[mythtv-users] ATTENTION: Want to help remove 5C FireWire encryption?

Matt skd5aner at gmail.com
Wed Feb 21 23:18:43 UTC 2007

On 2/6/07, Yeechang Lee <ylee at pobox.com> wrote:
> To my fellow American MythTV users:
> Over the past few months I've been corresponding with James Snider
> <jsnider at 1394ta.org>, executive director of the 1394 Trade Association
> (1394 TA; <URL:http://www.1394ta.org/>). 1394 TA is an industry
> organization that promotes the deployment of devices compatible with
> IEEE 1394, better known as FireWire.
> Naturally, 1394 TA would like to encourage consumers' use of the
> FireWire ports now required on all US high-definition cable
> boxes. However, those with the boxes are all aware of the
> extremely-restrictive 5C encryption that prevents almost all of us
> from actually using the ports with MythTV to record the channels we
> pay good money to subscribe to.
> Given that the Federal Communications Commission instituted the
> FireWire mandate in the first place, the FCC is best positioned to
> expand the mandate to prevent cable companies from using the
> encryption. However, the FCC needs to see evidence that the encryption
> is actually hurting consumers.
> Let me now let Mr. Snider speak for himself:
>    After many months of working on the problem with the 1394 port in
>    the Set Top Box, it has become clear that the only way to make
>    things move forward is to file complaints with the FCC.  I was on
>    the phone a few days ago with the FCC to discuss this and they are
>    on our side.  What they need is a few complaints to move things
>    along.  The cable companies are telling the FCC that their
>    customers never ask for 1394 so they have no incentive to provide
>    a better solution.
>    [...]
>    If I can get your name, address, and any tracking number they can
>    give you, I will make sure the right people inside the FCC a aware
>    of your complaint.
>    [...]
>    Please feel free to forward the information to other interested
>    parties.  If they will supply me with their name, address, and
>    complaint tracking number, I will make sure their concerns reach
>    sympathetic people inside the FCC.  Having a copy of the actual
>    complaint is also very helpful.
>    [...]
>    There are a number of commissioners and some high ranking people
>    in their technical committees who are very keen for this
>    information.
> Mr. Snider asks that those who want to help do the following:
> * Go to <URL:http://svartifoss2.fcc.gov/cib/fcc475.cfm>. Despite its
>  appearance, form 475 is what is used to file the kind of set top
>  box-related complaints relevant here. Disregard the fact that much
>  of the form talks about telephone-related issues (I simply put in my
>  own phone number wherever one was required).
> * Step 2f is the most important part of the form. Go into as much
>  detail as you can on why 5C FireWire encryption for TV settop boxes
>  is a bad idea for society in general and for you and your family in
>  particular. Be polite, considerate, accurate, and respectful. Bee
>  shure 2 spel chek ur riting n gramar. IMPORTANT: Save a copy of what
>  you write for Step 2f before submitting the form.
> * After submitting, you will get a tracking number something like
>  FORM475: XX-XXXXXXXXX. Write to jsnider at 1394ta.org with your name,
>  address, the tracking number, and what you wrote in Step 2f.
> * Keep your fingers crossed.
> To help inspire your own original thoughts, here is what I wrote for
> Step 2f:
> ----------------------------------------
> I have cable modem and HDTV cable-TV service through RCN here in San
> Francisco. RCN, fortunately, does not 5C-encode any channels over
> FireWire. This means that I can record all the channels I subscribe
> to, including premium high-definitino movie channels such as HBO, with
> my MythTV computer and two Motorola 6200 cable boxes. (MythTV is free,
> open-source software developed by a volunteer community with which
> consumers can turn computers into TiVo-like devices. Please see
> <URL:http://www.mythtv.org/> for more information.)
> When I moved recently, I wanted to keep using MythTV. However,
> unfortunately RCN is available in only a few apartment buildings near
> downtown San Francisco (the area I work and live in). Comcast, the
> principal cable-TV provider in San Francisco, is like most cable
> companies in the US as it 5C-encrypts all subscribed non over-the-air
> channels. This severely restricted the pool of potential housing I
> could choose from. In other words, Comcast's action prevented me from
> living where I wanted to live. At least I had a non 5C-using cable
> provider as a possible option, however limited in geographical scope;
> I am aware of numerous other users of MythTV (and similar projects)
> around the US that do not have any choices at all and thus have no way
> whatsoever of recording from the high-definition channels they
> subscribe to.
> I realize that cable companies are concerned about piracy. I can
> assure them that I have no interest whatsoever in illicitly
> redistributing my high-definition recordings to others. Even beyond
> the illegality, HD recordings are enormous; anywhere from 10GB for the
> typical premium movie-channel movie with lots of compression to up to
> 25GB for a lengthy classic film on HDNet Movies or an over-the-air
> channel. (The longest, in my experience, was The Sound of Music on
> NBC; four hours and 28GB.) These files would take *days* (at least 62
> hours for The Sound of Music) to upload to others, even using
> sophisticated peer-to-peer distribution methods like BitTorrent, and
> even considering that the 1-megabit upload bandwidth RCN's fiber-based
> network provides is pretty much state of the art for residential
> broadband this side of Verizon FiOS. I, frankly, have much better
> things to do with my Internet connection!
> Thus, I respectfully petition the FCC that it expands its existing
> mandate requiring cable companies to provide FireWire-equipped cable
> boxes to a) also include satellite-TV settop boxes and b) guarantee
> that all subscribed channels, regardless of category or visual
> quality, will be available to customers without encryption. Step b)
> can be accomplished by 1) requiring cable companies to remove all
> encryption from FireWire ports and/or 2) mandating that the CableCARD
> standard be made freely available to all comers (perhaps made into an
> IEEE standard of its own) so that amateur developers of projects such
> as MythTV can incorporate the specifications into their software
> without paying exorbitant license fees and signing restrictive NDAs,
> and that computer-peripheral manufacturers can manufacture expansion
> cards that CableCARDs can plug into.
> I am happy to provide further details on these issues as requested.
> Sincerely,
> Yeechang Lee
> ------------------------------------
> Good luck, everyone.
> --
> Yeechang Lee <ylee at pobox.com> | +1 650 776 7763 | San Francisco CA US


Maybe it would be good to put this out on the wiki so that people can
find it more easily instead of it just getting burried in the e-mail
archives.  I wish you (and the rest of us) the best on this effort!


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