MPAA circulates new proposal blocking analog hole

Ronald caught Ars' coverage on this topic in today's Shortbread, but the topic is important enough to bring up separately in its own news post. Tomorrow, the MPAA will present the House Subcommittee on Courts with a new draft proposal, officially titled the "Analog Content Security Preservation Act of 2005." If ratified and signed into law, this act would make it illegal to sell, design, import, or create any analog device capable of processing video or audio input that did not support industry-recommended DRM systems. The act specifies two DRM technologies explicitly (VEIL and CGMS-A), but allows additional standards to be added to the "must support" list in the future.

The new act allows for three types of content:

  • Copy Unlimited No Redistribution: The program may be copied indefinitely, but not distributed.
  • Copy One Generation: A single copy may be made, after which both copy and source are designated uncopyable.
  • Copy Prohibited: No copying allowed for any period of time. If a copy is created, it may not exist for longer than two hours before it begins to delete itself frame-by-frame, megabyte-by-megabyte, or minute-by-minute.
These restrictions will not apply to professional-level recording equipment, but the proposal gives laughably vague criteria for determining the status of a device as professional or consumer-level. The act states:
“professional device” means a device that is designed, manufactured, marketed and intended for use by a person who regularly employs such a device for lawful business or industrial purposes, such as making, performing, displaying, distributing or transmitting copies of audiovisual works on a commercial scale at the request of or with the explicit permission of the copyright owner. If a device is marketed to or is commonly purchased by persons other than described in the foregoing sentence, then such device shall not be considered a “professional device"; [emphasis mine]

See that, folks? If too many "consumers" buy your equipment, it's not professional anymore.

It may only be a draft, and I don't recommend anyone adopt a Chicken Little mentality—but I wouldn't dismiss the ACSPA out-of-hand, either. This draft bill is the most comprehensive and thorough grab for control the movie and music industries have ever made, and represents nothing less than a declaration of all-out war on the concept of fair use. It has profound implications for Linux and other open-source applications (all DRM systems are closed-source), and it creates new trade barriers by forcing non-U.S. manufacturers to adopt U.S. DRM standards or be refused access to our markets. Eventually someone will, of course, crack, bypass, or short-circuit such protection methods, but this fact does not validate or excuse their adoption in the first place.

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