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Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act

The Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA), known in early drafts as the Security Systems and Standards Certification Act (SSSCA) is a proposed US law which would prohibit any kind of technology which can be used to read digital content without Digital Rights Management (DRM), which prohibits copying any content under copyright without permission of the copyright owner.

The CBDTPA is proposed by South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings, who is noted for his support for legislation that is in the interests of the established media distribution industry. He has been described by opponents as the 'Senator from Disney.' Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has stated that he does "not support" the proposed legislation and as Chairman intends to block consideration of bill in his committee for the year 2002. This essentially kills the bill for the that year.

Critics of the CBDTPA point out the remarkable resemblance of some of the proposed features of the law to a patented technology owned by Microsoft, which they say might mandate the use of only closed-source, and possibly Microsoft-controlled technologies. On the other hand, the law also mentions a requirement for open source: it's not clear how this could be compatible with patented techniques or with the idea that end users should not be able to easily circumvent the scheme. The law would only allow one year for private industry to develop the scheme, while such schemes in the past have required much longer development times. The law is supposed to also protect legal use of copyright material, including fair use, but it's not clear whether this is technically feasible, or whether it would also cover the right to extract the material to the public domain after the copyright has expired -- consider the case of an old movie issued under DRM a year before its copyright expires.

The penalties proposed for breaking this law range from 5 to 20 years in prison and fines between $50,000 to $1 million.

Some have suggested that the act was deliberately introduced in an extreme form that has little chance of becoming law. This is a common practice in politics: typically the supporters of such legislation later accept a modified version reflecting a "compromise" or a "balanced view", but which attains most of their goals. Possible goals of the CBDTPA would be to distract public attention and encourage hardware manufacturers to support less ambititious schemes. Some confirmation of this was the agreement announced on January 14, 2003 between the Recording Industry Association of America, the Business Software Alliance and the Computer Systems Policy Project (supported by a group of computer hardware manufacturers) in which the music industry would drop its support for compulsory schemes such as CBDTPA in return for the computer industry dropping its support for enhanced "fair use" legislation.

Other U.S. senators named as sponsors of the CBDTPA include:

The CBDTPA has been lampooned as a measure to make sure that the American public "Consume, But Don't Try Programming Anything".

Further Details see: