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CEA Chief Criticizes 'Analog Hole' Bill

28 Jun, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

The latest attempt at policing the “analog hole” is a solution in search of a problem, said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association.

Shapiro testified Tuesday in front of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, imploring lawmakers to take a closer look at the inherent flaws of copy-protection bill HR 4569.

The bill, titled The Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005 and introduced in December of last year, seeks to protect digital content from being pirated if it is played back on an analog device — the “analog hole.”

But, HR 4569 is flawed for many reasons, Shapiro said.

For one, the bill is far too broad and does not even deign to define what an offending device would be, Shapiro said.

Instead, the bill creates a caveat that would require the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to determine if a device is in arrears of the law — after its enactment.

“This is potentially the broadest mandate ever put into copyright law,” he said.

And why isn't there a better definition in the bill, Shapiro questioned.

“Either the proponents are understandably afraid to admit the breadth of the hardware or software to be covered; or technology is changing so rapidly that the proponents are afraid to put a definition in the bill,” he said. “Either of these reasons should bring consideration of a broadcast flag mandate to a full stop.”

The bill also calls for the adoption of a watermarking technology called Veil, which Shapiro also called into question. Watermarks work in a hardware-software ecosystem and search for codes and marks that identify pirated or illegal digital content to render it unplayable.

But Veil is still an enigma, Shapiro said.

“You cannot even assess the Veil technology unless you pay a $10,000 fee and promise not to discuss it,” he said. “So how can Congress mandate a technology which is incapable of being discussed and reviewed? Asking Congress to mandate a secret technology which may affect visual performance and illegitimate many products is really quite an ask.”

Meanwhile, by the MPAA's own admission, 90% of pirated physical movies are from camcorders, Shapiro noted. And, according to an AT&T study, 77% of movies on P2P networks came from internal Hollywood leaks.

Neither of these have anything to do with the analog hole, Shapiro noted.

Most importantly, Americans are already evolving as eager users of the kinds of technologies HR 4569 could potentially stymie, he said.

“The video camera, the Internet, mixing technology, video blogging, mashing, and home video editing, have made millions of Americans creators and fostered Web sites like iTunes, YouTube and others,” Shapiro said. “These new breed of Americans are your constituents and they are our consumers. They like to TiVo, time shift, place shift and manage their content and I can't imagine they want the law changed to deny them this right.”

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