On this theme of corporate consistency I'd like to continue by looking at H.R. 4569, the Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005, which proves the point I've made many times over the years, that when it comes to technology, government doesn't really know what it is doing. H.R. 4569, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on December 16th, is intended to protect the intellectual property rights of movie studios by MAKING ANALOG-TO-DIGITAL CONVERSION ILLEGAL.Whose interests are the pols in Washington representing? Who comes up with these ideas? The problem is that most people don't read Slashdot or Arstechnica and have no ideas that their "fair use" rights are being stepped on like this.
I am not making this up.
Under the Act as proposed, manufacturers will have one year after passage to stop making devices that convert analog signals like music and video into digital forms unless those forms preserve some original Digital Rights Management technology present in presumably the pre-analog stage.
What this is about, then, isn't making it illegal to use a digital recorder to record from analog microphone. Heck, that would destroy the music industry. Congress's thinking (if we dare call it that -- I see no flashes of synapses firing) is that media are going digital more and more and the greatest opportunity for snatching content is during the actual performance when, for the sake of driving a screen or a speaker, the digital signal goes analog.
What's covered by this proposed law are things like TiVO and RePlay Digital Video Recorders, TV tuner cards for your PC, software intended to record audio or video streams, or just about any device or program you might use to actually implement that part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that says you have the right (though soon not the equipment) to backup or media-shift your own music and movies.
This is law-making at its worst. It isn't burning books, but very close to that since one could see how scanners, too, will be outlawed, making for some people the production of books more difficult. And of course it simply won't work. Since the act doesn't require destroying existing TV tuner cards, then the half dozen I own ought to be worth plenty on eBay. Same for every kind of DVR you can think of. And some people will still make their own devices, which won't be illegal as far as I can see, as long as they don't offer them for sale. We'll see TV tuner cards for sale minus a single resistor, thus turning them from products and into kits for, well, something. Could it be a TV tuner? Nah.
And of course the bill completely ignores the fact that the Internet is a global network. Expect our friends in Canada to create a robust industry in grabbing signals from U.S. radio and TV stations and feeding them back across the border, just as we can expect the French, who this week pretty much took all restrictions off peer-to-peer file sharing, to provide us lots of free music.
This is political posturing and special interest pandering at best and is unlikely to do much to protect intellectual property rights while doing quite a bit to alienate folks who actually understand the breathtaking inanity of what's being proposed.
Which sadly reminds me of a political fundraising breakfast years ago at the Yale Club in New York City. Bill Bradley was trying to run for President and raising money as fast as he could with events like this. Comedian Bill Cosby was there in the audience. "Bill, you are a comic, tell us a joke," asked Bradley.
"Senator, you are a politician, first tell us a lie," said Cos.
From the December 22nd "i, cringely" column: