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Hollywood wants its finger in the analog hole

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Hollywood is running another batch of ersatz legislation up the flagpole, in the hope of finding Congressmen who'll salute. The latest proposals aren't bills destined for the floor of the House so much as discussion documents intended to gauge Congressional reaction at a copyright panel hosted by the House Judiciary Committee later this week.

Of the three drafts circulated for review, two are predictable - seeking the re-introduction of the broadcast flag for digital TV broadcasts its introduction into digital satellite radio broadcasts.

But the third is a spectacularly optimistic punt that seeks to restrict the import, sale or distribution of equipment that performs analog to digital conversions.

Simple A to D, a crime? Yes, indeed - in some circumstances.

Entitled the "Analog Hole Legislation Discussion Draft" the paper proposes the introduction of an "Analog Content Security Preservation Act Of 2005", amending Title 35 of the US Code. It would give the US Patent and Trademarks Office the job of enforcing the CGMS-A rights system used on PAL broadcasts.

(In the digital successor to analog, these are handled by our old friend CPRM.)

There are exemptions for certain free-to-air broadcasts, and the whole venture is slightly moot in any case, as the US proposes to turn off analog broadcasts by 2008.

British TV viewers can be excused a chuckle at this point. Digital TV was introduced to the UK in 1999 and regulators proposed a ten year shutdown timescale for what the British spell "analogue" TV. But the more viewers got acquainted with digital TV - which has all the reliability of a Windows 98 PC and the ease of use of a sed editor - the more the public clamored for the analog shutdown date to be pushed back. So a three year timescale looks extremely optimistic.

We have to wait until Thursday to guage the reaction of Congressmen, but we can already imagine the reaction of the USPTO, as it's unexpectedly invited into a new role as hardware inspector. ®

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