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EFFector - Volume 15, Issue 10 - ALERT: Act Now to Stop BPDG From Hobbling Digital TV


EFFector - Volume 15, Issue 10 - ALERT: Act Now to Stop BPDG From Hobbling Digital TV

EFFector       Vol. 15, No. 10,       April 5, 2002
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424 
In the 210th Issue of EFFector:

  * ALERT: Act Now to Stop BPDG From Hobbling Digital TV [global]
  * ALERT: Further Update on House Digital Music Alert [US]
  * ALERT: ICANN Seeks Comments on Reform [global]
  * Court Hears Argument on Constitutionality of DMCA
  * EFF's "Consensus at Lawyerpoint" Blog and Alphabet Soup Contest
  * Exchange Ideas with EFF Founders Kapor & Barlow

For more information on EFF activities & alerts:

To join EFF or make an additional donation:
EFF is a member-supported nonprofit. Please sign up as a member today!




Electronic Frontier Foundation ACTION ALERT

(Issued: April 5, 2002 / Deadline: April 17, 2002)


Well, Hollywood's at it again. This time, the entertainment giants are
meeting behind closed doors with key consumer electronics and computer
companies. Using the rubric of eliminating "piracy," this semi-secret
group will set the standards for over-the-air broadcast signals of
digital television (DTV), the new TV format that will replace current
broadcasts by the year 2006.

While the broadcasts will remain unencrypted, Hollywood is determined
to cripple the equipment that can actually receive the broadcasts.
Through the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group (BPDG), an industry
forum meeting in Los Angeles, Hollywood is writing a "technical
standard" that will restrict digital television equipment -- TVs, VCRs,
personal video recorders, and computer "tuner cards" -- capable of
receiving digital TV broadcasts.

The BPDG is determined to exclude the public from its discussions.
Members of the press are not permitted in BPDG and CPTWG (Content
Protection Technology Working Group--BPDG's mother organization)
meetings. In order to attend BPDG meetings, one has to come (in person)
to Los Angeles and pay a $100 fee -- per meeting. There are no call-in
numbers and no public minutes or records of what takes place. In fact,
in order to find out that BPDG existed, you had to be a member of one
of a handful of trade associations, or be present in person at one of a
handful of industry conferences. There was no press release and there
is still no public web site run by BPDG or any participating
organization (except EFF). BPDG had been meeting for months before
references to it were made in recent Congressional testimony regarding
the SSSCA and CBDTPA legislation.

Let Hollywood's self-appointed technology cops know what you think of
restricting broadcast television!

What YOU Can Do Now:

  * EFF encourages you to write to the Drafting Committee working on
    these rules to let them know what you think. To date, the Drafting
    Committee has received only the opinions of major companies -- not
    of small businesses or of users. You can read the drafts of the
    rules they've promulgated (see below) and respond specifically to
    the technical details. Feel free to use the EFF's sample letter
    below as a starting point for your comments. You should also feel
    free to write your own letter about general issues related to
    BPDG's work.
    Let the BPDG Drafting Committee know that you are concerned about
    their efforts to control your use of free over-the-air television
    broadcasts, and the long-term effects of government mandates on
    innovation. Please be polite and concise, but firm.
  * Contact your legislators about this issue. For information on how
    to contact your legislators and other government officials, see
    EFF's "Contacting Congress and Other Policymakers" guide at:
  * Join EFF! For membership information see:

Sample Letter:

Use this sample letter as a model (please do not send it verbatim), and
send your own letter to:

BPDG Drafting Committee

    Dear BPDG Drafting Committee:
    I'm writing to object to what the BPDG is doing -- meeting in
    private to bargain away my rights as a consumer and the rights of
    engineers to create the best possible products for me.
    You're creating a future where innovation and consumers' choices
    will take a back seat to copyright holders' fears. You're setting a
    precedent for government involvement in technology where open
    competition is set aside and winners and losers are chosen, not by
    competition or by giving the public a choice, but by a bureaucrat
    or by an "industry consensus".
    This precedent sets the stage for other mandates on the design of
    PCs, software, and computer networks, with implications far beyond
    television broadcast. Jack Valenti is already talking about the
    "analog hole" and looking for a new mandate to prevent
    digitizing-without-a-license. We need to draw the line where it was
    drawn in 1984: if a device -- like a VCR or something as-yet
    uninvented -- serves a legitimate consumer use then its
    manufacture, sale and improvement is legal, even if it frightens
    Mr. Valenti.
    I have the right to time-shift television programs, to space-shift
    them, to format-shift them, and to use technology to help me make
    the most of free over-the-air TV programming. I should have my
    choice of any technology that helps me make a legitimate use -- and
    plenty of manufacturers are prepared to give it to me.
    When technology companies want to build products that enable my
    legitimate use, it's not your business to get in their way. If the
    electronics companies represented at CPTWG don't care to sell me
    the best possible products, I want the right to turn to other
    companies who will continue to put my interests first. Equipment
    subject to a mandate is going to be less capable, more expensive,
    take longer to invent, and prevent user-serviceability. New devices
    under such a mandate will lack even the features of currently
    available digital TV equipment -- so you're arranging for
    technology to get worse, not better.
    The standards you're creating have no conceivable technical purpose
    except as raw material for legislation or regulation; there isn't
    even the faintest pretense that they're "purely technical" and free
    of policy implications.
    BPDG is working closely with people whose job is to get what you
    come up with enacted into law. You're creating legislation in
    private to spring upon us in the hope we won't notice.
    I should not be punished in advance for the possibility that
    someone else will commit a crime. That's exactly what technology
    mandates do; they undermine my rights even though there's no
    indication that I've done, or will do, anything wrong. They take
    away my choices. They impose costs on me. They slow down innovation
    and give the entertainment industy veto power over technologists.
    They treat me like a criminal.
    I don't want to be treated like a criminal.
    [Your name;
    include full address for maximum effectiveness]

Please remember to be polite but firm. Ranting, swearing, or lack of
clear focus and resolve will not make a good impression. Try to make it
brief (1 page or less written, or a few sentences spoken) and clear,
without getting into nitpicky details. Re-casting the letter in your
own words will be more effective than copy-pasting our sample.

Activists Around the World

This alert is mostly for U.S. residents, but the techonology policy
issue and its effects will be felt globally, so non-U.S. activists
should send in letters as well.


Since the FCC has mandated that broadcasts will remain unencrypted,
Hollywood is determined to seal any device capable of touching digital
video in layers of tamper-proof laws and innovation-dampening
"standards." They call themselves the Broadcast Protection Discussion
Group (BPDG), and they're writing a "technical standard" that will
restrict digital television equipment -- TVs, VCRs, personal video
recorders, and computer tuner cards -- capable of receiving digital TV

The standard BPDG is developing is a dense technical document called
the "BPDG Compliance and Robustness Rules". Here "compliance" means
that a device will do what Hollywood wants (as opposed to what its
owner wants); "robustness" means that it will be difficult (and
illegal!) for the owner to modify the device. The result is that you'll
get equipment which is less functional, less flexible, more expensive,
less interoperable, and harder to fix, modify, or upgrade.


New brief EFF introduction to BPDG:

"Consensus At Lawyerpoint" -- EFF news site with regular BPDG
updates, docs:

Copy Protection Technical Working Group, the parent organization
of the BPDG:

Charter of Broadcast Protection Discussion Group:

5C consortium introduction/proposal/rationale for BPDG's work:

Current discussion draft of BPDG Compliance and Robustness Rules:

Current drafts of language to ban all "non-compliant" devices and

CAFE Campaign:

This drive to contact BPDG Drafting Committee with your objections to
Hollywood control of digital media technology is part of a larger
campaign to highlight intellectual property industry assaults against
the public's fair use rights, and what you can do about it.

