a scene again.
Section 201 (b) (1) of the DTCSA gives you all of 90 minutes from the initial reception of a “unit of content” to watch your recordings. Heaven forbid you get a long phone call or an unscheduled visit from a neighbor when you’re engaged in some delayed viewing—once that 90-minute window closes you’re out of luck until the next broadcast.
It reminds me of the opening to the venerable sci-fi show The Outer Limits:
- There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image; make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear…
…and it’ll only cost you $1.95 for the first minute and then $.99 for each additional minute after that!