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Tauzin Sets 2006 Deadline For Digital TV Signals 33

randomErr writes "Yahoo! News says that 'Television broadcasters would be required to switch entirely to digital, copy-protected signals by January 2006, under a proposal released on Thursday by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin.'"
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Tauzin Sets 2006 Deadline For Digital TV Signals

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  • What the hell is the point of this?

    If not only to control how citizens get their entertainment/news media more tightly, or to sell more decoders/TV sets, this doesn't make any sense.

    Someone please explain the logic and explain to me how this benefits Joe Average.

    I guess I'm just -1 Ignorant. :^/

    • It's so the government can re-sell the frequencies used for analog TV. I bet they'll be doing the same thing to AM/FM in 10 years.
      • Really? That's interesting.

        It makes me wonder to whom would the government be selling these frequencies to. What other uses are they good for?

        • Actually, they would be selling them to the highest bidder (it's actually an auction). And use the money from the sale to help balance the budget deficit.

          Let's see, what could it be used for (these are just off the top of my head):
          - A dedicated range for 802.11b
          - A dedicated range for WISP

          etc. etc. (I got bored).
          • ...use the money from the sale to help balance the budget deficit...
            Yeah, right.

            The auction insures that only the deepest pockets
            have access to what should be a public resource.

            In 5 years, probably only 5 companies
            will be broadcasting content. We, the great unwashed,
            will be only permitted to consume that content.
            That is, except for the personal surveillance
            feed from our telescreens.
      • Bullshit. That's what the FCC mandate is for. This law is not necissary for that. The real reason for this is payback for large campaign contributions.

    • As well as the spectrum re-selling/thought control [cant think what you don't know; you only hear about the coverups that don't work, blahblah...] mentioned already, digital signals use less spectrum space, and (if the protocol is designed well) are more tolerant to interference.


  • Free Market (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Analog Penguin ( 550933 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @04:39PM (#4292421)
    "In a statement, the Louisiana Republican said the lack of progress meant that government might have to step in. 'While we prefer marketplace solutions, clearly it's time for us to provide leadership in this area,' Tauzin said. "

    I wonder if the ink on his check is dry yet?
    • It seems contradictory. There does not appear to be any reason that the government should be concerned with whether or not people are unfairly "copying" these signals--for example, like, [] recording them on a VCR. The only group that is hurt is the corporate sector, right?

      So, shouldn't it be the marketplace that solves this, if it needs to be solved? What is the problem exactly--which businesses are complaining?

      It can't be the movie studios - most of them own or are owned by the same companies that serve as broadcasters!
    • What a laugh- analog TV works perfectly well now. Where's the government interest? I wouldn't call just another way to put out TV a technological advance that we are direly in need of. Let the marketplace figure it out- I'd say that the reason we don't have digital TV is that those producing it aren't ready to roll it out. If they can't hash it out, does the government think there will be analog TV forever? Yeah, right. If there's a reason to have it, the manufacturers and broadcasters will figure it out. If there isn't, they won't?
  • A comprimise? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stefanlasiewski ( 63134 ) <slashdot@s[ ] ['tef' in gap]> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @04:44PM (#4292468) Homepage Journal
    (... sometime in the last 5 years ...)

    TV Network owners: We won't upgrade our equipment to digital, because it's too damn expensive, and people won't switch the new TV's because they're too damn expensive

    Government: Well, what if we added this new copyright protection scheme as a comprimise. Would you upgrade your equipment if we included copyright protection?

    TV Network: Deal!
  • While I'm upset at the prospect of paying extra for something I'll never used when I buy my next TV (I have cable/sat. and have no use for an over-the-air tuner), but the fact that he wants to break all the current VCR's that exist. So rather than just forcing everyone to buy new TV's, they also want you to get a new VCR!
    • More to the point, they don't want you to have a VCR. They want you to have a VCP. Remember them?
      • More to the point, they don't want you to have a VCR. They want you to have a VCP. Remember them?

