July 16, 2024

The Professional Device Hole

Any American parent with kids of a certain age knows Louis Sachar’s novel Holes, and the movie made from it. It’s set somewhere in the Texas desert, at a boot camp for troublemaking kids. The kids are forced to work all day in the scorching sun, digging holes in the rock-hard ground then re-filling them. It seems utterly pointless but the grown-ups say it builds character. Eventually we learn that the holes aren’t pointless but in fact serve the interests of a few nasty grown-ups.

Speaking of holes, and pointless exercises, last month Reps. Sensenbrenner and Conyers introduced a bill, the Digital Transition Content Security Act, also known as the Analog Hole Bill.

“Analog hole” is an artfully chosen term, referring to the fact that audio and video can be readily converted back and forth between digital and analog formats. This is just a fact about the universe, but calling it a “hole” makes it sound like a problem that might possibly be solved. The last large-scale attack on the analog hole was the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) which went down in flames in 2002 after its technology was shown to be ineffective (and after SDMI famously threatened to sue researchers for analyzing the technology).

The Analog Hole Bill would mandate that any devices that can translate certain types of video signals from analog to digital form must comply with a Byzantine set of design restrictions that talk about things like “certified digital content rights protection output technologies”. Let’s put aside for now the details of the technology design being mandated; I’ll critique them in a later post. I want to write today about the bill’s exemption for “professional devices”:

PROFESSIONAL DEVICE.—(A) The term‘‘professional device” means a device that is designed, manufactured, marketed, and intended for use by a person who regularly employs such a device for lawful business or industrial purposes, such as making, performing, displaying, distributing, or transmitting copies of audiovisual works on a commercial scale at the request of, or with the explicit permission of, the copyright owner.

(B) If a device is marketed to or is commonly purchased by persons other than those described in subparagraph (A), then such device shall not be considered to be a ‘‘professional device”.

Tim Lee at Tech Liberation Front points out one problem with this exemption:

“Professional” devices, you see, are exempt from the restrictions that apply to all other audiovisual products. This raises some obvious questions: is it the responsibility of a “professional device” maker to ensure that too many “non-professionals” don’t purchase their product? If a company lowers its price too much, thereby allowing too many of the riffraff to buy it, does the company become guilty of distributing a piracy device? Perhaps the government needs to start issuing “video professional” licenses so we know who’s allowed to be part of this elite class?

I think this legislative strategy is extremely revealing. Clearly, Sensenbrenner’s Hollywood allies realized that all this copy-protection nonsense could cause problems for their own employees, who obviously need the unfettered ability to create, manipulate, and convert analog and digital content. This is quite a reasonable fear: if you require all devices to recognize and respect encoded copy-protection information, you might discover that content which you have a legitimate right to access has been locked out of reach by over-zealous hardware. But rather than taking that as a hint that there’s something wrong with the whole concept of legislatively-mandated copy-protection technology, Hollywood’s lobbyists took the easy way out: they got themselves exempted from the reach of the legislation.

In fact, the professional device hole is even better for Hollywood than Tim Lee realizes. Not only will it protect Hollywood from the downside of the bill, it will also create new barriers to entry, making it harder for amateurs to create and distribute video content – and just at the moment when technology seems to be enabling high-quality amateur video distribution.

The really interesting thing about the professional device hole is that it makes one provision of the bill utterly impossible to put into practice. For those reading along at home, I’m referring to the robustness rulemaking of section 202(1), which requires the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to establish technical requirements that (among other things) “can only with difficulty be defeated or circumvented by use of professional tools or equipment”. But there’s a small problem: professional tools are exempt from the technical requirements.

The robustness requirements, in other words, have to stop professional tools from copying content – and they have to do that, somehow, without regulating what professional tools can do. That, as they say, is a tall order.

That’s all for today, class. Here’s the homework, due next time:
(1) Table W, the most technical part of the bill, contains an error. (It’s a substantive error, not just a typo.) Explain what the error is.
(2) How would you fix the error?
(3) What can we learn from the fact that the error is still in the bill at this late date?


  1. Can I short Suncomm/Mediamax?

    As far as I can tell no options contracts are available:


    If any suckers are going to bite, I might as well make some money. But it seems it’s too late in the scam for this.

  2. To beat a dead horse, there was a comment earlier “Capitalism is not Democracy.” I’d like to point out this isn’t even Capitalism, at least not in the pure sense.

  3. I just can’t get over how _arbitrary_ this whole thing is.

    Arbitrary in the sense that as Ed says at the beginning, the ‘hole’ is the universe itself. No law can ‘prohibit’ the fact that signals need to be analog for humans to make use of them, hence they will need to go through an analog stage at some point (until we have our brains replaced by purely digital equipment, I suppose). Therefore however many ridiculous measures are put in place to make it more difficult to copy/use the content in ways that people want to, all this does is inconvenience casual users mildly. ‘Plugging’ the analog hole through legislation is like legislating that pi=3 – you could do it, but it won’t make any difference to anything in reality.

    Secondly, the ‘professional’ exemption is arbitrary in a different, more dangerous way. Taken to the extreme, we will have a society where only ‘validated’ members of particular technocratic elites are permitted to tinker _at all_. And who decides who is allowed to tinker?

