November 4, 2005

Hearing Page: “Analog Hole” Discussion [11:38 am]

Oversight Hearing on “Content Protection in the Digital Age: The Broadcast Flag, High-Definition Radio, and the Analog Hole.”

Testimony from:

Next-Gen “Analog Hole” Legislation Proposed with a discussion draft bill from the EFF site.

Later: Jesus H. Christ! This is what I get for being away from this for a couple of weeks. I cannot believe this draft bill — for example:

Section 103. Encoding Rules.

No person shall encode a program, or cause a program to be encoded, using the rights signaling system unless such encoding conforms to the following requirements:

(a) The rights signaling system may be encoded so as to prevent or limit copying, redistribution, or both, of prerecorded media, video on demand, pay-per-view, subscription-on-demand, and undefined business models that are comparable to any of the foregoing;

(b) The rights signaling system may not be encoded so as to prevent first generation of copies as are permitted under Title II of pay television transmissions, non-premium subscription television, free conditional access delivery, and undefined business models that are comparable to any of the foregoing, but the rights signaling system may be encoded so as to prevent or limit further copying of any of the foregoing (including comparable undefined business models) redistribution of any of the foregoing, or both;

(c) The rights signaling system may not be encoded so as to numerically limit copying as permitted under Title II of a non-conditional access broadcast transmission and undefined business models that are comparable to a non-conditional access broadcast transmission, but the rights signaling system may be encoded so as to prevent redistribution of any of the foregoing; and

(d) The VEIL portion of the rights signaling system may only be encoded in program formats described in subsection (a) until 12 months following the effective date as established in Section 106; thereafter the VEIL portion of the rights signaling system may be encoded in any and all program formats, provided, however, that under all circumstances if a person encodes a program or causes a program to be encoded with the VEIL portion of the rights signaling system, then that person shall also encode the program or cause the program to be encoded with the CGMS-A portion of the rights signaling system.

So we really are going to start legislating the content of programs?

Worse, I am sure that proponents will point to this language as supporting innovation:

Section 101. No person shall

[...]

(b) manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide or otherwise traffic in any

technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that —

[...]

(2) has only limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to modify or cause an analog video input device to no longer conform to the requirements set forth in subsection (a); or

Of course, any novel application is not going to have more than “limited commercially significant purpose or use” until it gets disseminated and understood (c.f., TiVo). As written now, without the funds to implement VEIL, a firm looking to develop a new application (or, God forbid, an open source application!) would be formally restricted.

What a mess! Lots of reading to catch up on.

I like how Gigi sticks it to Glickman, contradicting something he tries to imply in his testimony:

Preliminarily, I would note that this is the first time in the recent discussion over digital content protection that CGMS-A + VEIL technology have been proposed. While the CGMS-A + VEIL technology was discussed at the Analog Hole Reconversion Discussion Group, it was quickly dismissed as not worthy of further consideration. Thus, unlike the broadcast flag, this technology has not been fully vetted by industry and public interest groups.

Accordingly, we are quite surprised that CGMS-A + VEIL is being presented

today as a fully formed, mature proposal to Congress. [....]

Ha!

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The Miracle of Pervasive Personalization [10:04 am]

A worst case scenario of the topic that’s been consuming a lot of my time recently:

ACLU - Pizza

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“See, If No One Owns It, It’s Not Worth Anything” [9:04 am]

Weighing Webcasters’ Rights to Content [pdf]

Battles over illegal sharing of music online are so last summer. The hot fight now is over copying of video from television or the Internet that generally has been considered freely available to the public.

If television broadcasters and webcasters have their way in international treaty talks, they would gain new, 50-year rights to virtually any video they beam out, even if no one owns the rights to the content.

[...] The result, according to digital rights advocates, is that the viral power of the Internet to expose millions (or billions) of people to news or unprotected creative works will be in jeopardy. The seemingly instant, online cycle of people posting information, seeing it, linking to it or retransmitting it — as happened with the amateur tsunami videos — could be dragged into a morass of new ownership questions.

