[opendtv] Re: Analog Hole Bill Would Impose a Secret Law

  • From: Mark Schubin <tvmark@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2006 09:59:37 -0500

I'm opposed to analog-hole-plugging, and I agree with you that the 
questions you pose are legitimate ones for the technology providers to 
have to answer.

But I think the license arrangement makes sense IF there is to be such 
protective technology.  The creators of the technology need to be 
allowed to try to prevent it from being hacked.

Long ago, in the early days of carriage of premium cable programming by 
satellite, there was a battle between HBO and Warner Amex Satellite 
Entertainment Company (now part of the CBS/Viacom empire) over 
scrambling.  HBO favored a purely technological solution, with 
difficult-to-break encryption.  WASEC favored a trivial, easy-to-bypass 
(and cheap) system with just enough technology to prove that it had been 
bypassed, allowing a legal basis for going after signal stealers.  I 
favored the WASEC approach, though HBO won.

Similarly, on content protection, I'm in favor of watermarks and 
fingerprints that will allow content producers to go after violators but 
not blocking technology apt to screw all sorts of things up.


Monty Solomon wrote:

>Analog Hole Bill Would Impose a Secret Law
>Monday January 23, 2006 by Ed Felten
>If you've been reading here lately, you know that I'm no fan of the 
>Sensenbrenner/Conyers analog hole bill. The bill would require almost 
>all analog video devices to implement two technologies called CGMS-A 
>and VEIL. CGMS-A is reasonably well known, but the VEIL content 
>protection technology is relatively new. I wanted to learn more about 
>So I emailed the company that sells VEIL and asked for a copy of the 
>specification. I figured I would be able to get it. After all, the 
>bill would make compliance with the VEIL spec mandatory - the spec 
>would in effect be part of the law. Surely, I thought, they're not 
>proposing passing a secret law. Surely they're not going to say that 
>the citizenry isn't allowed to know what's in the law that Congress 
>is considering. We're talking about television here, not national 
>After some discussion, the company helpfully explained that I could 
>get the spec, if I first signed their license agreement. The 
>agreement requires me (a) to pay them $10,000, and (b) to promise not 
>to talk to anybody about what is in the spec. In other words, I can 
>know the contents of the bill Congress is debating, but only if I pay 
>$10k to a private party, and only if I promise not to tell anybody 
>what is in the bill or engage in public debate about it.
>Worse yet, this license covers only half of the technology: the VEIL 
>decoder, which detects VEIL signals. There is no way you or I can 
>find out about the encoder technology that puts VEIL signals into 
>The details of this technology are important for evaluating this 
>bill. How much would the proposed law increase the cost of 
>televisions? How much would it limit the future development of TV 
>technology? How likely is the technology to mistakenly block 
>authorized copying? How adaptable is the technology to the future? 
>All of these questions are important in debating the bill. And none 
>of them can be answered if the technology part of the bill is secret.
>Which brings us to the most interesting question of all: Are the 
>members of Congress themselves, and their staffers, allowed to see 
>the spec and talk about it openly? Are they allowed to consult 
>experts for advice? Or are the full contents of this bill secret even 
>from the lawmakers who are considering it?
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