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DRM hardware law gets new life, new name

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A piece of legislation proposed by Hollywood sock puppet Sen. Fritz Hollings (Democrat, South Carolina) requiring all electronic devices to contain copy-protection has finally been introduced, after being renamed to sound like something positive.

Previously known -- accurately -- as the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA), the warm and fuzzy version is now called the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA).

Sounds laudable, doesn't it? Promoting Consumers and such. What it actually promotes is federal standards for digital rights management in all electronic devices, while imposing criminal penalties for those who would dare defy it.

Here's the justification: "The lack of high quality digital content continues to hinder consumer adoption of broadband Internet service and digital television products," the bill asserts. So the reason why there's too little broadband going around isn't the greed of the providers, but the lack of bandwidth-choking content.

And to get that content onto the Internet, we need to satisfy the extravagant security expectations of the owners. Once we do that, they'll make their products available, and the public will flock to broadband like moths to a lamp in hopes of watching movies on a 15-inch monitor and listening to the soundtracks through quarter-inch speakers.

Surely this is the Holy Grail of home-entertainment.

But Hollings and Co don't stop there. They want copy controls embedded in VCRs as well. Supposedly, time-shifting will still be permitted, but it will be somehow impossible to make a digital copy of an analog transmission to prevent movies and television programs from being distributed on the Internet. Because, as we all know, there's nothing we want more than to gather round the computer and boogie.

The CBDTPA gives hardware manufacturers a year to come up with a solution acceptable to the movie and recording industries. If they fail to agree, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will decide for them how to go about it.

Naturally, Hollings' handlers in the entertainment industry are beside themselves with joy. Motion Picture Ass. of America (MPAA) President Jack Valenti and Recording Industry Ass. of America (RIAA) President Hillary Rosen have both publicly announced their delight with little Fritz.

Hollings' co-conspirators on the Hill are John Breaux (Democrat, Louisana), Dianne Feinstein (Democrat, California), Daniel Inouye (Democrat, Hawaii), Ben Nelson (Democrat, Nebraska) and Ted Stevens (Republican, Alaska). ®

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