First rule of VEIL – you do not talk about VEIL

Ed Felten has posted a great entry on the proposed analog hole legislation at Freedom to Tinker. Apparently the specs for the VEIL technology that is to be used for watermarking content is doubleplus super trade secret:

[T]he company helpfully explained that I could get the spec, if I first signed their license agreement. The agreement requires me (a) to pay them $10,000, and (b) to promise not to talk to anybody about what is in the spec. In other words, I can know the contents of the bill Congress is debating, but only if I pay $10k to a private party, and only if I promise not to tell anybody what is in the bill or engage in public debate about it.

Amazing, isn’t it? VEIL is on the fast track to become a national standard and yet private citizens are not allowed to know anything about it’s inner workings. I don’t know about you, but if something is to be legally mandated and enforced by the state, I want to know all about it.

VEIL might need to be implemented in every single electronic device on the market – thus in one way or another it will affect the day to day life of every single American. If we can’t have an open public debate on the inner workings of VEIL then it should not be legally enforced.

It is more than likely that VEIL is a piece of garbage which will only inconvenience the honest, law abiding consumer, and it has zero chances of stopping any kind of large scale sharing or exchange of content. Perhaps any kind of expert analysis of the spec would reveal gaping holes. Koplar Interactive Systems International can expect to make insane amounts of money on VEIL licensing if the analog hole bill passes. This it is in their best interest to keep low a profile.

So the good news is that the analog hole provisions may turn out to be trivial to break and circumvent. So illegal file sharing and bootlegging will go on as usual. The sad part is that the bill will screw electronics companies, increase hardware prices, and impede innovation.

The biggest winner will be KISI. The second biggest winner will be MPAA and RIAA – they will finally put a tap on that pesky Fair. Who is going to lose the most here? You and me – the consumers. Once again, the average Joe gets fucked while the rich assholes are getting richer 😛

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