Plugging the Analog Hole

No, this isn’t alt.sex.stereos, it’s even worse — it turns out the Motion Picture Association of America is intent on proving correct every paranoid Slashdotter and Lawrence Lessig devote with a proposal to regulate analog-to-digital converters. Cory Doctorow is all over this at the EFF’s Consensus at Lawyerpoint blog. According to Doctorow:

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed the “Content Protection Status Report” with the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, laying out its plan to remake the technology world to suit its own ends. The report calls for regulation of analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), generic computing components found in scientific, medical and entertainment devices. Under its proposal, every ADC will be controlled by a “cop-chip” that will shut it down if it is asked to assist in converting copyrighted material — your cellphone would refuse to transmit your voice if you wandered too close to the copyrighted music coming from your stereo.

Don’t take his word for it though, read the MPAA’s report (PDF) right from the Judiciary Committee’s web site which reads, in part,

In order to help plug the hole, watermark detectors would be required in all devices that perform analog to digital conversions.

I don’t like to swear here, but this warrants it — Holy Shit, do these people realize what they are proposing? Do these morons even think through their idiotic proposals? Doctorow highlights some of the problems,

Virtually everything in our world is copyrighted or trademarked by someone, from the facades of famous sky-scrapers to the background music at your local mall. If ADCs are constrained from performing analog-to-digital conversion of all watermarked copyrighted works, you might end up with a cellphone that switches itself off when you get within range of the copyrighted music on your stereo; a camcorder that refuses to store your child’s first steps because he is taking them within eyeshot of a television playing a copyrighted cartoon; a camera that won’t snap your holiday moments if they take place against the copyrighted backdrop of a chain store such as Starbucks, which forbids on-premises photography because its fixtures are proprietary works.

And that’s for starts. This is the sort of proposal that I’d chalk down to paranoid Slashdotters if it weren’t there in black and white on the Senate’s site. This proposal is the consumer electronic version of Mutual Assured Destruction — if the MPAA succeeds in that dream it will mean a complete end to the sort of consumer electronics American consumers are so fond of.

This proposal is simple insanity. Better to just ditch copyrights outright if this is the alternative.

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