  4. What astonishes me through all of this is that they miss the entire point completely.

    The place they `lose` (i’ll explain in a moment) all their money from is the asian pirates who have their own presses, buy or steal a disc and press their own copies. Nothing is going to stop that in terms of DRM. Casual copying by consumers to have a backup copy loses them nothing. It’s not like a consumer is going to rebuy a DVD so he can have a backup.

    Now about their ‘losses’. Where they manage to pull these figures from astonishes me. So say 50,000 people get a pirate copy. That’ll be $10 for a movie theater ticket, $35 for a DVD and $30 for a video cassette. So in essence, they count around $75 per person they estimate bought a pirate copy whether or not that person would have bought a legitimate copy (and who is going to buy a DVD AND a video cassette?).

  5. Their white paper is available for download here: http://www.savefile.com/files2.php?fid=1741621
    (you must right-click save-as in order to download and view the pdf)

    Anonymous comment#10263,

    Read the white paper, If you know anything about modern stereo equipment and the very basics of radio broadcasting, you will see the obvious double speak of this white paper. In one place they claim how it works to prevent copying, but will get passed unaffected through the very same kind of signal processsing during normal playback, It is simply impossible.

    The white paper claims:
    The Q-Spoiler encoding module generates specially chosen inaudible frequencies.
    Two types of frequencies are generated:
    1. Packets – Randomly placed symmetrical packets of sound, that distort
    with ‘lossy’ compression, or Automatic Level Control (ALC) processing.
    The packets also serve to amplify the effects of the Harmonics.
    2. Harmonics – Infrasonic and Sonic, ‘Psycho-acoustically’ placed
    frequencies designed to cause Beating and Aliasing if a copy attempt is

    What they claim is only possible in a precisely tuned and matched audio signal path. Introduce the slightest phase shift across the audio spectrum, and the signal will be come audible. Something as simple as walking across the listing room or changing the bass or treble settings would be enough to introduce enough of a phase shift to make the signal audible.

    SunnComm’s CEO Peter Jacobs, may have seen a carefully controlled lab demonstration. But you throw in the miriad of signal processing, equalizer settings choices of individual listeners, and broadcast station engineers, there is no way that such a signal (as described) can be made universally compatable.

    If Sunncomm wants people to believe Darknoise works without ill-effects, please provide sample ISO’s that we can test using our own equipment and ears. I know a couple of computer talk radio hosts that would be happy to demo them on their show to prove broadcast compatability as well. That DNT whitepaper is worse than a late night miracle cure infomercial.

    Back to the topic of the professional loophole legislation. My opinion is that somewhere in the law is a provision that requires such professional equipment to embed a unique serial number into all content and a national registry of who owns which equipment, is the more likely senario. It is done with copiers and other professional equipment.


  6. The zapkitty says

    Thanks for checking 🙂

  7. Zapkitty,

    Hashcash is gone, but we have other anti-spam mechanisms in place. Comments are held for moderation if they have certain features that are common in spam. Your comment was not actually spam, but apparently it did have attributes that triggered the detector.

  8. the zapkitty says

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation. “

    I thought this was a hashcash bug, but hashcash is not active anymore, so…?

  9. the zapkitty says

    Sunncomm/Mediamax shill Anonymous the 1473rd wrote:

    I don’t think someone of Peter Jacobs stature would lie. Why?

    Because it has been documented that he hasn’t stopped lying?

    For those who cannot leave the shills alone, or resist giving them the publicity for their SuncMax BS that they so desperately desire from this blog, please note that Sunncomm management lies all day long as needed, and twice on Sundays 🙂


    Also see the archives for the Sunncomm forum at Investors Hub…
    …. where disappointed long-term shareholders have left a record of Sunncomm deceptions and broken promises that stretches beyond the horizon… all documented.

  10. Exothermic Reaction

    You are obviously one of those who think technogobbledegook is impressive. You can’t back up one of your anti-Darknoise arguments with facts. As I say, just tecnogobbledegook.

    I won’t even bother refuting what you say. Why take the word of a poster on a blog with a ficticious name against a company CEO. Peter Jacobs went on record and said Darknoise works.

    This is taken directly from News.Com

    “This stuff works,” SunnComm Chief Executive Officer Peter Jacobs said. “The science is real. You can’t hear it when (a piece of music) is being used properly, and you can do nothing but hear it when a song is copied improperly.”


    He has seen and worked with the technology and says it works. You haven’t ever had your hands on it and you say it is impossible. They said that to Edison and Einstein too. I don’t think someone of Peter Jacobs stature would lie. Why?

    Are you calling him a liar? I’m sure he would love you to put that on the public record so he can properly defend himself. Can you spell libel? He hasn’t got to where he is by lying.

  11. Yes, one quick read of that press-release made it an obvious scam. No half -educated audio-engineer with experience of modern devices can imaging it is not going to cause more trouble than it’s worth.

    We have to face up to the fact that Sony-BMG were scammed, THEY were (OK greedy) victims. New technology makes the big companies’ business models obselete. The Internet will allow all sorts of free-samples, thousands of streaming radio stations, and artists’ direct-marketing to cut out the lucrative middle-man business. These laws really are ****ing and ****ing into the wind simultaneously. Because new technology comes along continuously and more and more it comes from China, where they regard IP as “something capitalist, over there”.

    I can’t think what the new business model could be. Perhaps more in the direction of public events, clubs. It’s time for that!

