The War on the Consumer: Congress to Pass Secret DRM Law?

I guess I’ll make this into a reoccurring feature, since everyone seemed to like the last one I did, and it seems we have no end of stupidity from media companies and their hired hands.

So, let’s see what the media companies have been shopping for in Washington. I bet there’s a lot of post-Holidays sales of legislation going on…

According to an articles over at the Freedom to Tinker the media companies are clamouring again for Congress to plug the so-called “analog hole.” While digital content can supposedly be locked down with DRM (which, really, it can’t… but that’s another rant), good old analog… the signal from your old VCR or DVD to your TV, for example, isn’t covered (usually… there are some systems such as Macrovision, but they are simple to overcome). Not, unless, the fine folks in Congress decide to pass HR4569, which commands that most analog video devices will need to implement content protection systems. What’s the issue here? Well, one of the standards that this law stipulates everyone must follow is called VEIL. VEIL is a proprietery product owned by a company, rather than an open standard. In order to learn about it, you have to cough up $10K, and sign a piece of paper stating that you’ll never discuss the VEIL system with anyone else.

So, basically, Congress would be mandating that everyone who wants to tinker with analog video devices, no matter how trivial or minor, or how potentially groundbreaking and innovative, must pay an exhorbident tax to this private company. If you can’t cough up the cash, or if what you want to do is not compatible with these systems… well, tough luck. Violating the law can land you in the slammer for 5 years.

Then there’s the Digital Content Protection Act of 2006. This little gem of an industry-bought-and-payed-for legislation would make it illegal to create a device that could do something with a digital signal that hasn’t already been approved by law. Future innovation would be limited to “customary historic use.”

Had this legislation passed 10 years ago, most likely the iPod and other MP3 players would be illegal, since before the advent of the iTunes store, you had to rip your digital content into a new format in order to play it.

Where is this all leading? Well, one writer imagined the future in a pervasive DRM society. The results aren’t very pretty.

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One Comment

  1. John says:

    Gary,

    Thanks. I’ve contacted my congressman. Suggest you-all readers do likewise.

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