Senate unveils Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005

Two senior House members made Hollywood smile late last Friday when they introduced a bill that would require that future analog-to-digital conversion devices be capable of reading and upholding content protection code embedded in digital television transmissions.

Reps. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wisc.) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) — chairman and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, respectively — unveiled the Digital Transition Content Security Act of 2005, meant to help plug the so-called analog hole, which opens up when analog TV sets receive digital transmissions that are down-converted to analog signals. Those transmissions can then be converted back to digital by current devices that do not detect embedded protection code, thus allowing unlimited copying of protected content.

“This legislation is designed to secure analog content from theft that has been made easier as a result of the transition to digital technologies,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement. Hollywood liked the sound of that. “We’ve been trying to ensure that when converted to analog and then reconverted back to digital, content-protection rights don’t get lost,” said Dean Marks, senior VP for intellectual property at Warner Bros. “This bill will help ensure that.”

Motion Picture Assn. of America chairman Dan Glickman hailed bill as a much-needed protection that will encourage studios to offer more content for TV broadcast.

“Unless steps are taken to eliminate (the analog hole), the transition to digital television will slow, programming providers will reconsider whether to offer new digital options, and consumers will have fewer choices,” Glickman said in a statement. Bill would essentially mandate that consumer electronics manufacturers include specific technology on future analog-to-digital conversion devices.

The Consumer Electronics Assn. had not responded by late Monday to a request for comment.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more