    Certainly talk of holes is “victim talk”. We really mean product defects. The real problem is the industry sells expensive CDs and the consumers want to use their new technology, MP3 players, car players, etc. Any attempt to hinder that liaison between supply and demand is obviously an attempt to kill the product.

  12. Why don’t media companies simply sell non-metalized polycarbonate disks? Not only would they be uncopyable, but they couldn’t be played at all. Given that the media companies don’t seem to want consumers to actually be able to use their content, that would seem the next logical approach.

  13. First off, the person that stated that cunsumer recording equipment will not produce DRMed content, you are wrong: The SCMS or Serial Copy Management System Sony introduced with their DAT recorders marked recordings made from analog (or not marked as copy allow) otherwise not copy restricted sources and being copy once, meaning that a copy could not be made of that copy.

    Now picture this, you dig out the dusty VHS family vacation or wedding recording and dub them using your brand new blu-ray recorder. Using Sony’s SCMS logic, analog video without copy control markings is an unknown source, so the disk you just created gets marked as copy once. nevermind making additional backup copies up front, but sometime 5-10 years from now when the next video format comes along the copy management information is going to dis-allow you from transfering your precious memories. People are just not taking this seriously, thinking this is all about piracy, it is not. It is about controlling who can and can’t create and distribute culture, and partly about preventing people from sharing damaging sound bites they might happen to catch from politicians.

    For the Side discussion started by the sunncomm trolls about how great darknoise will be at blocking the analog hole. I dissected every statement the infamous whitepaper had how all the analog holes were plugged. My conclusion was that it was snake oil to sell a failing company in a market horny for DRM solutions to none existant problems. I appologize if sunncomm has changed the scope of what darknoise was supposed to do, but based on the original whitepaper my counter points to their main claims were:

    1. A darknoise encoded recording will not effect normal playback. But will distort any digitization attempt. This would make such content unplayable on / through a digital surrounds sound receiver system. Reason: Most modern surround sound systems use and can be set to use digital signal processing to fill in and play using all available speakers, this requires analog sources to be digitized, ( a hole claimed to be plugged by darknoise), SPDIF does not require using an A/D, but processing through the surround system will in effectively alter the signal in ways that darknoise cannot antisipate, thus will likely introduce the same effect as calimed is supposed to occur if the darknoise signal is re-encoded.

    2. A darknoise signal will mess with AGC, much the same as macrovision does on defective AGC impaired VCR’s. Well, such content will never be broadcast on the radio, broadcast stations, use AGC (and other signal processing See Item 1) to make their stations sound unique. An analog broadcast signal once in the home receiver may be subjected to the same digitization and signal processing I mention in item 1.

    3. Darknoise encoded content will resist ripping to wav format. Last I checked the uncompressed wav format and the CDDA format are essentially the same, just time code headers and other sector overhead make them different. A good ripper will read each sector and extract the required bits without any re-encoding or sample rate changes. Pure bunk.

    4. Darknoise encoded content will resit MP3 or other codec compression. More bunk, Radio stations use codecs like C-DAT (spelling?) for national or studio to transmitter distribution. Think Sirius here, such content cannot be encoded for transmission on such a service if this is true. What about internet streams?

    5. Darknoise encoded content can be broadcast without ill effects and will still distort any attempt to record on the receiving end. I just cannot see how if any of the above are true how such a signal will not trigger distortion in the broadcast signal processing chain. Many radio stations use tape delay or play archived shows, but suppoosedly such recording will be distorted. Yea right.

    I have the original whitepaper someplace (it mysteriously disappeared from the web after the sale). I may have to do a new write-up on this at my blog (time permitting). I seem to recall Ed did a similar job of bunking their claims at the time.

    Consumer’s personal recordings and TV time-shifting (creative and fair use rights) should not be restricted. I’m all for punishing those who will pirate and profit from the sale of content that is not theirs. But I warn the media companies and politicians to stay out of how I enjoy my entertainment, or risk being fired. My entertainment dollar will support the equipment and media formats that respect my consumer rights. I’m already pissed about the poor encoding quality and lack of features on many DVD’s of recent release.


  14. If I purchase a phonorecord (sound recording), I have the right to use such archival means as are necessary for me to listen to that phonorecord forever without any further permission from anyone.

    Someone who bought phonorecords 60 years ago can still listen to them today and may perfectly legally copy them to digital media to ensure that they’ll still be able to listen to them 60 years in the future. Explain to me how Mediamax would help me listen to Mediamax-protected music 120 years, or even 60 years, from now?

  15. Back to the bill… VEIL was originally created for use by toys. So it would seem that the existing content (videos or broadcast shows made for use with those toys) would have VEIL but not CGMS and Table W says that these new compliant devices would see them as evil and corrupted. Or are there only specific VEIL signals that it understands?

    This doesn’t seem like a law. It seems more like some sort of really bad spec for unworkable hardware, written by lawyers.

    P.S.: MediaMax shills, please go away.

  16. Sapsilly. Don’t you understand the word “pretend”?

    “Those who just want to steal music and those who pretend to be for consumer rights (but really just want to steal music too) lose again.”

    It was not libelious. It was not an attack on those who really are for consumer rights, just the pretenders. There are many genuine protectors of consumer rights, like the good folk at SunnComm and MediaMax Technology. They have put their money into protecting the consumer by creating software that enables them to exercise their rights. Real money, not empty academic rhetoric.