        I rented one once, from U-Haul of all places. Came in a huge ugly plastic case that you couldn't take off.

        Anyhow -- Would DMCA-ified digital TV prevent analog recording with a VCR, or just digital copying? The latter would clearly be a lot easier to implement.
    • No they don't. They want you to throw out your VCR and never buy another one.

      That said, if this changeover happens in 2006 as proposed, I will eat my hat. All of my hats. All 20 or so of them. It just ain't gonna happen with the current installed base so small.

  • by sdjunky ( 586961 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @05:12PM (#4292700)
    So now the whole mask of "we want to use the bandwidth" is off and it's in plain sight that they only want this for anti-piracy.

    At least they're coming out and saying that they're interested in the restrictions of consumer rights.

    Can't wait for the Supreme Court to get a case of somebody who is suing the government for destroying their fair use rights.
  • This is about as anti-consumer a law as I've ever heard of! The FCC is dealing with digital TV quite nicely, thank you. Congress..always sticking their F'n fingers where they shouldn't be! HEY BILLY...WHY NOT FIX THE DMCA INSTEAD???

    • OK Congress fuck people in the arse, passing laws that are at least dumb, more often destructive/oppressive. That is not news, and certainly not worth commenting on.

      As for fixing the DMCA, it will be fixed when there is a mass backlash by consumers. That will happen not when [not if] the DRM is both crackable and very often cracked by Joe Average, using relativeley cheap technology or a process similar to console "chipping". It will happen when hollywood goes after Joe Average for doing so.

      At the end of the day us geeks are fscking useless at mass action, and we're outnumbered by Joe Average. Many people simply do not realise this simple point.

      We are not fighting against our totalitarian governments, against their subservient mass media, against the MPAA/RIAA etc., because they are ultimateley powerless! Joe Average is the majority of voters/consumers/workers. The mind of Joe Average is the territory to be fought over. Governments know that. The media know that. Joe Average does not know that.

      Look back at the election of Woodrow Wilson; his anti-war stance was what got him into power. Then he decided to go to war. Within months, with the help of the Creel Commission [a.k.a. The Committee on Public Information], the public was behind him. Hitler had his arse kicked, and was most impressed with the efforts of the CPI. The rest is history... Oh and propaganda was also appealing to the ruling classes because it took care of the problems they faced from the population having that pesky new "vote" thing...


  • In other news.. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Congress has mandated that all computers will run a distribution of Linux by 2005.

    "We feel that there's not enough progress being made in the area of computer operating systems, so it is time for government to become involved," one representative was quoted as saying.

    Seem ridiculous? It does, doesn't it? Sure, operating systems and digital tv are somewhat different, so how about another example?

    Should the government step onto the internet and demand we all get rid of TCP/IP in favor for, say, a more secure protocol? Hey, maybe they could step in and force fuel cells and electric cars.

    Shit, why don't we throw it all to hell and just cash in our Constitution for some nice socialist papers?

    I could see the government becoming involved in business when lives are at stake. (Say, a company selling death machines on shoddy tires.) But lack of digital TV isn't causing the death of anyone.

    Ah well. I propose changes to our currency. It should read, "E Pluribus Unim. In god we trust. Bling bling bling!"
  • Since it will be useless in a few years. I feel bad for those who are paying in the hundreds for that kind of stuff. That's just how tech works, I guess.
  • While I understand and agree with the Pure Dripping Evil of the overall proposal, I'm not sure why I should personally be worried. As someone who does not demand the finest digital quality in my viewing or listening, I'm not incredibly bothered by an inability to make digital copies. There'll have to be analog outputs (at least on the first few generations of equipment), right? And you can't really copy-protect analog video in any way that's genuinely difficult to bypass - a TBC alone nullifies most variants of Macrovision, for starters. So, with a little help, my All-In-Wonder (or whatever) should still do everything I need.

    Or, am I missing something?