Check the EFF Campaign for Audivisual Free Expression (CAFE) website
regularly for additional alerts and news:

About EFF:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties
organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in
1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to
support free expression, privacy, and openness in the information
society. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of
the most linked-to websites in the world:


Seth Schoen, EFF Staff Technologist
  +1 415-436-9333 x107

Cory Doctorow, EFF Outreach Coordinator
  +1 415 436 9333 x106



The House subommittee fax issue, reported last EFFector, has been
resolved. Your comments on the future of digital music should now go to
the chair and ranking minority member of the committee, and by fax only
(at staffers' request):

House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual

Rep. Howard Coble +1 202-225-3673

Rep. Howard Berman +1 202-225-3196

For full text of alert, see:



(Deadline: April 29, 2002)

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is
seeking public comments for a committee review on ICANN's mission,
structure, and processes.

This review comes on the heels of President M. Stuart Lynn's proposal
"The Case for Reform," which acknowledges ICANN's shortcomings and
determines that restructuring is neccesary.

Lynn's plan would drastically reduce public representation in the Board
of Directors by eliminating the At Large Directors, who are elected to
represent the global community of Internet users.

The Committee on ICANN Evolution and Reform is studying possible
structural changes, and have called for public comments, due by April
29, relating to how the organization may be more successful in its
mission. Their request reads as follows:

(1) What is or should be ICANN's mission? In this regard, please use
the recent staff posting as your starting point, and tell us (a) which
if any of the activities listed there should not be part of ICANN's
mission, (b) whether there are additional activities not listed that
should be part of ICANN's mission, and (c) what mechanisms are
available, once ICANN's mission statement is finalized, to minimize the
risk that ICANN will stray beyond those boundaries.

(2) Are the issues raised in Stuart Lynn's report a correct perception
of the problems facing ICANN? If not, why not? What are the real

(3) Are the specific suggested reforms set forth in that report
appropriate, and likely to be workable and effective? If not, why not?
What are your ideas for workable and effective alternatives?

(4) Assuming you believe that structural and procedural reforms are
necessary to ensure that ICANN carries out its mission, what transition
mechanisms or approaches should be used to migrate from the status quo
to the future environment? Over what time period should this migration
take place?

Comments can be forwarded to the Committee in three different ways:

1. Substantive submissions can be made to
All submissions made will be reviewed, sorted by subject, indexed, and
posted on the ICANN forum web site. This mechanism is intended to
promote thoughtful community discussion of the issues involved in the
ICANN reform process

2. The Committee has also established an e-mail address ( which can be used for direct communications to the
Committee, including both inquiries and comments regarding the
Committee's report and proposals for the Committee's consideration.
Submissions to this address will not be routinely posted.

3. Finally, the existing web-based forum on President Lynn's proposal
will remain available to all who wish to use it. This forum is
automatically updated and will not be sorted in any way.

The Committee encourages all interested parties to offer their views on
the important and complicated subject of ICANN evolution and reform. It
will appreciate all the help it can get in formulating recommendations.

For more information, please see:

Announcement - Committee on ICANN Evolution and Reform Seeks Public

ICANN mission ("recent staff posting" of question 1):

President's Report: ICANN Ð The Case for Reform:

ICANN Public Comment Forum on President Lynn's proposal:

New York Times - "Plan to Change Internet Group Is Criticized as



After denying a motion by defendant to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction
on March 27, Judge Whyte of the Federal District Court in San Jose
heard argument, Monday, April 1, about the constitutionality of the
DMCA. Elcomsoft, the Russian company that employs programmer Dmitry
Sklyarov, is still facing criminal prosecution for offering software
that allows Adobe eBook customers to lend, space-shift, time-shift,
make backup copies, print and otherwise make fair and non-infringing
use of eBooks. The government argued that the DMCA flatly bans
providing software that can make these legitimate uses because the same
software can also be used by recipients to engage in copyright

Elcomsoft brought two constitutional challenges: the first claiming
that the statute violated the Due Process clause of the constitution
because it was too vague; the second claiming that the statute violated
the First Amendment by improperly restricting the publication of
computer software, which is itself speech, and by preventing fair use
of eBooks, something protected by the First Amendment. EFF submitted an
amicus brief in support of Elcomsoft's First Amendment motion, as did
over 35 law professors.