    Just read MediaMax V6 specs and you will agree.


    Peter Jacobs and the new leader Kevin Clement are the ones you should be thanking, not firing cheap shots at them for some minor glitches in the code. Microsoft, Semantic and Apple all have had similar glitches in the last few weeks. Go pick on them. Can you hear the future? We can and you will hear it later this month too for a $15 investment.

  17. the zapkitty says

    Edward Kuns Says:

    “Ned, you’re kidding, correct?”

    Yes, read his post and my reply and think “Congressionalese” 🙂

    Although his point of not taking the trolls seriously and not rising to the flamebait is always a valid one.

  18. Edward Kuns says

    Ned, you’re kidding, correct? Check out definition #1 at http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/libelous — Anonymous asserted that those who object to DRM are those who want to steal. That fits definition #1 perfectly. No emotion requied. To Jonathan’s alligator comment — huh?

    And that’s all I have to say on this in this blog entry since this discussion is mostly off topic. I shouldn’t have fed the troll.

  19. Slightly off topic, but…..

    I’m wondering what is going to appear at the following url :


  20. It’s also worth bearing in mind that if any legislation like this gets passed it’s likely to open a huge market in “grey” imports of equipment from countries whose governments haven’t yet been bought by the media companies, which won’t be good news for US electronics retailers.

    Now some reductio ad absurdium reasoning:

    I’m also curious as to how low-level a device has to be before it’s no longer required to follow the rules — will A-D chips have to recognise the watermarks and so forth, or is it OK to implement it in the firmware of the device? And if firmware is OK, what “reasonable steps” would manufacturers have to take to avoid people flashing it to re-enable the useful features? And if a device were easy to flash would that count as contributory infringement? If I bought an A-D chip and built my own capture card with it, would that be a DMCA violation? And as you can build a primitive A-D circuit with basic components, will you need a license to purchase transistors? And will we have to all turn over any equipment we own that was built before this lunacy was dreamt up?

    And finally, I always thought the definition of “professional” was “someone who gets paid to do it”, and didn’t actually have anything to do with what tools you use…

  21. I have no legal training, so I may be totally off base, but consider a hypothetical situation where the ‘analog loophole’ has been closed by the proposed law. Suppose further that I decide to run for political office.

    If I want to produce my own media content, do I become a “professional”? Or do I have to hire a DRM-approved professional to do it for me?

    Seems like it would be a violation of First Amendment rights to force me to use third parties to produce my speech. If so, what if I want to volunteer to make DVDs for the AntiCruelty Society? Again, do I need to have it produced by a “professional”?

    And once I acquire such restricted equipment, do I have to destroy it once I withdraw from politics?

    How do you certify professionals? Can I open the Free Media Academy of Professional Rippers? Can I have a school in Granada, like the medical school there? What foreign certificates would be valid in the US?

  22. the zapkitty says

    Vrimj wrote:

    “This is an intersting legal Catch-22… Refusing sale to non-professionals is likely to be an anti-trust violation”

    Well… if a “Professional” licensing scheme was dreamed up to cover digital content…

    “It is basically a congressionally mandated anti-competitive action”

    “Buying laws is nothing new and is, within limits, legal… but will they stay bought?”
    — quote from the August 1763 minutes of the Colonial Shipping Board.

  23. the zapkitty says

    re: translating SuncMaxese

    I think … perhaps ‘intelligent discourse’ is the swamp and we are the alligators? Just a guess… then Jonathon’s goal would be to destroy intelligent discourse and substitute… what? Are we endangered? Or is Jonathon just a passing

  24. This is an intersting legal Catch-22

    This would require some equipment be limited to “professionals”

    Refusing sale to non-professionals is likely to be an anti-trust violation

    It is basically a congressionally mandated anti-competitive action

  25. Edward Kuhn

    Here is a thought !
    When you are up to your butt in alligators it is hard to remember the intent was to drain the a swamp.

    Libel, Get real! Must a striking a nerve eh !

  26. Slightly off-topic, but it does reference this thread.

    From P2PNET


  27. the zapkitty says

    Mr. Speaker, upon deep reflection I am abashed by my previous behavior and sincerely apologize for the fact that the gentlebeing from somewhere or the other, Anonymous the 1473rd, committed libel.

    And as I am for ever and always respectful of the traditions of this august body, I will refrain from pointing out to Anonymous the 1473rd that they committed libel unless they do it again.

  28. Ned Ulbricht says

    zapkitty, Edward,

    Please. We are vigorously debating legislation proposed by the gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Sensenbrenner, and the gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Conyers. Now I understand that during a political debate tempers often flare and mutual words may be exchanged. But neither the anonymous poster nor Jonathon has caused either of you any damage, so I would ask both of you to please withdraw your aspersions of libel and apologize sincerely.

  29. Scott Turnbull says

    In the recording industry this has been going on for years.

    Anyone who owns a DVD player, or CD player, with optical or other type of digital interface is restricted to first generational copying. Sony pioneered the system for their first DAT machines. SCMS or Serial Copy Management System, to give it the full name, is enabled on all consumer devices, soundcards, that have Digital I/O.

    Pro-audio gear, on the other hand, does not normally include SCMS. At the very least it is optional, disabled by default. There is just no way recording studios could function if they were limited to first generation copying.

