When there's an issue called the analog hole and the MPAA is offering live demos of said hole in its Sin City hotel room (at CES), what's a blog writer to do?
...the practice of converting analog content into digital format without embedded copy-protection instructions. Hollywood studios are concerned about the potential for mass online redistribution of entertainment programming via the hole.
And when Hollywood studios are concerned, presto, legislation appears. House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner and the committee's top Democrat, John Conyers, have introduced a bill (H.R. 4569), that would put locks on analog conversion devices. As the LA Times editorialized last week, the problem with the legislation is that:
"it would give Hollywood unprecedented control over what people do with the programs that come into their homes. Studios could force TiVos and other digital recorders to erase pay-per-view or on-demand movies stored for more than 90 minutes. New computers could be prevented from showing copyprotected programs, such as a movie downloaded from an online store, in high definition."
The editorial from Hollywood's home town daily paper concludes:
"In the meantime, if the goal is to deter illegal copying, Hollywood should work harder to help viewers watch what they want when they want to. And Congress should understand that piracy cannot be curbed simply by giving Hollywood more control."
ZDNet's David Berlind feels the same way, and he also gives play to a start-up CEO who says that his digital VCR-like product would be outlawed if the proposed legislation was passed. And, Sun's president Jonathan Schwartz had an interesting twist on the analog hole based on a convo with a movie studio type back in August.
With Sun's Open Media Commons, they have a better idea to focus on authenticating users instead of devices. This would ensure that if a consumer buys digital content that they can enjoy it on any device while protecting the digital asset from mass piracy.
UPDATE: Thanks to Declan McCullagh, we found comment (#96 on this page) from Congressman Conyers buried in the comment section of his blog (which, btw, it notable and laudable for its openness). He takes a first shot at defending the legislation:
We are now in a debate about whether copyright owners have a right to limit uses of the content they own the rights to; if so, what limitations are appropriate and how we ensure that those limitations are respected. One answer is found in the iPod and iTunes music store. Music purchased through the music store is subject to limitations which iTunes and the iPod attempt to ensure aren’t violated.
We are engaged in a debate about whether similar technology that recognizes limitation imposed by the copyright owner should be required in other devices. My cosponsorship of this bill is intended to start that debate, not end it.