December 19, 2005 5:08 PM PST

Pro-Hollywood bill aims to restrict digital tuners

A new proposal in Congress could please Hollywood studios, which are increasingly worried about Internet piracy, by embedding anticopying technology into the next generation of digital video products.

If the legislation were enacted, one year later it would outlaw the manufacture or sale of electronic devices that convert analog video signals into digital ones--unless those encoders honor an anticopying plan designed to curb redistribution. Affected devices would include PC-based tuners and digital video recorders.

"This legislation is designed to secure analog content from theft that has been made easier as a result of the transition to digital technologies," House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican, said late Friday. Criminals "obtain copyrighted content and then redistribute for profit at the copyright owner's expense," he added.

Sensenbrenner's bill, also backed by Democratic Rep. John Conyers, is designed to plug what technologists have come to call the "analog hole." That's the practice of converting copy-protected digital material to analog format, stripping away copy protection, and shifting the material back to digital format with only a slight loss in quality.

The Motion Picture Association of America applauded the legislation, called the Digital Transition Content Security Act. MPAA Chairman Dan Glickman said in a statement that it was a "very important piece of legislation that will promote more consumer choice as it protects copyright owners in the digital age."

The legislation was introduced just as Congress is departing for the holidays, so it likely won't be considered for the next few months. But it could draw strong opposition from consumer electronics makers and advocacy groups such as Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which already had expressed alarm over an earlier version.

Learning from earlier setbacks
Because the Sensenbrenner-Conyers legislation would hand broad power to the Commerce Department to police the consumer electronics industry, it could yield an aggressive industry response similar to last year's tussle over the Induce Act.

During that process, electronics manufacturers and some Internet providers managed to defeat the Induce Act by arguing that it might be intended to restrict file swapping, but it would actually imperil devices such as Apple Computer's iPod. A 2002 proposal to forcibly implant anticopying technology in consumer gear also was defeated.

The wording of the Sensenbrenner-Conyers proposal seems to indicate that the MPAA and its congressional allies have learned from earlier rounds in Congress over digital copyright. Their bill partially exempts libraries and educators, for instance, chipping away at one potential source of opposition. It also says:

• Digital video recorders with analog tuners or inputs would only be allowed to record "copy-prohibited" shows for 90 minutes. After that, the digital recording must be "destroyed or otherwise rendered unusable."

• Analog video output of "copy-prohibited" recordings would be permitted as long as it was to a VGA output with a resolution of no more than 720 pixels by 480 pixels.

• Violations would be punished by civil penalties between $200 and $2,500 per product. Commercial offenders would be imprisoned for up to five years and fined not more than $500,000.

• The two copy-protection systems that must be supported are Video Encoded Invisible Light--used in a Batmobile toy--and Content Generation Management System-Analog. Products manufactured and also sold to consumers before the law's restrictions kick in a year after its enactment would be legal to resell.


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True madness!
Truly insane, for this gives the consumer absolutely no incentive to spend money, to upgrade all home media equipment ,and convert to the new digital media!

Oh well, the silly season is truly upon us!, for greedy insanity is the rule rather than the exception, driving our ever diminishing number of media moguls!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Say goodbye to John Conyers
There are a lot of us voters here in Michigan who have had it with his smart mouth obusiveness and now now his stupidity.
For some of us this is the last straw. If this action helps hin lose the next election it will be a great day for Michigan.
Posted by wgc10 (3 comments )
Link Flag
more restrictions
I wonder how much the MPAA is padding the re-election accouts of
these dufas politicians who keep sponsoring these ridiculous bills. I
thought I was reading an article from "The Onion". Note to the
MPAA-tell your members to make a good product and the revenue
will be there. It really that simple. Don't blame all your so called
woes on the internet and DVD burners and analog tuners and Tivo
and .... You get the picture.
Posted by grizzz11 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
hear hear!
If we had listened to Hollywood and given in to their wishes we would have outlawed the VDR and we wouldn't even be in this mess... then again most of their movies and TV shows would be financial losses due to the lost revenue from rental, home sales and the viewers who faithfully watch TV series due to the magic of time-shifting programming.
It's clear the industry doesn't know or care what's good even for themselves let alone the customers so why should we listen to them at all?

Each of us here in the US can vote. Find out how your representatives vote on these issues and let them know what you think. If they back Hollywood - vote them out of office. Send them a letter telling them your intentions so they can base their legislation support accordingly. Hollywood may line the pockets, but if the politicians can't even get into office, they WILL listen to us rather than Hollywood.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
Who cares!
Another misguided attempt by the hollywood horde and the corrupt american government to impede the pirates!

