Cory Doctorow has written a tremendous piece (The Digital Video Broadcasting' Project Content Protection and Copy Management: a stealth attack on consumer rights and competition.) about the work being done in the EU behind closed doors to force you to accept less in the coming digital TV age and to take away basic rights you thought you had. It's a big long piece so I've extracted the main summary points. But even that is hard to get worked up about so here's the management summary.

For 20 years now we've grown used to being able to record an ITV program on Sunday night and watch it on Monday. While watching it, we'll fast forward through the adverts. If our mother missed it, we'll lend her the tape. And for those favourite programs like Black Adder we'll build our own library for a rainy day.

The big media corporations are using the EU to try and make sure we can never do this again and to make it a criminal offence to try. They want the VCR manufacturer to sell you a box that will record ER but not 24; that will stop you lending the result; that will force you to watch the adverts; and will expire your copy of all the Black Adder episodes after 6 months. And crucially, to be able to change the rules after you've bought the box. Last week 24 would record. This week it won't.

In order to do this, they have to lock down every device that might be able to receive or display the TV picture. That includes your computer, your computer monitor, your xbox, your mobile phone, your psp, your portable media player. And that means that every electronic device with a screen will have to be certified CPCM friendly. Even the ones you build yourself. And every operating system whether from MS, Apple, Linux or embedded from Palm or Phoenix will similarly have to prevent anyone from writing software that could circumvent it.

And this isn't just a computing standard, it's proposed to be the law, with criminal consequences if you break it. So bye, bye, general purpose computing.

Now it's pretty hard to know what a private consumer can do about this, but you might start by writing to your elected representative and making it clear that people who take away the right to watch TV how we like it, don't get re-elected.

Anyway here's the bullet points.

* DVB creates digital television specifications for use in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Australia
* A DVB project called Content Protection and Copy Management (CPCM) goes beyond the customary work of setting television standards to set out specifications for restricting how television programmes are used after reception
* CPCM represents a grave danger to nations that mandate it as part of their digital television strategies

About DVB, digital television, and the broadcast flag
* CPCM is the DVB's answer to the failed American Broadcast Flag, an attempt to buy the studios' co-operation with the digital TV transition by offering them control over DTV devices
* The studios have no credible new threat from DTV, nor is there any reason to believe that they will avoid DTV in the absence of a CPCM regime
* It is crucial to keep CPCM from being mandated in national laws

CPCM overview
* CPCM's main areas of specification are Usage State Information (complex instructions for restricting use after reception), definitional elements such as "Authorised Domain" (a proxy for one household's worth of devices), and compliance (rules that all manufacturers are required to follow in implementing CPCM)
* CPCM is intended to form the basis of regulatory mandates in Europe, Australia and parts of Asia and Latin America
* CPCM exists to "enable business models" for rightsholders, even if doing so means destroying the business models of some manufacturers

CPCM and copyright
* Copyright has many limitations, exceptions and exemptions that allow the public to make "unauthorised" uses of copyrighted works
* CPCM does not respect copyright: it runs roughshod over the public's rights in the copyright bargain, allowing rightsholders to misappropriate any exemption they desire
* Coupled with a regulatory mandate, this amounts to permission to write private laws to underpin business-models, at the public's expense

CPCM and competition
* CPCM's interoperability with other technologies will be limited by contracts that ensure that no disruptive entrants to the market are permitted
* These licensing regimes limit implementers' freedom to contract with other technology vendors
* Historically, these licensing regimes limit innovation in the industries to which they are applied

CPCM and consumer rights
* It will be impossible to know, a priori, whether a CPCM device will allow you to use it in the way you intend on using it
* Even if a CPCM device does work "out of the box," its functionality can be constrained at a later date by disabling its features or activating USI in programming that limits a desired feature

CPCM and free/open source software
* CPCM's robustness requirement will make it impossible to implement CPCM in free and open source software (FOSS) and hence FOSS programmes will necessarily be precluded from the market if CPCM is mandated into national law
* The right of programmers to publish their work through FOSS regimes is often equivalent to other forms of scientific publishing and is often protected under free speech laws and traditions
* The CPCM robustness regime will therefore stifle free and open source software and the scientific inquiry that relies upon it

The Broadcast Flag, the Broadcasters' Treaty and CPCM
* CPCM is the latest salvo in a global campaign to restrict consumer rights that encompasses US initiatives like the Broadcast Flag and WIPO (UN) initiatives like the Broadcasters' Treaty
* CPCM encompasses many failed US regulatory initiatives and the move to encase it in international treaty obligations will likely be used as leverage to get these initiatives reintroduced in the USA
* CPCM compromises national self-determination by allowing US culture-exporting companies to dictate public policy [from: JB Ecademy]

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[ 04-Oct-05 12:10pm ]