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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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October 18, 2004

HBO freezes fair use; plugs analog hole

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Posted by Jason Schultz

Going on a trip and want to take the latest episode of The Sopranos with you? Forgetaboutit. Coming this June to a cable or satellite set top box near you, HBO will be locking down all fair use rights on their content -- whether analog or digital. You can make one copy of regular HBO content and no copies of On-Demand content:

Commencing in June, HBO will include a technology in its program services that provides copyright protection information to consumer electronic equipment connected to analog outputs of cable and satellite set-top boxes. The technology (CGMS-A -- Content Generation Management System for Analog) enables compliant digital recording devices to abide by federal digital encoding rules.

In accordance with the federal encoding rules, HBO and Cinemax subscribers will still be able to make a single copy of HBO and Cinemax linear programming, but will not be able to make any copies of HBO-On-Demand or Cinemax-On-Demand programming.

Why would you need to make extra copies? Well, if you:

* Have On Demand content down downstairs in your living room but want to watch it upstairs in the bedroom. Under the old system, you could copy it to VHS tape to "space-shift" it. Under the new system, no can do.

* Want to take On Demand content with you when you travel to watch on the plane or in your hotel room

* Have a large family where several folks want to watch the same thing at once but in different places.

These are all arguably fair uses under copyright and not illegal. But rather than let a judge decide what's legal and what's not, HBO has made the decision for you. And in doing so, they've placed a cap on fair use. No more than one copy of non-OnDemand content -- ever.

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Abuse


1. matt perkins on October 18, 2004 12:43 PM writes...

Digital recorders won't know to disable copying, if the source video signal has its CGMS/A flags removed. This product should do the trick -- get it while you can!

I don't know for sure, but there might be an "allow copying" value in CGMS/A. In that case, some CE manufacturers might choose to disallow copying except where CGMS/A specifically says it's okay to do so. So, filtering the flags might not be enough: you might have to actually introduce an allow-copying flag.

That's what's so insidious about the broadcast flag: it's 8 bits (right?), so it could be variable and dependent on anything (video data, time code, etc.). Simply removing or zeroing-out the value wouldn't defeat a measure like that. It would have to be RE'd.

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2. Alexander Wehr on October 19, 2004 2:11 AM writes...

What we as a collective need is to leverage the "save betamax" callin movement toward either action to reverse this damage before it is too late, or toward the passage of H.R.107 which would allow the workarounds necessary to preserve fair use against this assault.

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3. Branko Collin on October 19, 2004 7:45 AM writes...

There is this story in the Bible that stems from before the 'trias politica': a king Solomon had to be judge in a case where to women, brought before him, contested the parenthood of a child. He ordered a sword to be brought, and told the mothers that since he could not possibly determine who was the rightful mother, and who the fake; so instead, he would cut the child half and give each mother a half. To which the real mother sank to the floor crying, and implored the king to spare the child, even give it to the other woman if that is what it takes. Then the king knew that she was the real mother and awarded her the child.

Such wisdom! Such wily cunning! Such craftful finding of the truth through compromise! Many of today's politicians like to see themselves as modern day King Solomons who, because their intellects soar high above those of the common people, are able to look at all parties and come up with a compromise.

The people who try to achieve something in the capitals of the world have accepted this as status quo and aim for the compromise. And this is what ruffles my feathers. H.R. 107 is intended to limit the damage of bad law. It would be much better to destroy that bad law. Instead of cutting the child in half, it should go to its rigthful parent.

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4. Branko Collin on October 19, 2004 7:50 AM writes...

BTW, the many spelling mistkaes in my comments are not my fault, but the by-product of inadequate blogging software, that will not allow me to preview, will drive up my blood pressure by telling me that I forgot to fill out an obligatory field while presenting me with all empty fields (luckily, the web browser that I use retains some of that information in its history), and so on, and so on.

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5. KirbyMeister on October 28, 2004 3:32 PM writes...

This is technically impossible, you cannot plug the analog hole. The content is still unencrypted itself - that is, we can easily modify the flags no problem, just like how we can strip out Macrovision - and there's no such thing as analog encryption that's compatible with current TV setups - except for mabey the scrambling used on some cable channels, but even so the content eventually must be unscrabled before it hits your TV.

Of course, this system works by telling your TiVo to betray you. This is why I pump the content directly into my PC - Neither HBO, nor NFL can tell me what to do when I record it into my computer.

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6. insaneinthemembrane on November 1, 2004 12:09 AM writes...

youse all freaking stupid, wtf are you talkin 'bout here. If you want to do any of the things this lamer ed. says yo ucan't do, you can just using a "move". I don't see hbo sain that you can't make a copy, just take it with you or whatevr to spaceship it.

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7. insaneinthemembrane on November 1, 2004 12:10 AM writes...

youse all freaking stupid, wtf are you talkin 'bout here. If you want to do any of the things this lamer ed. says yo ucan't do, you can just using a "move". I don't see hbo sain that you can't make a copy, just take it with you or whatevr to spaceship it.

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