New Analog Hole Bill

Via EFF DeepLinks, the news that a new “Digital Transition Content Security Act” is being proposed in the US – specifically targetting video ADCs (see discussion of the analogue (analog) hole).

“Digitizers and digital media devices that won’t jump through the specified outrageous regulatory hoops – automatically deleting protected analog content after ninety minutes; outputting only “down-rezzed” images, and satisfying “robustness criteria” that weld the hood shut against user modification and open source developers – are expected to simply turn off and refuse to convert watermark-protected analog video.”

I wonder how all of this will be presented to the consumer. Will the device merely degrade the quality, or switch off, with no explanation? Or will it try to ‘educate’ the user with all-caps MPAA warnings in red text? Will it actually try and make the user feel guilty?

Update (21 December): Some more details, from ZDNet:

• Digital video recorders with analog tuners or inputs would only be allowed to record “copy-prohibited” shows for 90 minutes. After that, the digital recording must be “destroyed or otherwise rendered unusable.”

• Analog video output of “copy-prohibited” recordings would be permitted as long as it was to a VGA output with a resolution of no more than 720 pixels by 480 pixels.

• Violations would be punished by civil penalties between $200 and $2,500 per product. Commercial offenders would be imprisoned for up to five years and fined not more than $500,000.

Standing back a bit, from a Christmas holiday-type relaxed perspective, I really am finding it difficult to comprehend just how arbitrary all of this is—maybe that’s the reason why the whole idea of architectures of control interests me so much. How can a law change how a product works? It just seems ridiculous. I remember learning as a child that there were certain radio frequencies to which it was illegal to tune in (police transmissions, etc.) and thinking, “How can that be? How can man create laws that prevent natural phenomena? How is anyone going to know if I’ve listened in? What if I accidentally create the right L-C value from randomly selecting components? Would I have to ‘prove’ that it was an accident? How would I do that?”

Somehow the very specific, and entirely arbitrary nature of the provisions of this ‘Digital Transition Content Security Act’ [PDF] similarly make me both laugh and shake my head in wonderment.

Trying to legislate on analogue-to-digital conversion seems like trying to legislate that pi=3, or that there must be no more hurricanes, or that people mustn’t hum tunes they’ve heard on the radio, or something equally stupid. It won’t make any difference.

Best stock up on ADC chips now though…