    (P.S. Sometimes I think most of the really worthwhile TV has already been made, anyhow... it's less and less important as a medium. The further I get into any area of interest - science-fiction, comedy, documentaries - the more I discover the best stuff never makes it to television in the first place. Let 'em have TV, if that's what it takes to keep them busy...)
    • "I'm not sure why I should personally be worried."

      Because in its current incarnation, digital television will come hand-in-hand with digital "rights" management. Hope you werent' looking forward to using your VCR.

      "There'll have to be analog outputs (at least on the first few generations of equipment), right?"

      Who are you kidding? There is more money to be made by eliminating analog outputs and keeping the *AA folks happy. Digital outputs will both be manditory and your only option.

      "And you can't really copy-protect analog video in any way that's genuinely difficult to bypass - a TBC alone nullifies most variants of Macrovision, for starters."

      Which is why they'll be eliminating analog ASAP. Like with Tauzin's new legislation here.

  • by alizard ( 107678 ) <alizard.ecis@com> on Friday September 20, 2002 @12:49AM (#4295206) Homepage
    If this guy really believes this, why aren't his member companies buying their own politicians? The consumer electronic companies have far more money than the RIAA/MPAA labels combined. His organization probably has a PAC... so why aren't they doing something about this?

    "Money talks, bullshit walks"... hint: this is a fine speech, most of us agree with the content... but this speech ain't talkin' to politicians.

    from Politech

    Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2002 22:35:19 -0700
    From: Declan McCullagh
    Subject: FC: CEA's Gary Shapiro: P2P file swapping is both legal and moral

    Speech by Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association.

    The Campaign to Have Copyright Interests Trump Technology and Consumer Rights

    We are at a critical juncture in history when the inevitable growth of technology is conflicting with the rising power and strength of copyright owners. How we resolve this tension between copyright and technology will define our future ability to communicate, create and share information, education and entertainment.

    Today I would like to share with you my views on this situation and the questions we must confront as we wind through this confusing, but historic maze.

    There is no doubt that this era's rapid shift to digital and other technology is changing the rules of the game. Reproduction, transmission and storage technology all are progressing exponentially, resulting in an unprecedented power to copy, send and save all forms of media. Reproduction technology has become incredibly cheap and reliable. Transmission technology, including satellite, cable, broadcast, wired or wireless, and often connecting through the Internet, has linked everyone at ever increasing speeds and competitive pricing. Storage technologies also quickly have expanded in capacity as total storage media costs have plummeted.

    With each new technology, the fears of the music and motion picture industries have grown. With television and the VCR, it was going to be the end of movies. With CDs and cassettes, it was the supposed harm from real-time transfers and one-at-a-time copies. Today's technologies make these perceived threats seem naïve and harmless. With high-speed connectivity and the Internet, it's not buying a CD and making a copy for a friend; it's downloading from a stranger or making available thousands of copies with the touch of a keystroke.

    The growth of reproduction, storage and transmission technology has terrified copyright owners. The RIAA claims that 3.6 billion songs are downloaded each month. The RIAA also estimates that $4.5 billion has been lost by the music industry due to pirating. And the motion picture industry also sees the writing on the wall. Fox Group CEO and News Corp. President Peter Chernin in an August 21 keynote speech at an Aspen conference claimed that Spiderman and the latest Star Wars movie were downloaded four million times following the weekend after their release.

    Based on these and similar threats the content community has gone on a scorched earth campaign attacking and burning several new recording and peer-to-peer technologies. They have used the Congress, media and courts to challenge the legality of technology and morality and legality of recording. In the same Aspen speech, Chernin attacked computers as untrustworthy and the Internet as primarily used for pornography and downloading.