    And, as is the case with the technology mentioned in your blog, the line between consumer (copy protected) technology and professional is hazy to say the least. There are consumer sound cards, for intance, which cost more than professional ones.

    Often its a case of technical knowledge which the consumer, it is assumed, will know nothing about. It seems you need to be an expert on everything these days in order not to get ripped off.

  30. the zapkitty says

    Edward Kuns wrote:

    “and is a blatant attempt to argue with emotion rather than reason.”

    Oh… I’m sorry, I thought you understood. These random blasts from the anonymous shill aren’t “arguments”… they’re the SuncMax equivalent of a press release intended to pump up their stocks. Any disruption of the forum they cause in the process is strictly bonus.

    Par for the course.

    “The only way to prevent
    someone from ripping a CD is to make something that is not a CD any longer.”

    Well, hell… they did that anyway and it still didn’t stop ripping 🙂

  31. Edward Kuns says


    Are you suggesting that the accusation “Those who just want to steal music and those who pretend to be for consumer rights (but really just want to steal music too) lose again” is an accurate one for those posting in this forum? Zapkitty is exactly correct that this is a libelous accusation, and is a blatant attempt to argue with emotion rather than reason.

    It’s also quite a diversion from a discussion of the analog “hole,” except for the weak reference to Darknoise. If there is anyone who really believes that the analog “hole” can be plugged, I happen to have a bridge I can sell them. One could certainly exploit an idiosyncrasy of a specific encoder, but with digital data there is no way to prevent that encoder to be modified to fix the issue. The only way to prevent someone from ripping a CD is to make something that is not a CD any longer.

  32. There is a burgeoning market for low budget content providers – look at all the instructional dvds available – that has been fueled by low cost video hardware and editing software. Much of the hardware is so-called ‘pro-sumer’ – good enough for a professional, but available at a consumer price. This bill could wipe out this market if these goods are now judged to be consumer goods and must have copy protection implemented in them, rendering them useless to the professional. Given that at least one major studio is also a hardware manufacturer, I’d say they’re not only after the brass ring for content, but also the hardware market. The price increase necessary on many of their products to prevent ‘consumers’ from buying ‘professional’ equipment will be great enough that some of us may be put out of business when it comes to upgrading our hardware and software. I say the flaw is that the bill is anti entrepreneurial, and is just one more attempt by large corporations to control the market.

    There’s more irony as well. Friends in the music business have told me that their incomes are have been jeopardized by the studios forcing them to compete for work. They put a project out to several artists to create on spec, choose the one that they like, and then pay a fraction of what they were paying for the same type of work only a year or two ago. They have the right to do this, but what’s fueling this? Why are so many people now willing to work on speculation? According to my friends, the price of sophisticated technology is much lower these days. Off the shelf computers and software are now capable for producing ‘studio quality’ work – the hardware and software is available so inexpensively that anyone can buy it. Are the corporations trying to create a new class of ‘professionals’ (ie those that can afford the technology), at the risk of shooting themselves in the foot and having to pay more for the content? They may argue that if they can stop piracy, they could afford to pay more, but in my experience, once a precedent in the supplier marketplace is set, it is difficult to raise the bar when there is fierce competition.

  33. All your media are belong to us says

    Attention! You have been identified as a contributor to unlicensed forums such as “Freedom To Tinker”, known for providing aid and comfort to international media pirates and rebels. These contributions are hereby declared to be Against Corporate Policy. As a willful violator of Corporate Policy, you are hereby banned, until further notice, from any license or other access to Corporate Software, including by not limited to the Standard Professional Media Viewers, Encoders and Editors, Any such access will be prosecuted as a violation of our patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Any attempt to publicize, resist, or appeal this order will be considered as willful continuance of your violations, and will result in further penalties!

    By Authority of, THE MANAGEMENT.

  34. the zapkitty says

    John Says:

    Maybe there needs to be a further piece of legislation which requires drm to be built into “professional” devices, so that the device can detect whether or not the user is a professional.

    You fool!

    That suggestion is technically foolish, socially impossible, and far overreaching of it’s stated goals!

    …we’ll be lucky if the bill’s not introduced in congress tomorrow…

  35. Maybe there needs to be a further piece of legislation which requires drm to be built into “professional” devices, so that the device can detect whether or not the user is a professional.

  36. DarkNoise was proven to be a farce, just a PR to help pump the share price of SunnComm and Quiet Tiger (now MediaMax Technology Corporation). If the technology was as good as claimed, why were they selling it for just $100K. For SunnComm and Quiet Tiger, with about 200M shares printed and issued to new investors in the year following the PR release, all the PR needed to do was pump the share price by $0.0005 for them to make back the $100K.

    Proof of the farce can be seen in this line of the PR linked to by the shill above:

    “Additionally, DarkNoise will continue to operate out of their West London office acting as QuietTiger’s European sales and R&D satellite branch.”


    When The Register investigated this and other SunnComm issues they discovered….

    “In a statement announcing the buy, SunnComm presented Dark Noise as a proven player in the DRM market that was currently awaiting the approval of two patents for the analog hole technology. The Register, however, searched UK government filings and found that Dark Noise is a very small firm that has moved from office to office and is currently headquartered in Whitby, Yorkshire well outside of the London address claimed in the press release.”


    Surely Quiet Tiger would have checked the West London office of DarkNoise to ensure its suitability as a “European sales and R&D satellite branch”. Yet we know from The Register there was no such location. The PR was just a farce and that has been proven by the fact that nothing has been heard about the technology since.