These silly schemes only inconvenience the legitimate users, as those of us who are gonna steal content have usually gotten around DRM before it is actually released.
Posted by PiratePete (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I care and you should too
I care becasue the government and big industry are constantly thinking up new ways to restrict people and the ways they use content that they paid for. If you don't care and turn a blind eye, then you encourage their behavior.

I wish more people would care, but most seem too ambivalent even when they are informed. Most people don't know that apple itunes music is drm'ed.

Also, I wouldn't be so cocky about the ability to defeat drm. We have only seen the first wave of drm. Just wait until its embedded in your OS (windows vista) and computer hardware like motherboards and cpus. They already have plans for it. It will be some pretty nasty ****.
Posted by stealt403 (48 comments )
Link Flag
Zero Fair Use
So now that analog video of your baby taking her first steps can't be shared with your friends after you make it digital?

Analog does not care the source, and Digital encoding an analog signal should not limit the ability of the owner to use that new digital version.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Perhaps not....
According to the article, only "copy-prohibited" content would be affected. I took this to mean something like the Macrovision copy protection on analog VHS movies and similar broadcast flags that conent providers could introduce to television content. Presumably the home videos of your baby's first steps would not have such protection. Just speculating here.
Posted by MichaelM (6 comments )
Link Flag
Not Zero Fair Use--"Controlled" Fair Use
it allows "controlled" fair use. unfortunately, the controls are set by the copyright holder, not the user/buyer/licensee, and certainly not within the constraints of what little law there is on the subject (eg, if i want to write and post on the internet a unfavorable review of a copy-prohibited movie and include an 8-second segment with that review, that would be allowed by law, but restricted by technology).

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
What should accompany such a law...
What should accompany such a law is...

... a tax on copyright "owners" that use DRM that would be invested and kept to finance removal of the DRM when the copyright expires.

... a restriction that such law should only cover DRM technology that has built in expiration that removes the restrictions on use within the legal expiration time of the copyright.

... a requirement that anyone using such copy prtection technoques would allow fair use when asked, and would be fined if a court determines that a request denied constituted fair use, or that no contact information was provided where fair use requests can be handled, or if fair use requests are not handled by contacting such contact address, and this within the copyright term, and after the copyright term in case the DRM is not automatically removed at that time. A deposit should be required to ensure compliance within that time frame, and the deposit should be proportional to the term of DRM protection (i.e., shorter expiration term means lower deposit).

... criminal law banning the abuse of DRM for preventing allowed usage of copyrighted material.

It should be realized that a copyright privilege is awarded in return for a service to society. If someone steals my money I have some protection by law (if the thief is caught the thief is punished and jailed on the public expense). If I throw my money out in the street and someone takes it it's not stealinf and society would not pay for punishing the person. Authors or distributors of written or recorded works can protect their works just like I protect my money: lock them up! If stolen from within a safe, the act is punishable and there's no need for copyright law for punishing on this act. Copyright protection is a service society gives to allow publishers to "throw their work out to the street" where anyone can copy it, by making copying "abandoned" content illegal. The protection is limited, and should remain limited because society has a right to gain something in return: it is financing that legal protection, and whoever enjoys this extra protection should pay for the privilege. If the state would want us to be able to leave our money out on the street and find it when we return, it could make such laws, and then it would require taxes that finance this, and the systems that are needed to enforce it (registration system for cash for identifying the owner of each coin and bill) just like it charges registration fees etc. for financing the registration of cars that are protected by law from thieves even when we "abandon" them in public parking spaces. The same should be with copyright protection. There absolutely no reason why copyright protection would not require whoever enjoys it to pay for it! Especially now that it seems that the laws made to "protect copyright owners" are actually laws tailored to make it more difficult for individuals or small enterprizes to compete with large enterprizes in the music and film industries.
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It Won't Happen
Just look at what Disney achieved by buying Sony Bono's vote. They extended the copyright on all their old movies that were due to expire soon. Considering they benefited from the same copyright expiration and public domain laws, now they managed to change them because it benefits them.

Don't dream about labels or content owners to facilitate ways to remove drm. They will find ways to change the law and circumvent it all.
Posted by Dead Soulman (245 comments )
Link Flag
Just plain human nature. The driving force is greed and power, the doom of human kind, hopefully.

I'm a systems engineer and this step is just one of many infringements in our private sphere. The industry very well knows that these issues are too complex for most of us to comprehend or to care about. Most of us are just ants, followers who don't want to take the trouble to inform ourselves of complex issues like this one.