Judge Whyte asked few questions, but was clearly engaged in the case.
The next hearing in the case is on April 15, 2002 and the parties are
hopeful that he will issue a ruling on these motions and on the two
motions heard in mid-March before the hearing.

Media Coverage:,1283,51460,00.html

Case Documents:



What happens when Hollywood, Congress, and the consumer electronics and
computer industries get together to squish the fair use rights of the
little guy (or gal)?

It's alphabet soup time! (No, say it isn't so!)

Congress' first legislative proposal to lock down digital devices so
they could throw out the noninfringing fair-use baby with the piracy
bathwater was Senator Hollings' Security Systems Standards and
Certification Act. This law had a pronounceable and memorable acronym
SSSCA, sneaky snaky legislative proposal that it was.

When SSSCA got trounced by legislators and consumers alike, Hollings
resorted to the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act
with the unpronounceable and impossible to remember acronym CBDTPA,
designed no doubt to facilitate consumer understanding of and comment
on the proposed legislation while threatening industry with
Congressional action if they can't work out the details of the lock
down mandate amongst themselves.

Trying to prevent Congress from dictating the lock down, consumer
electronics industry backsliders are acquiescing to Hollywood mogul
demands by proposing partisan technology standards in the Copyright
Protection Technical Working Group (CPTWG) and its sorry offspring the
Broadcast Protection Discussion Group (BPDG).

In an attempt to clarify the true meaning of this alphabet soup -- or
at least to have some fun -- we're offering a free vintage EFF T-shirt
to those three people who provide the most interesting and memorable
alternative decodings of these three acronyms:


To get you started, consider this decoding suggested by Ian Goldberg
and Kat Hanna for CBDPTA:

"Consumers Better Dump This Pernicious Act"

You can submit your contest entries at

And while you're at it, check out the EFF's new blog about the
Broadcast Protection Discussion Group, called "Consensus At
Lawyerpoint". This is the EFF's first-ever blog, the brainchild of new
EFF staffer Cory Doctorow of blogging fame.

Consensus At Lawyerpoint covers the efforts of Hollywood -- with the
complicity of consumer electronics and computer companies -- to impose
a new government mandate for copy controls in digital TV devices. This
mandate would outlaw tuner cards for digital HDTV, unless they included
DRM (and prevented the end-user from getting a cleartext recording).
PVRs and VCRs might be allowed, but only if all their outputs were
encrypted. Since all TV broadcasting in the U.S. is supposed to be
digital by 2006, this could have an enormous effect on technology and
on the competition of video standards in the marketplace.

So, enter the contest and check out EFF's new Consensus at Lawyerpoint
blog at



You are invited to join an intimate group of fifteen for a lively
evening of fine food, history and conversation with the original EFF
co-founders, Mitch Kapor and John Perry Barlow. This exchange of ideas
will take place on Tuesday, April 16th at 7:30 p.m. and will benefit
EFF's work to protect rights in the digital age.

Mitch and Barlow founded EFF in July of 1990 to protect civil liberties
where law and technology collide. (See Barlow's compelling account from
that time at
eff.html). In its 11-1/2 year history, EFF has been on the forefront of
high tech issues, fighting to ensure that reading email requires a
warrant, software is recognized as speech, restrictions on encryption
export are illegal, and fair use survives in the digital age.

The dinner will take place at the classic Waterfront restaurant in the
North Room. While looking out over the San Francisco Bay, you will have
the chance to take part in an in-depth conversation about EFF's
fascinating role in the universe. You will also be contributing to an
important cause, as the money raised from this unusual evening will go
to furthering our work.

The evening includes the full cost of your dinner and drinks, the
opportunity to talk with Mitch and Barlow, a vintage EFF t-shirt, and
other surprises. The cost is $500. As there are only 15 available
seats, space will fill up quickly.

Please contact Katina Bishop,, for more information and
to RSVP at +1 415-436-9333 x101.



EFFector is published by:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
454 Shotwell Street
San Francisco CA 94110-1914 USA
+1 415 436 9333 (voice)
+1 415 436 9993 (fax)

Katina Bishop, EFF Education & Offline Activism Director
Stanton McCandlish, EFF Technical Director/Webmaster

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