  37. ZAp

    You might gain a little credibility if you practiced what you preached!

  38. the zapkitty says

    Sorry, no. This is not the “Reality is Optional Forum For Sunncomm Stock Shills”

    This was a commentary on yet even more overreaching legislation bought and paid for by the media companies, to wit the “analogue hole” law.

    The disclaimer “IMHO” doesn’t cut it here

  39. zap

    You confuse the issue! Opinions are not fact! Try applying that to you ascert for it leaves leave much room for improvement !

  40. the zapkitty says

    Jonathan Says:
    So spamming the blog with patently false and simply impossible assertions is better?

  41. As regards Mediamax, it’s about time they updated the news items on their web site. The news items follow the drm farce – up until they themselves were implicated in a drm farce, and then all goes quiet.

    There used to be an expression about the pot calling the kettle.

  42. Zapkitty,


    Your minutia is part of your minion complex!

  43. the zapkitty says


    The Sunncomm shill still mistakes this for a place to spam its libelous accusations, all for the sake of raising its peeny-stock a few tenths of a percent.

  44. I hear Sony-BMG are thrilled with V6. Its GO GO GO from here on in. Those who just want to steal music and those who pretend to be for consumer rights (but really just want to steal music too) lose again. I hear Sony will be using V6 on a major release this month.

  45. MediaMax V6 is out and the Sony Agreement only bans V3 and V5. SunnComm rules once more….


    SunnComm V6 with soon to be added Darknoise technology to prevent leakage through the analog hole. An awesome combination!

  46. I don’t think this creates a barrier to entry so much. equipment marketed at consumers could still be used to create and convert content; it would just be mandated to recognize and obey DRM flags on the content (ala the broadcast flag). If the content is recorded without these flags, then the user could play with it all they need to on their own equipment, until they’re ready to release a work, which they then flag.

    The other realities are quite different of course, and make this principle moot.

  47. Shoal Creek says

    V is correct. I can still get (unlicensed) CSS decoding software for Linux even though it is illegal to distribute the unlicensed software in the United States and Europe. Not only that, it is easy to find instructions that will “unlock” your dvd drive to play dvd content from ANY region. Our governmetn trying to plug the “analog hole” is like when the German government plugged the “radio hole” in their propaganda machine in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.

  48. Why do the Content companies ALWAYS go after innocent consumers, and NEVER the professional pirates?

  49. Chris Smith says

    VEIL (Video Encoded Invisible Light) is a mechanism to embed information into the actual picture portion of the video signal. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_Encoded_Invisible_Light for a summary.) It is worth noting that although a V-RAM (VEIL Rights Assertion Mark) is discussed in other places, the Bill only makes reference to detecting VEIL. I would have to assume that *any* use of VEIL would thus trigger a “VEIL detector”. This is an important point to keep in mind in the following discussion.

    Some additional searching verified that VEIL is added as part of the content mastering process. We can thus consider pre-VEIL content to be “legacy content”. In order to fully take advantage of the changes in Table W, content would need to be re-mastered. This is an expensive process.

    I think this further supports my ideas above, in that the proposed system does almost nothing for existing content. In particular, since clearing the Vertical Blanking Interval (VBI) erases the CGMS-A settings, and devices to do this are already available, copying and distribution of legacy content will be virtually unaffected by this legislation.

    A clearer understanding of VEIL, however, confuses other issues greatly. In particular, if VEIL is present, C(0,0),R(0) is prohibited – or at least useless. It is considered an error, identical to “no CGMS-A detected”, and results in a view-only condition. However, since VEIL is applied at mastering time, while many parts of the VBI are created or recreated later in the cycle (potentially right up to broadcast time), this raises the interesting possibility that this bill creates an incentive to prevent C(0,0),R(0) ever being set in a broadcast stream of any kind — the consequences of view-only are too severe.

    In fact, it is my understanding that requirements of no-conditional access broadcast (over the air TV to the rest of us) expressly disallow certain encodings that completely prevent copying. The only safe route for a broadcaster would be to enforce C(0,0),R(1) as a minimum standard on all broadcasts — on all current analog signals — in order to avoid the view-only condition. Note that the most economically sensible route for a broadcaster is to enforce this – *** even if VEIL is not present ***. This has consequences which we will return to in a moment.

    The consequences are so severe that it is worth considering the idea that line 7 of Table W ( C(0,0),R(0),VEIL == VIEWONLY) is the actual error. If unlimited copying and redistribution are expressly indicated, why can VEIL override this? The answer would be – because changing CGMS-A has apparently become so easy that the signals are effectively meaningless as an indicator of expressed limitations. Of course, if it’s that easy to change, it could be changed to something more interesting which allows at least some copying.

    However, that logic exposes the an interesting side effect. If VEIL is encoded in the master, the redistribution likely must be set to No – always. Look carefully at the table, and you will see that anywhere R(0) is set, if VEIL is present, a view-only condition results. Anywhere VEIL is not present, other settings override the R flag to a don’t care — and limit the use of the received signal in some way. In particular, C(0,0),R(1) could be interpreted as allowing a digital storage device to make analog copies, but prevent any digital redistribution, perhaps across a home network. A long-term effect of trying to include a useless feature (in-home redistribution) would be that consumer electronics manufacturers would eventually stop including it at all.

