Douglas Crockford

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CPTWG 87

I attended the 87th meeting of the Copy Protection Technology Working Group at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel at LAX on February 23.

As usual, the most important part of the meeting was the Legislative and Regulatory Update.

The new Congress is in session, but there has not been much activity in this area yet. The Senate passed the Family Entertainment Act, which includes the ART Act and the Family Movie Act. It must now be passed by the House.

There was a report on the Computer Trespass Clarification Act. It amends the Patriot Act to limit the Government's ability to monitor computer networks. It has nothing to do with the CPTWG's business. It was included today only to fill time in the agenda.

More importantly, the District of Columbia Circuit Court heard oral arguments yesterday on the FCC's Broadcast Flag rule. Based on the questions and remarks of the judges, the case hangs on two significant issues:

There is a question of standing. At least one of the three judges questioned whether Public Knowledge and the other parties have a right to bring this case. The court could decide to simply throw the case out.

Some of the judges said that the FCC exceeded its authority, that it "crossed the line."

The court may produce its decision as soon as six weeks. The CPTWG lawyers were reluctant to guess the winner, but there appears to be a good chance that the FCC will lose and the Broadcast Flag rule will be canceled. If that happens, I expect that the Studios will go back to Congress and demand a Broadcast Flag Law.

The biggest show is going to be the Supreme Court on March 29, when it hears MGM v Grokster. This case will be extremely important for the Consumer Electronics Industry.

There was a discussion about Clearplay: Can a DVD edit list be a copyrighted work? That would seem a simple question, but the lawyers (some of the best intellectual property lawyers in the country) were unable to give a definite answer. That is a good indication of the the quality of Copyright Law: It is much much too complicated. How can citizens be expected to act correctly when lawyers are unable to answer simple questions?

There was a report on SHA-1. It had been thought that 280 operations were required to make a collision. The Chinese have found a way that requires only 269 operations. The algorithm has not been broken, but it has been compromised. It does not appear that any of the leading DRM systems is in danger, but it does reduce confidence in the reliability of cryptography.

There was a report on a very silly CD-ROM encryption system called Cryptic Audio.

The Digital Transition [2004 - 2005]