    I believe that hardware and software companies have a mutual interest in working together, so that they can sell more products. For years, consumer electronics companies have been working with both the recording and motion picture industries on developing technological measures that meet the needs of both industries. For instance, the DVD standard includes anti-copying protection. It also includes an anti-fast forward technology designed to ensure copyright warnings are shown, but instead is being used to require consumers to sit through movie previews. CE companies also have provided digital interfaces that allow consumers to share content among their own devices while restricting unauthorized redistribution to the Internet. By protecting content at the source, content providers can be assured their intellectual property rights are respected, while consumers can enjoy unimpeded personal use. However, source protection should not be used to mislead consumers to purchase CDs that can only be played on certain CD players.

    Indeed, despite the cooperative efforts, the copyright community has declared war on technology and is using lawsuits, legislatures and clever public relations to restrict the ability to sell and use new technologies. Lawsuits have shut down file-sharing services like Napster and Aimster, and threaten peer-to-peer networks like KaZaa and Morpheus. They unsuccessfully challenged the legality of MPs recorders in the Diamond Multimedia case. They have challenged as illegal ReplayTV, a TIVO-like device, which allows television programming to be sorted and stored on a hard disc and which allows a consumer to skip commercials. In fact, one TV executive equated the skipping of commercials as "stealing" free broadcast television. The RIAA has announced that it will start suing individuals who engage in file sharing and has subpoenaed Internet access provider Verizon to identify a downloading subscriber.

    At the urging of the content community, Congress has stepped into the act. Legislation has been introduced which requires all technologies to be shaped by a government-mandated copy protection system. Other legislation allows any copyright owner to seek and destroy the posting of copyrighted products on P2P networks via personal computers connected to the Internet. Still other legislation would allow a content owner to insert an embedded watermark into the work to determine if there was infringement and, at the content owner's discretion, disable the device, even if, upon subsequent determination, the use was lawful.

    The most recent and scary development is that the United States Department of Justice is threatening to jail millions of Americans who use file- sharing services. In a presentation at the Progress and Freedom Foundation's Aspen Summit on August 21, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Malcolm said that peer-to-peer sharing is piracy and a criminal offense.

    With this pronouncement, along with similar euphemisms by the media, it is clear that the copyright community has reshaped the debate. All of a sudden, the downloading of a song to sample an artist's wares, behavior most Americans between 13 and 25 engage in regularly, has been likened to a criminal act.

    Consider the clever public relations campaign of the content community. They've changed the simple language that describes the acts at issue. It used to be called "taping", "reproducing" or "downloading", and advocates on both sides would call it "unauthorized reproduction" or "unauthorized taping". Then somehow this use of technology shifted to the more pejorative and sinister "copying". The word "copying" sounds bad. It got you in big trouble in high school on a test. "Copying" is a sister to "plagiarism" which is especially bad.

    But in the past few months, Hollywood and the music industry have shifted to different words. They now only talk about downloading as "piracy". They call it "stealing" and always use analogies to shoplifting products out of a store. The Justice Department has adopted this approach. "Stealing is stealing is stealing," said Malcolm in Aspen.

    At the same conference, Chernin echoed these themes and used the words "piracy", "shoplifting" and "stealing" repeatedly to describe downloading. He even declared that those who disagree with his views on copyright are either "amoral or self-interested".

    Another way copyright owners have distorted the debate is to tie in downloading with our national goal of broadband deployment. They argue that broadband demand will not grow until this issue is resolved. Indeed, Senators Holling's legislation is called "The Consumer Broadband and Digital Television and Promotion Act". Yet broadband deployment has little to do with songs and movies, and more to do with fast Internet speed, always- on convenience, exchanging home videos, interactivity on the web and a range of potential uses for education, medicine, business, shopping and gaming. Yet, some legislators have become confused and convinced by Hollywood that there is a connection between broadband and copyright.

    A third way that the copyright community has reshaped and redefined the debate is almost biblical in its reach. The entire theme of the copyright community is that downloading off the Web is both illegal and immoral.

    But is it either? I submit it is neither.

    Despite the assertions of the Justice Department, downloading is not illegal.