    My conclusion would be that there is deep complexity in the way the text, the table, existing broadcast regulations, and market economics interact, creating likely outcomes much different than a reading of the bill alone would suggest. Although there are lines in the table that suggest that any desired outcome can be achieved by setting appropriate signals, other factors elsewhere in the content chain appear to be pushing to a much more restrictive set of commonly used settings, even in areas like broadcast tv considered to be unaffected by this bill.

  50. V:

    The independent low budget film maker will be allowed to user consumer-grade production equipment that can’t copy anything with DRM, but can’t encode DRM onto anything either. Then, if their work is any good, it will be clear from the lack of DRM that they meant to put it in the public domain, where a Professional Film Company can produce a properly DRM’d edit of it and reap the revenues. All as it should be.

  51. I know I feel much better knowing that _Professional_ pirates won’t be slowed down by this.

  52. There is similar language in the DMCA regarding the Macrovision requirement. The difference since 1998 though is that many more people own what would ahve been considered broadcast quality cameras back then. I wrote on this in 2002:

    Macrovision is deliberate content damage – degrading video signals so that the AGC circuitry in VCRs fails. Modern VCRs are required by the DMCA to have stupid AGC circuitry so Macrovision still works.

    The language there about Professional recorders vs consumer ones could only be more blatant if it mandated a DRM helmet:

    Sixth, the exclusion of professional analog video cassette recorders is necessary in order to allow the motion picture, broadcasting, and other legitimate industries and individual businesses to obtain and use equipment that is essential to their normal, lawful business operations. As a further explanation of the types of equipment that are to be subject to this exception, the following factors should be used in evaluating whether a specific product is a “professional'” product:

    (1) whether, in the preceding year, only a small number of the devices that are of the same kind, nature, and description were sold to consumers other than professionals employing such devices in a lawful business or industrial use;

    (2) whether the device has special features designed for use by professionals employing the device in a lawful business or industrial use;

    (3) whether the advertising, promotional and descriptive literature or other materials used to market the device were directed at professionals employing such devices in a lawful business or industrial use;

    (4) whether the distribution channels and retail outlets through which the device is distributed and sold are ones used primarily to make sales to professionals employing such devices in a lawful business or industrial use; and

    (5) whether the uses to which the device is most commonly put are those associated with the work of professionals employing the device in a lawful business or industrial use.

    So amateurs can’t copy videotapes, only legitimate professionals. No presumption of innocence. Now they want to apply the same ideas to all computers.


  53. I’ve been saying that the analogue hole isn’t real for months now, and no piece of dreamy legislation can change that.

    Who is a professional is a horrendous problem for reasons that nobody has mentioned yet: what about independent low budget filmakers? Will it be illegal to sell professional equipment to them because they “aren’t really professionals” or will they be chained down by rediculous DRM schemes?

    The inherent problem is the nature of computers: you can’t keep code secret. Someone will write their own drivers and software to open a new analogue hole, and nobody will be able to stop them. Forget legal measures; chances are they’ll come from outside the states.

  54. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage because I don’t know what VEIL is, and the bill does not seem to define it (unless I missed something). Isn’t that a major problem in itself?

    It seems to me that the case 7 may be in error. All other cases that have both CGMS-A and RCI detected indicate that VEIL detection is unnecessary – the setting of these 2 parameters is enough to determine the content protection response. So in the case where both CGMS-A and RCI indicate that no control is asserted, woudn’t that mean that VEIL detection is unnecessary and that No Technical Protection should be applied regardless of the state of VEIL?

  55. Capitalism is an economic system. Democracy is a political system. We are becoming an Oligarchy (Corporatism as a subcategory). Long live the $$$

  56. Indie content creator says

    Thank you for the insight. This is obviously a control grab by the media conglomerates. The true content pirates will not really be affected, and will always find it profitable to circumvent technology. However, regular peoples ability to create quality content independently is being attacked, using our own tax dollars. Business as usual
    Capitalism is not Democracy!

  57. From what you say about “professional devices”, I suppose a regular Windows PC is clearly and obviously not a “PD” because, as you point out, millions of clueless amateurs use it. Yet a Sun workstation clearly is a PD… Hmmm. How about a Linux PC?

  58. The “who is a professional?” issue arrived quite a while ago, with the formalization of writable DVD standards, where most burners can only produce pale imitations of manufactured-DVD format and capacity. (The answer, of course, is “you’re not, we are.”) This latest go-round is just more of the same, in more official form.

    I do wonder, though, how all of this lunacy is going to affect the sales and production of old-style analog reproduction equipment. Will old reel-to-reel boxes suddenly become valued artifacts because they can still record whatever signal goes into them? Will hacker zines produce articles on building your own all-analog wire recorder? Perhaps the next generation of digital players will contain circuitry to detect the presense of any potential recording device and demand a DRM-respecting handshake from it. Or perhaps more and more people will simply give up on buying the new stuff because it’s too much trouble.

  59. You know what I love about media executives? How little they understand technology, and how proud they are of it. They love having that separation of executive and technical staff, where the executive can dream up anything he wants and, because it’s all magic to him, can ask the technical staff to do it. It makes them feel like they are “above” all those pesky little details, looking at the big picture, on top of it all.

    It just puts a smile on my face.

