The Viridian Design Movement

Viridian Note 00308: CFP2002

Bruce Sterling []

Key concepts: Computers Freedom and Privacy conference, Electronic Frontier Foundation, power struggles in television and new media, electronic civil liberties

Attention Conservation Notice: Arcane, complicated, increasingly controversial, practically nothing to do with the Greenhouse Effect.

Links: By clicking on the "How's Your Weather" link, a number of Viridians have staked claims on our global map. Canadians especially bold. Where are you, and how's your weather? If you live in London, you can click on this site and find out how filthy your local air is. A handy service! Demand one in your home town!

(((I'm going to San Francisco this week to take part in Computers Freedom and Privacy 2002. Normally, my abiding interest in electronic civil liberties rarely appears on Viridian List. However, I thought I would feature this recent "Action Alert" from Electronic Frontier Foundation, to show how spirited these arcane controversies are becoming, this season. In fact, they're well beyond "spirited." They've got a distinct tinge of Napoleonic warfare.

(((The US Congress crackles with deadly, crazily ambitious new bills, meant to shut off the competitive oxygen of various struggling monoliths. It's the land-based tigers of Disney-ABC, the music industry and the movie industry, versus the piratical nautical sharks of that Dell dude on TV, who drives around in his Dad's "borrowed" car, playing "borrowed" MP3s on Dell's hardware, Intel's chips and Bill Gates's OS.

((Sooner or later this upheaval is just bound to affect Viridian operations, though whether we end up as a tame subsidiary of Microsoft or a scary claque of offshore dissidents is anybody's guess.)))

The gig in San Francisco.

An entire book I wrote about the birth of the EFF, years ago. A real attention hog.


Electronic Frontier Foundation ACTION ALERT

ALERT: Act Now to Stop BPDG From Hobbling Digital TV

Hollywood Threatens Your Rights (Again)

(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.

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.

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 industry 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 primarily for U.S. residents. However, this issue is of importance globally, so keep an eye out in your own jurisdiction for related matters you can act on.

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:


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 broadcasts.

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 software:

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:


Will Doherty, EFF Online Activist / Media Relations +1 415 436 9333 x111

Katina Bishop, EFF Offline Activist / Education Dir. +1 415 436 9333 x101


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