    First, fair use rights are guaranteed to consumers by statute, and applied judicially on a case-by-case basis. This means that, while some consumer practices ultimately could be adjudicated as either fair use or infringement, there is scant basis for challenging them as criminal.

    The music and film industries claim that there is no such thing as fair use "rights" in an attempt to disparage the term. They say that fair use is only an affirmative defense to copyright infringement and therefore not a right. But various recognized "rights" only may be asserted as affirmative defenses in a lawsuit. For example, in a slander suit, one may assert the First Amendment right but only as an affirmative defense; this does not diminish the fact that the right exists.

    Second, time after time, practices of individuals that were initially equated with "piracy" or "theft" have been shown to be neutral or beneficial to copyright owners, and have either been tolerated or accepted as fair use. Think of the VCR and the Supreme Court decision holding that its use to tape full movies is fully legal.

    Third, the 1997 NET Act's requirement of a total retail value of $1,000 per infringement should be taken seriously as a barrier to bringing cases against ordinary consumers. This law should not be re-interpreted, after the fact, as a criminal enforcement vehicle against consumer-to-consumer recording and "swapping" practices.

    Downloading is not immoral either. To make downloading immoral, you have to accept that copyrighted products are governed by the same moral and legal principles as real property, thus the recent and continuous reference by the copyright community to label downloading as stealing. But the fact is that real and intellectual property are different and are governed by different principles. Downloading a copyrighted product does not diminish the product, as would be the case of taking and using tangible property such as a dress. At worst, it is depriving the copyright owner of a potential sale. Indeed, it may be causing a sale (through familiarity) or even more likely, have no impact on the sale. My son often will become familiar with artists through downloading their music on the Internet and then go out and buy the CD.

    The comparison to real property fails for several other reasons. Real property is subject to ownership taxes. Real property lasts forever and can be owned forever. A copyright can be owned only for a limited period of time. Indeed, the United States Constitution declares this. More, copyright law must bow to the First Amendment that expressly allows people to use a copyrighted product without the permission of the copyright owner. This concern contributes to the statutory and judicial concept of "fair use". The First Amendment includes, not only the right to send, but also the right to receive. Indeed, in 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court in declaring the VCR a legal product, said that it could be okay to copy an entire copyrighted product. So if the Supreme Court expressly held that VCR copying in the home for non-commercial purposes is a legal activity, how is it suddenly labeled as "piracy" because the device is a computer?

    The major record labels concede that they totally have failed to transform their business models in response to the Internet. But then they whine that they "cannot compete with free", referring to the free downloading the Internet allows. While I am sympathetic to the radical shift of selling a CD with a one good song for $20 to a marketplace where consumers pick and choose which songs they want, I am not sure this is the correct approach. For one thing, you can compete with free. Purveyors of bottled water do it. America Online does it. Book retailers do it with libraries. Independent online music services say they can do it, if they can clear the rights.

    The Beatles 1 album, which contained 30-year-old songs that could have been downloaded for free from Napster-like services from day one, but nevertheless sold some 26 million copies. Why? Because people were willing to pay for the quality of a CD over the often barely acceptable sound quality of a download using P2P services.

    Of course, recording artists must make a living and should be paid. Most consumers likely would pay a reasonable amount for quality downloads, access to full catalogs and maybe some promotional items such as concert tickets or hidden tracks on a CD. Artists even can get new revenue from the Internet by identifying their fans and promoting their concerts, new releases and other products. But the music industry has made little effort to look at new business models or provide a viable and attractive alternative to the downloading services.

    The recording industry and motion picture industry should stop complaining so much and look for technological solutions to its own problems. Doesn't it make more sense to protect content at the source, using technologies that maintain consumer expectations for personal use? Content providers would be served better by working with technology companies to deploy these solutions rather than suing everyone and lobbying Congress to legislate unreasonable and consumer-unfriendly mandates.

    Despite a lack of hits and a recession, music and movie sales are holding their own. Compare this to real downfalls in other sectors from telecommunications to IT to broadcasting, and you must ask yourself if the Internet is actually a good thing for the copyright community.