I wish more would be informed on this and all other infringements so that companies using such protections in their products were forced to change those protections to more sensible ones.

I am one who wont buy any CD's with StarForce protection or the Sony check. So WoW and the new King Kong are out, among many.
Posted by -Shao- (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why not spend the money on the Hurricanes
Conyers knows about as much about digital tech as my dog, actually my dog probably knows more. I think it might be hard to get this legislation passed, after the issues with the sony rootkit and the induce act I think the people are slightly more educated and the resistance more organized.

The shame of the whole thing is that there will be a lot of debate before its all done and thats a real shame. Does anyone ever think about what the cost of a single session of congress is.. its not free. folks..

With all the budget cutting going on and talk of offsets to pay for the victims of the hurricanes you would think maybe congress would police itself. of course not, as soon as some entity like the mpaa offers one of these congressman like Conyers a sweet deal, they are quick to jump on it. Just another reason I dislike congress, and he's from my home state. I can't wait to see this legislation go down.
Posted by wgc10 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Say goodbye to DVRs
If I can only record a show for 90 minutes, what use is a DVR? I record shows and watch them days later... I would no longer be able to do this!!!

Seems like it's time to build my own DVR system, so that I can watch TV when I want to...
Posted by bbroeman30 (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
too true
If the content provider flagged the show, you would be hosed. If they didn't, you could record it. I'm sure they will let you record your favorite shows, though -- for a small fee. This is how they can shore up their declining ad revenue. We all know how much they hate DVR's . . .
Posted by curtiscarmack (20 comments )
Link Flag
This has to be a joke, right? Or did MPAA pay off Congress again?
It's got to be one or the other. It's a joke or a payoff to Congress.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Corrupt Congress
I'm pretty sure that the Lobbyists have bought several new
Congressmen in the process of pushing this bill.

Sadly our Congressmen could care less about the people they are
supposed to represent.

They only care about those people willing to PAY THEM. It is a truly
disgusting, corrupt system and your Congressman/Senator is
happy to play in this mud.
Posted by m.meister (278 comments )
Link Flag
Not a question of if, a question of how many $ they stuffed in the pockets
So this would make it illegal to use a Microphone on your PC to record audio. The microphone is the analog device, the PC is the digital device, the audio chip and CODEC convert the analog to digital.

This is absolutely insane.
Posted by ArbitraryThinker (30 comments )
Link Flag
time to boycot MPAA and RIAA
stop buying not only theyre ********, theyre dvds, theyre music... this is going too far, and im likely to throw up..
Posted by Cadillacs57 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
No moral compass
It seems clear that our Representatives and Senators no longer
have a moral compass.

Like the Hollywood executives driving this, our Congressman are
driven by greed and are happy to sacrifice honest Americans in
the process.

This is not about piracy -- this is about GREED. Control of when
and how you watch/listen to their content. Don't be surprised if
a couple years down the road with such control, the industry
decides it should be paid every time you watch all or part of
something you already bought.
Posted by m.meister (278 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Has been tried already
" Don't be surprised if
a couple years down the road with such control, the industry
decides it should be paid every time you watch all or part of
something you already bought."

Or at least the concept of that has been tried already, for those that can recall the Divx DVD players (no relation to the Divx codec) that was a joint venture with Circuit City and some greedy Entertainment lawyers, the idea was you purchased the movie for a low price and would have a 48 hour view time to watch it as much as you wanted but after that 48 hours you had to pay again to get more view time from that same movie and so forth and we all do see how far down the toilet that concept went, here is a reference link to an article on that Divx player concept for those interested - <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

If one remembers or knows Holloywood big shots once touted the VCR to be the nail in thier coffin and look where it took them and how much money it made them in the long run... leave it to them to put their foot in their mouth, but i believe also its that today with digital technology you get pretty much perfect digital copies and thats something they fear, with analog tape you had a degrading of each copy, not counting that macrovision junk which had means of being circumvented.

