Digital Video

Digital video promises a high quality picture and fresh crop of innovative technologies that will give you new options for manipulating video. But Hollywood is scheming to put shackles on digital video hoping that the next generation of products will be designed to suit its desires not yours.

Hollywood claims that scrambling down-rezzing HDCP and a host of other restrictions are necessary to stop "Internet piracy." Don't be fooled: none of the restrictions being pushed by Hollywood will stop or even slow those who are swapping content online.

Instead these restrictions are intended to take away your fair use rights in order to sell them back to you. They stymie the development of new technologies that will deliver capabilities you haven't even thought of yet (after all Disney sued to ban the Betamax when it came out and sued again to block the ReplayTV DVR). At a minimum you can look forward to unnecessary hassles as an alphabet soup of restrictions create compatibility nightmares for years to come.

Already DRM (aka copy protection) on DVDs restricts legitimate uses like making back-ups or copying to a video iPod. Hollywood wants similar restrictions for TV as well. Today you can record your favorite TV show on a PC burn it to DVD send it to another device email a clip to a friend and much more. Tomorrow government regulations and "inter-industry standards" may take away those freedoms. In fact Hollywood's pushing Congress to slap restrictions on anything with a record button including digital camcorders TV tuner cards and PVRs.

What about devices you already own that aren't encumbered by DRM? Get ready to replace them. You may have invested thousands of dollars in HD displays and receivers but restricted digital outputs will break compatibility. Your devices might rely on component analog connections instead but Hollywood wants to be able to "down-rez" or disable those analog connections at their whim.

And don't even think about getting or creating tools to work around these restrictions. Doing so even for legitimate purposes may expose you to liability.

It's not too late to reclaim control of your digital TV devices. Learn more about how EFF's fighting for your rights and consider supporting our efforts.

Pick Your Poison - Hollywood Wants DRM Everywhere

Over the Air TV - The Broadcast Flag


What it is: The FCC's "broadcast flag" mandate would have required by law that all HDTVs obey Hollywood's commands.

Why it's bad:

  • Limits legitimate uses like recording programs and then burning them to DVD or sending them over a home network
  • Restricted digital outputs (see below)
  • Bans TV equipment for use with open source

What EFF's doing about it:EFF beat the FCC's mandate in court and has kept the bill in check since Hollywood began pushing Congress to reinstate it. EFF also created a guide to building your own HDTV and PVR without these restrictions.

DVD Restrictions - AACS and CSS


What they are: CSS is the DRM scheme for DVDs and AACS applies to HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats. Creating or using a DVD device without Hollywood's permission isn't allowed because technology that breaks the DRM is illegal under the DMCA.

Why they're bad:

  • Hamper legitimate uses like making backups sending video over a home network and more.
  • Impede bypassing "region codes " limiting playback of foreign DVDs on your devices
  • Restricted digital outputs (see below)
  • Selectable output control or "down-rezzing" for AACS content (see below)
  • Ban open source DVD software

What EFF's doing about it: EFF defended in court individuals and companies that helped users avoid the DRM to make lawful use and continues to press for DMCA reform. EFF also went to bat in front of the Copyright Office for skipping unskippable previews and playing DVDs on region-free players

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Analog Hole Legislation

What it is: If you can see or hear it you can digitize and copy it right? Not if the entertainment companies can enlist federal bureaucrats to restrict anything that can convert "analog" video to digital bits including video cards VCRs PVRs and more.

Why it's bad: Hampers both new and ordinary uses -- you won't be able to excerpt a recorded TV show for a school report or use tools like the Slingbox to send recorded TV shows to yourself over the Internet.

What EFF's doing about it: So far EFF's helped keep these misguided bills in check.

DVB and CPCM - DTV restrictions for Europe Asia Australia

What it is: The Digital Video Broadcasting project (DVB) is a technical standards-specifying body through which Hollywood is currently crafting "consensus" design specifications for any DTV gadget or software program produced in Europe Asia and Australia.

Why it's bad: The DVB's proposed limitations are even more far-reaching than the broadcast flag crushing innovation competition and legitimate uses.

What EFF's doing about it: EFF is participating in the DVB meetings and advising European legislators to resist this dangerous DRM.

Cable and Satellite Restrictions


What it is: Partly due to an FCC proceeding hijacked by Hollywood satellite and digital cable set-top boxes as well as new CableCards are injected with DRM.

Why it's bad:

  • If a station flags a TV show as "copy once" or "copy never " then that's all you'll get.
  • Restricted digital outputs
  • Selectable output control (proposed but currently forbidden) down-rezzing (proposed) (see below)
  • Ban TV equipment for use with open source

What EFF's doing about it:EFF fought these restrictions every step of the way and helped prevent them from being even worse.

Digital Cable TV scrambling

What it is: When you switch from analog to digital cable you may find that "basic tier" cable is no longer unscrambled and need to get a set-top box or CableCard.

Why it's bad: You'll be forced to replace legacy devices and will no longer be able to record without limitation.

What EFF's doing about it: EFF opposed the FCC's allowing encryption of the basic tier.

Trusted Computing and Microsoft Vista


What it is: As media devices and PCs converge DRM is increasingly being built into your computer's hardware and software. For instance the forthcoming Microsoft Vista operating system and Media Centers will give copyright holders unprecedented control over the video devices that connect to your computer.

Why it's bad: Your computer will be larded with the above types of restrictions and all their attendant problems. Say you want to watch a DVD or movie downloaded from an online store on your computer running Vista -- be prepared to buy a new monitor and use software that follows Hollywood's wishes.

What EFF's doing about it:EFF has been tracking and criticizing these developments since well before they were on most people's radar.

Arrows in Hollywood's Video Restrictions Bow

Restricted Digital Outputs including HDCP and DTCP

What they are: HDCP restricts connections to video displays through DVI (including HDMI) digital outputs and DTCP restricts sending over FireWire or USB connections. The broadcast flag cable satellite and DVD restrictions only permit digital outputs with these sorts of restrictions.

Why they're bad: Restricted outputs will force you to throw our your home theater system and buy a hobbled one. You're likely to encounter arbitrary and unpredictable incompatibilities; many existing devices including even some that say HDCP-compliant won't work with these standards. You'll only be able use devices that Hollywood's approved and obey DRM that blocks your legitimate uses.

What EFF is doing about it: EFF's fighting these restrictions wherever they rear their ugly heads as described above.

Selectable Output Control and Down-Rezzing

What they are: Hollywood wants to block use of restriction-free outputs ("selectable output control") and be able to intentionally degrade picture quality from them ("down-rezzing"). Hollywood already has these capabilities in next-gen DVD formats and has pushed the FCC to allow them for cable and satellite.

Why they're bad: Your expensive HD displays might not give you HD quality picture or work at all. Many current and novel devices rely on unrestricted outputs particularly component analog connections.

What EFF's doing about it: EFF has fought against these limitations in TV content and has pushed for DMCA reform to allow creation of unrestricted devices as described above.

Copy Restrictions on Analog including CGMS-A VEIL and Macrovision

What they are: CGMS-A and Macrovision are marks that can be put on analog video and state how a copyright holder wants to restrict copying. Though no devices (except VCRs) are currently required to follow these types of marks Hollywood is pressuring companies to voluntarily comply stigmatizing products that don't and lobbying Congress to mandate restrictions through the analog hole bill.

Why they're bad: Legitimate uses like excerpting a recorded show or sending it to yourself over the Internet will be blocked.

What EFF's doing about it:EFF has held the analog hole legislation in check and pushing back against companies' voluntary compliance.

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