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[Discuss-gnuradio] "Analog Hole" Bill to impose secret requirement?

From: Eric Blossom
Subject: [Discuss-gnuradio] "Analog Hole" Bill to impose secret requirement?
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 09:37:51 -0800
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.6i

[First seen on the Telecom Digest]:


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 it.

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 security.

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 video.

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?


Where it is a duty to worship the sun, it is pretty sure to be a
crime to examine the laws of heat. -John Morley, statesman and
writer (1838-1923)

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