Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Question for the Senator--Please

The proposed Analog Hole (I prefer the slang A-Hole) bill that is being considered in Congress is a real work of art. As Ed Felton reported in his Blog:
If you’ve been reading here lately, you know that I’m no fan of the Sensenbrenner/Conyers analog hole bill. The bill would require almost all analog video devices to implement two technologies called CGMS-A and VEIL. CGMS-A is reasonably well known, but the VEIL content protection technology is relatively new. I wanted to learn more about it.

So I emailed the company that sells VEIL and asked for a copy of the specification. I figured I would be able to get it. After all, the bill would make compliance with the VEIL spec mandatory — the spec would in effect be part of the law. Surely, I thought, they’re not proposing passing a secret law. Surely they’re not going to say that the citizenry isn’t allowed to know what’s in the law that Congress is considering. We’re talking about television here, not national security.

After some discussion, the company helpfully explained that I could get the spec, if I first signed their license agreement. The agreement requires me (a) to pay them $10,000, and (b) to promise not to talk to anybody about what is in the spec. In other words, I can know the contents of the bill Congress is debating, but only if I pay $10k to a private party, and only if I promise not to tell anybody what is in the bill or engage in public debate about it.

Worse yet, this license covers only half of the technology: the VEIL decoder, which detects VEIL signals. There is no way you or I can find out about the encoder technology that puts VEIL signals into video.

PLEASE, someone ask the Senator how Congress can pass a bill that enshrines a secret technology into the law and forces everyone to use it and to pay for the privilege? Regardless of how you feel about DRM technology and the current fight regarding the proper limits of IP protections, this question deserves to be asked.

If you want to review the bill, here's the link.

1 comment:

Michael Fleming said...

It wasn't the right time to do such a thing...