  60. Chris Smith says

    I noticed…

    When you expand Table W to all possible entries (including the impossible ones, making a 64 line table rather than a 12 line table) you find that one particular state is undefined. Because of the fairly high number of “don’t care” entries in the table, it is not immediately obvious that this is the case.

    The state of CGMS-A detected (0,0)(Copy control not asserted), Redistribution detected (0)(Redistribution Control not asserted), VEIL Not Detected is undefined.

    In other words, if you get CGMS-A *marked* content, but with no restrictions encoded, AND no VEIL encoding, then this does not give you any guidance as to what to do.

    My thoughts? CGMS-A marked, no restrictions, is the current situation regarding markup of analog content. This suggests that there is no clear answer yet as to how anyone wants to handle legacy content. This is odd, because I would have thought that “No TPM” (like line 1) was the obvious choice. But with that as an easy and obvious choice, the question of why it wasn’t added arises. Note also that the question itself – “what do we do about existing material” – is extremely obvious, and unlikely to have been skipped over in the construction of this bill.

    This strikes me as a potential conflict between the industry supporters, who would rather that all old analog content be blocked from easy conversion, and the lawmakers, who recognize that redefining the existing meaning of those existing signals to essentially be the opposite of their intent would open the law to some serious challenges.

    Or I could just be chasing a red herring….

  61. Im sure you already know. Your blog is mentioned in PC World mag page 25, Feb 2006 issue, on Rootkit Survival. find.pcworld.com/50728

    Great blog!

  62. I am still contemplating the existence of an error to Table W, but want to make a follow-up comment on this SunnComm/MediaMax/QuietTiger/DarkNoise, thread. Basically, it appears to me that DRM technology has to be processed by a “SMART” blackbox for it to be effective. If one has a dumb hardware/software program that makes a perfect image (including the watermark) of the CD (or the download) to be copied then there would not be distinction between the “original” and the “copy”. The copy, as far as the DRM is concerned would be an “original”.

  63. Here’s a quote from the SunnComm/MediaMax/QuietTiger/DarkNoise (how many shell companies to keep track off??) press release:

    Winston Keech, DarkNoise’s Chief Technology Officer says, “The technology works by encoding the original digital audio file with a unique hidden signal. The signal is embedded in the audio master and becomes an indelible part of the actual audio file in addition to aiding in subsequent origin identification. Should the original CD be copied, so, too, is the hidden signal and identification ‘tag.’ Unless illegally invoked, the listener is unaware of the hidden signal’s presence. Attempts to illegally copy the protected audio using analog recording devices, analog- to-digital converters or psycho-acoustic compression codes such as MP3 will invoke the hidden signal which transforms to become audible within the range of human hearing, thus ruining the unauthorized copy.”

    So it’s a magically exploding watermark. Sounds like snake oil to me.

    I don’t doubt that it’d be possible to sabotage a specific codec by corrupting an audio stream in a particular way, but defeating all codecs and all ADCs is a tall order. Especially if you want to claim you’re not degrading the quality of the master.

  64. @Quarthinos

    I think it is even more telling that table W refers to “bits” in analog data. It would be more appropriate to refer to “signal”, or some other more analog-like term.

  65. The whole bill is the “error.”

  66. Wow, so the government is going to be involved in certifying who is and isn’t “professional”, and therefore allowed to buy “professional equipment”? Because if too many non-professionals are allowed to buy the equipment, the government will have to sanction the manufacturer…

    Suddenly free speech- and publishing- only applies to people using media production tools for “lawful business and industrial purposes”? Not exactly what Jefferson and Franklin had in mind, I suspect.

    Seems like even if the idiots in washington pass this bill, the odds of it surviving judicial review are pretty slim. Of course, the odds of anyone who breaks an American’s TV set getting re-elected are also pretty slim.

    Anyone got a list of the members of congress who voted this moronic bill out of comittee, so we can encourage them not to proceed with their foolishness?

  67. Wow, I can’t tell if the spew about darknoise is a troll or just another clueless idiot who doesn’t understand the the so-called ‘analog hole’ is unavoidable without side effects that even the media industries don’t want. Sit back and relax, I say: the media industries have survived player pianos, cassette tapes, and home VCRs.. they’ll survive CD & DVD burners too.

  68. Laugh all you like, but when SunnComm releases products using the technology our parner company Mediamax Technology aquired from DarkNoise, the analog hole will be a thing of the past.


  69. Quarthinos says

    As far as table W… It seems to me that automatically assuming that an “INCONSISTENT STATE” means that the media has been tampered with and should automatically be treated as protected is bad practice. I would think it’s possible that some form of hardware or software error, or just a scratch on the disc, might cause an “INCONSISTENT STATE” for media that was never copy protected.

    (2) is left as an excercise for the reader.
    (3) that Hollywood has tried to keep the text of this bill hidden for as long as possible to increase it’s chances of passing?

  70. “Professional” equipment isn’t that hard to get. I’ve got a professional video time base corrector, used to clean up analog video (I use it when capturing video for online editing and transfer to homemade DVDs), that coincidentally happens to remove Macrovision copy protection. I’ve got a professional converter for digital audio that allows me to input cable-based SPDIF (from my home theater DVD player) and output fiber-based SPDIF (for my home theater amp), which just happens to reset or turn off SCMS copy management. The grand total for both items was well under $200 on ebay.

  71. Hmm, did you and I spot the same error? The dog that didn’t bark in the night?