But in the long run all this bill does is make it worse for us the consumer and easier for groups like the MPAA to sue over more copyright prevention schemes being broken and gives them far to much control, this is almost starting to feel like the fight that happened with the VCR all over again with an individuals fair use at stake.
Posted by (71 comments )
Link Flag
Simple Solution
I have a Very simple Solution to all of Hollywood Billionaires Demands for more money.
Lets simply establish a Tax of 50% that will automaticly got to the Hollywood Billionaires.
This of course will not get free content or anything you will still have to pay for the un mitigated crap they produce. but that way they have a guaranteed source of income for Vacation's on a Private island for 1 Million a Day
Posted by navops (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Clearly unconstitutional
"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;". Therefore any law passed by congress that grants a copyright with no time expiration is illegal. It is fairly simple. Copy protection technology that is mandated by Congress and does not provide for a method to respect the expiration of a copyright is unconstitutional.
Posted by ArbitraryThinker (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I Don't Think It's So Simple
it would be nice if it were that simple. i don't think it will be. :-)

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
I'm sympathetic to that argument
but I suspect a court would say that this law isn't really a grant of copyright.
Posted by Musmanno (101 comments )
Link Flag
They will rule their
along with the FCC, the **AAs and the other vestiges of the broadcast industry on their narrow, channel-limited, ad-'rich' and content-deprived media, trying to sell the 1,440 minutes of time per channel, per day to the advertisers.

The FCC will keep the price of entry extremely high because that's how they protect their fiefdom. (They'll try to keep 'little Johnny' from hearing 'bad words' or hearing about 'bad things' and possibly thinking 'bad thoughts' because that's become their justification for existence.)

The ClearChannels and Infinity Broadcastings are not on our side. They're in the media business. They're in the business of extracting the most profit out of the media. Content is just getting in the way. They'd love to get rid of it because it costs them.

Meanwhile we'll be getting on just fine; with podcatching and setting up funding directly with content producers and negotiating our own deals with podcasters for content we'd actually pay to watch or listen to.

Broadcasting is dying and broadcasters are getting patently ridiculous in their attacks on everything because they see their influence slipping away like a hand full of sand through an opened hand.

Podcasting doesn't rely on expensive and heavily regulated 'single purpose' limited bandwidth transmitters.

Podcasting is a lot cheaper to produce, is outside the control of any agency, and distributes it content as a scattered bunch of packets to be gathered and reconstituded on your PC or Mac for your convenience.

That means NO ADS, Just content.

That means no more need for TiVO. (Dump your stock now; it doesn't have any long-term viabillity.)

That means no more crap on the tube, because it will have to compete with quality programming podcast delivered asynchronously to the consumer.

Let the advertisers wake up and put up web sites for their products, save themselves some money having people that are trusted by their customers review and demonstrate their products on their own pod-vod-casts.

Then broadcasters and the various **AAs will finaly die of starvation and we'll have peace.

If you want to make money in the coming economy, buy stock in pod-/vod-casting equipment and in pod-vod-cast production companies.
Posted by CharlesRovira (97 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Vote these crooks out of office
If your state senator or representative sponsors or votes for any of these anti-consumer bills, please consider voting them out of office.

There is no logic behind these laws. They stifle innovation, erode fair use, and show that the politicians care about the few (the media executives) over the many (consumers).

But what is truly disturbing is the obvious fact that these politicians, whose elections are sponsored by the media companies, are in practice being bribed.

Now, if a politician can be bought over something "small" such as the fair use right to record a TV show, then it's going to be a lot worse when it comes to something "big" such as environmental protection or global warming or war.

Bottom line, politicians like these are crooks no matter what the issue, make an effort to vote them out of office.
Posted by jdbwar07 (150 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Let them know...
If you care about fair use rights, you can visit and easily send a letter to your senator about your views on digital rights.

I think I'll make it specifically clear to my congressmen that if they are going to vote for bills like this, they will not have my vote at election time.
Posted by jdbwar07 (150 comments )
Link Flag
How many times we gotta DEFEAT this bill??
We've beaten back a few Broadcast Flag bills over the years but like some cancer they keep resurfacing in a "new and improved" version. Obviously this is being paid for by the content providers (read: RIAA and Hollywood). So I guess if they can keep throwing (exactly how much does at cost to pay off a congressman/senator these days to get a bill submitted) money in attempts to pass a bill that keeps getting defeated then they really aren't doing to bad after all in terms of lost revenue to piracy....

but of course noone who matters reads these things, and hardly any one who cares actually does anything so time will tell...
Posted by The user with no name (259 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Doesn't this effect the new Vugo toy that just came on the market? the line in the commercial is "RECORD Direct FROM TV." taking an analog signal from the tv to a digital format. An if you have directv or HDTV and you use this device haven't you broken the law- Translated digital signal to analog back to digital!!! Seem not to be not well thought out. Hopefully they"ll drop it on more time, or will it be smoke screened on another bill vital to the troops. Just a thought.
Posted by Luke_Cage (33 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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