> Hollywood's Bid to Control Digital TV Signals
>Cory Doctorow (www.craphound.com) is the Outreach Coordinator for the
>Electronic Frontier Foundation. He's an award-winning science fiction
>writer, the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing (boingboing.net)
>and a frequent contributor to Wired magazine and the O'Reilly Network.
>He co-founded the P2P software company OpenCola, and prior to that
>worked on a variety of technology projects, including coding CD-ROMs
>for the late, lamented Voyager Company.
>The Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org) is the oldest and most
>respected online civil liberties group in the world. From the SSL in your
>browser to the privacy laws that keep your online habits free from prying
>eyes, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has truly made the online world
>Cory will be speaking about the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group
>(BPDG), a cabal of Hollywood studios, broadcasters and technology
>companies that are bargaining away your rights in a mock standards-
>body in LA. The standard that this cartel sets will govern all technology
>that can manipulate digital television signals, including consumer PC
>hardware, so that no new technology may be brought to market without
>Hollywood's approval -- and technology in the field that is demonstrated
>to be insecure can be remotely deactivated by Hollywood's agents, who
>will have the power to destroy your lawfully acquired digital video
>devices at their whim.
Doctorow began his talk by explaining that if the BPDG gets its way, telling people how to disable their copy protection (scribble on the clearly visible inside ring on a copy protected CD) could get you a $25,000 fine per CD copied, and doing it in a remunerative way could get you locked up for many years. As a case in point, he drew our attention to a 15 year old Norwegian guy named Jon Lech Johansen in France who had already done so to get around the "regionalizing" copy protection, drawing the wrath of Hollywood and many law enforcement agencies.
That enterprising student was a victim of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the brainchild of Jack Vallenti (President of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the other participants in a previous incarnation of this evil cabal. Jack Vallenti has been Hollywood's point man in the battle against technological progress ever since the early 1980s, when he said that VCRs are the "Boston Strangler of the Entertainment Industry". In that case he was proven wrong by the march of events, because today tape rentals account for about 47% of studio revenues, whereas theater releases only generate about 25% of their cash flow. Now Jack Vallenti has declared that he wants to plug "every analog hole" in an effort to reserve to Hollywood's Studios every content creation opportunity under the sun.
Cory then asked why it is that Hollywood, a $35 Billion industry, seems to get everything they want from Congress, whereas electronics, a $600 Billion industry, is almost invisible to legislators. He supposed that the way Hollywood is all about image and parties and endless talk might have something to do with it, especially considering that engineers seem to speak a completely different language, one that is based on how things (instead of people) work.
Doctorow then explained that all this was coming out as an intellectual property issue because the Constitution is one of the few things that Congress can't easily manipulate, and Article 1, Section 8, empowers Congress "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", which protects intellectual property. In other countries, intellectual property is a moral issue, but here it works more as a shaping force for Corporate Power.
Cory Doctorow finished his talk by pointing out that to take on the MPAA in front of Congress would take at least one Fortune 100 Company and a sizable coalition. He asked that anyone who has these kinds of connections to come forward and work with him and the Electronic Frontier Foundation on the project.