“This new layer turns every distributor into yet another owner,” argues James Love, head of the Consumer Project on Technology, which is fighting the treaty.

Related: EFF’s Action Alert; the Consumer Project on Technology; their broadcasting treaty page

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More on the Sony DRM Hacks [8:59 am]

Study of Sony Anti-Piracy Software Triggers Uproar [pdf]

“Here you have one of the biggest name-brand corporations on the planet getting into what many people in other circumstances would consider hacking,” said Richard Smith, a security and privacy consultant based in Boston. “That’s just not acceptable.”

Later: Sony Patch Reveals Its Anti-Piracy Files on PCs [pdf]

Sony Corp.’s music division said Wednesday it is distributing a free software patch to reveal hidden files that were automatically installed on hard drives when some of its music CDs were played on personal computers.

[...] Sony BMG Music Entertainment and its partner, Britain-based First 4 Internet Ltd., said they decided to offer the patch as a precaution, not because of any security vulnerability as some critics had alleged.

“What we decided to do is take extra precautionary steps to allay any fears,” said Mathew Gilliat-Smith, First 4 Internet’s CEO. “There should be no concern here.”

Later: When Vendors Install Malware

First 4 Internet released an update to their software today that removes the cloaking aspects of the software.

In other words, it won’t hide files and registry entries beginning with ‘$sys$’ after this update. Contrary to some reports, the update won’t allow you to remove the software.

Interestingly, the update was at first released as an ActiveX control, requiring the use of Internet Explorer, but was later changed to a static executable. Both versions require that you trust First 4 Internet, a company plainly undeserving of trust.

[...] Blowing off “technical questions” to First 4 Internet, as Sony does in this case, doesn’t cut it for me. Nobody, and I mean nobody, buying a Sony CD thinks they are buying a First 4 Internet product. At a bare minimum, Sony needs to say that they will never do this again, and I think they need to clear out the channel.

As a BBC report states, the rootkit may violate British law. I’m not so sure about U.S. law, but I know there were states working on laws that this program would violate.

Also, see DRM this, Sony!

What’s the solution? In the near term, for us, it’s not to buy any Sony CDs, and maybe not any Sony anything. In the longer term, it’s to start agitating for a rewrite of copyright law in the manner so eloquently suggested recently by Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal [pdf]. He suggests copyright law with actual teeth that can chomp on massive-scale piracy, but with broad exemptions for personal use, because excessive DRM is hampering innovation and alienating consumers. I couldn’t put it any better. And companies? Sony? Are you really going to tell us that overhauling these outmoded rules is harder and more destructive than suing retirees over honest mistakes made by their 12-year-old grandsons? This is the path you’re going to choose?

Later: It looks like it’s even worse — Sony Rootkit Phones Home — humorous comment on the fact that the Slashdot story shows how to circumvent the rootkit’s protections - Uh Oh

I smell a DMCA violation on the /. front page! Cue the Sony lawyers in 4..3..2….

Apparently, though, it doesn’t work, so no one at /. has to worry.

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The iPodding of Books [8:36 am]

As a died-in-the-wool hardcopy reader, good luck, I say. For some kinds of books, it might even be a good idea: Want ‘War and Peace’ Online? How About 20 Pages at a Time?

The idea is to do for books what Apple has done for music, allowing readers to buy and download parts of individual books for their own use through their computers rather than trek to a store or receive them by mail. Consumers could purchase a single recipe from a cookbook, for example, or a chapter on rebuilding a car engine from a repair manual.

The initiatives are already setting off a tug of war among publishers and the potential vendors over who will do business with whom and how to split the proceeds. Random House, the biggest American publisher, proposed a micropayment model yesterday in which readers would be charged about 5 cents a page, with 4 cents of that going to the publisher to be shared with the author. The fact that Random House has already developed such a model indicates that it supports the concept, and that other publishers are likely to follow.

The proposals could also become bargaining chips in current lawsuits against Google by trade groups representing publishers and authors.

Related: Google Adds Library Texts to Search Database

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