    So where does this lead us? I submit that policymakers should follow some basic principles:

    First, do no harm. If we had previously heeded the concerns of the creative community, we would have no radio, no TV, no VCR, no computer, no e-mail and no Internet. Yet each of these technologies has enhanced the revenue stream for copyright owners.

    Second, advances in technology should not be restricted. We cannot even imagine today what future advances we will choke off if we artificially restrict technology. If we can envision technology connecting the poorest in the world to medical information, to education and to a better quality of life, we should be careful about stifling its growth. Advances in technology also can supply tools to content providers to help them manage digital rights in a manner that takes into account consumers' expectations.

    Third, claims of harm should be greeted with great skepticism. Not every recording is a lost sale. It actually may represent a stream of future sales. Artists from Chuck D to Janis Ian to Courtney Love support home recording rights for practical business reasons.

    Fourth, copyright owners have a high burden of proof before any technology should be restricted. Broadcasters and the motion picture industry have come close to making the case that redistribution of free, over-the-air broadcast television over the Internet is harmful to the concept of free over- the-air broadcasting. This is an area where careful legislation or regular legal review, respectful of consumer rights and expectations, may be appropriate.

    Fifth, copyright owners should continue developing ways to protect their content at the source, rather than insisting that the burden should be on the device that plays it. Perhaps they should consider a more flexible business model that focuses on keeping honest people honest. But, the corollary here is don't sell CDs that don't work on many CD players.

    Finally, any restrictions on technology should be narrowly crafted, define limitations on abuse by copyright owners and define legitimate consumer recording rights and expectations. For example, CEA supports the distance education bill presented by Congressman Darrell Issa of California and Rick Boucher of Virginia that addresses a specific IP concern rather than attempting to legislate through a one-size-fits-all approach. The Boucher- Issa bill reaffirms fair use rights and would amend the Copyright Act to ensure educators can use PCs and new technology to foster distance learning.

    The collision course between copyright owners' desire to preserve existing business models and the inevitable development of newer, better, faster and cheaper technologies need not be fatal. Our future is bright if we resist the temptation to restrict technology. Digital technology will foster a Renaissance of creativity. It will connect our world and soon allow everyone to have low-cost access to information, entertainment and education. If the play button becomes the pay button, our very ability to raise the world's standard of living and education will be jeopardized. \

    POLITECH -- Declan McCullagh's politics and technology mailing list
    You may redistribute this message freely if you include this notice.
    To subscribe to Politech:
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  • Here in norway is it already decided to switch to digital transmission. They are going to give away the first box that plug into the tv for free. You can buy addicional ones if you want a box in in your cabin or something like that. But, you have to pay a yearly subscibtion fee, even though the it isn't going to be any better than todays television offer. The fee is not volunterly, you have to pay it if you want to watch tv. The fee is going to be about 500 kroners ( about $60) This is a final decicion by the Storting (norwegian congress) but there is much discussion about it in the norwegian newspapers. Read more here html (the page is in norwegian).
  • Several years ago, 1996-7ish, the FCC was already requiering that all Broadcast transmissions be digital by 2006. I am not sure if it mentioned copy protection however.
  • tauzin bill (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gordona ( 121157 )
    The original driver was the telecommunications act back in 1996. The purpose of reclaiming the analog broadcast spectrum was to be able to resell it in order to reduce (or pay off) the national debt. Originally, this would happen only if there was 85% conversion. The new bill by Tauzin and Dingell removes the 85% requirement. It would not only add a digital tuner for broadcast to TVs, but a QAM tuner for cable as well as requiring the carriage of broadcast signals over cable (8-VSB over MPEG, my how inefficient). I think the main reason for this bill is due to the lack of interoperable standards in the affected industries. However, remember, this bill is only a draft and not going to the floor of the house anytime soon. However, in spite of the rhetoric, the consumer will get screwed in the end.

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta