Exactly how the bill's sponsor, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner and cosponsor, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., think a secret technology that is untested by experts, and will add cost, probably break other technologies, prevent 'fair use,' benefit a single company and have no impact on any analog devices outside of the United States, is a good thing in any conceivable way is mind boggling.On Dec. 16, 2005, a bill titled "Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005 (H.R.4569)," otherwise known as the Sensenbrenner\/Conyers Analog Hole Bill, was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.The purpose of this bill is to force every analog device that can be used to digitize video to comply with the restrictions associated with a "watermark" embedded in video broadcasts.The theory is that an unremovable watermark that doesn't degrade the quality of the content could be created and ultimately every recording device would be able to read and comply with the rights associated with it. This would ensure that digital rights restriction, er, sorry, management would be effective."Analog hole" is a reference to the fact that content rendered for analog output, such as a movie shown on television, can be recorded without the copyright holder's consent. The new watermark technology, used in conjunction with special hardware, is supposed to fill in that hole.The watermarking and detection technology proposed in H.R.4569 is a proprietary system called VEIL, which stands for Video Encoded Invisible Light and is marketed by VCP under license from Koplar Interactive Systems International.Only a few chips are required to grab the analog signal, look for the watermark and block recording. But to find out exactly how it works you have to cough up $10,000, and sign a non-disclosure agreement. Yep, it is a big secret.The bill also mandates that the Copy Generation Management System for Analog (CGMS-A) be observed. CGMS-A is a method supported by HBO and Microsoft that adds metadata to the content and declares whether and how the content may be recorded, as defined by the copyright holder or broadcaster.Should this bill pass, you will be legally prohibited from importing, offering to the public, providing or otherwise trafficking in any non-compliant recording device. The bill also prohibits manufacturing such devices.Not only would this bill cover camcorders, digital video recorders, videotape recorders and TV tuner cards, it covers, in principle, any device with an analog-to-digital converter, which means it could apply to PCs!You could wind up with an organization full of devices, including PCs, with chips performing some secret function, which goes against every tenet of computer security.But the really big issue is that once again we have an attempt by Congress to control technology on behalf of a special interest group. Once again our elected representatives demonstrate complete ignorance about more or less every important facet of the proposed act. They favor a single vendor and defend that vendor from public scrutiny despite the glaringly obvious risks involved.Exactly how the bill's sponsor, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), and cosponsor, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), think a secret technology that is untested by experts, and will add cost, probably break other technologies, prevent "fair use," benefit a single company and have no impact on any analog devices outside of the United States, is a good thing in any conceivable way is mind boggling.As I wrote in Backspin in May 2002: "The sheer irrationality of these ideas is frightening, and should they get any traction in the real world, it will set an appalling precedent for all sorts of controls over the IT industry." It seems we haven't got much smarter over the last three years.You think the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is costing you big bucks? Just let this nonsense get turned into law.If you are as concerned as I am then get over to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's page on the issue and use its Web form to send your objections to your representatives. Forget the analog hole; let's make sure that we fill in the legislative hole.Dig me out at email@example.com.