Hollywood has fielded a shockingly ambitious piece of “Analog Hole” legislation while everyone was out partying in costume. Under a new proposed Analog Hole bill, it will be illegal to make anything capable of digitizing video unless it either has all its outputs approved by the Hollywood studios, or is closed-source, proprietary and tamper-resistant.

The idea is to make it impossible to create an MPEG from a video signal unless Hollywood approves it.

This is like the Broadcast Flag on steroids. The Broadcast Flag only covered TV receivers. This covers everything with an analog video input. If this had been around in 1976, the VCR would have been illegal. Today, it would ban Mythtv, every tuner-card in the market, and boxes like ElGato’s eyeTV the Slingbox and the Orb and the vPod. This is a proposal to turn huge classes of technology into something that exists only at the sufferance of the studios.

And what do they suffer? Not much. Here are a couple of the stupid ideas we can expect to see protected through rules like this, all drawn from real discussions with DRM lobbyists from the MPAA:

1. You can “accept a contract” by changing the channel. If you change the channel from 3 to 4, and the show on channel 4 has a signal that says it can’t be recorded, then by watching channel 4, you’re “making an agreement” to waive your time-shifting right in exchange for the show. This is like a shopkeeper hiding a “I reserve the right to punch you in the nose” sign somewhere in his shop and then randomly clobbering his customers, answering any complaints by saying that you agreed to it when you came through the door.

2. Everything with value has a price-tag. Today you can rewind TV, fast-forward it, skip the ads, move it to another device in your house, or stream it to your web-browser on the road. Tomorrow all of these features will only exist if they are permitted, on a case by case basis. The studios will “enable the business-model” of charging you money for the stuff that you get for free today. Here’s a quote: “Doing this stuff has value, and if it has value, we should be able to charge money for it.” They do indeed have value: you currently enjoy that value. Under this proposal, the value will be stolen from you and sold back to you piecemeal.

By Cory Doctorow

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