I’d like to share a project I’m working on that could have an impact on your future freedoms in the digital age. It’s an open video development board I call NeTV2.

The Motivation

It's related to a lawsuit I've filed with the help of the EFF against
the US government to reform Section 1201 of the DMCA. Currently, Section
1201 imbues media cartels with nearly unchecked power to prevent us from
innovating and expressing ourselves, thus restricting our right to free

Have you ever noticed how smart TVs seem pretty dumb compared to our
phones? It's because Section 1201 enables a small cartel of stakeholders
to pick and choose who gets to process video. So, for example, anyone is
allowed to write a translation app for their smartphone that does
real-time video translation of text. However, it's potentially unlawful
to build a box, even in the privacy of my own home, that implements the
same thing over the HDCP-encrypted video feeds that go from my set top
box to my TV screen.

This is due to a quirk of the DMCA that makes it unlawful for most
citizens to bypass encryption – even for lawful free-speech activities,
such as self-expression and innovation. Significantly, since the
founding of the United States, it's been unlawful to make copies of
copyrighted work, and I believe the already stiff penalties for
violating copyright law offer sufficient protection from piracy and theft.

However, in 1998 a group of lobbyists managed to convince Congress that
the digital millennium presented an existential threat to copyright
holders, and thus stiffer penalties were needed for the mere act of
bypassing encryption, no matter the reason. These penalties are in
addition to the existing penalties written into copyright law. By
passing this law, Congress effectively turned bypassing encryption into
a form of pre-crime, empowering copyright holders to be the sole judge,
jury and executioner of what your intentions might have been. Thus, even
if you were to bypass encryption solely for lawful purposes, such as
processing video to translate text, the copyright holder nonetheless has
the power to prosecute you for the "pre-crimes" that could follow from
bypassing their encryption scheme. In this way, Section 1201 of the DMCA
effectively gives corporations the power to license when and how you
express yourself where encryption is involved.

I believe unchecked power to license freedom of expression should not be
trusted to corporate interests. Encryption is important for privacy and
security, and is winding its way into every corner of our life. It's
fundamentally a good thing, but we need to make sure that corporations
can't abuse Section 1201 to also control every corner of our life. In
our digital age, the very canvas upon which we paint our thoughts can be
access-controlled with cryptography, and we need the absolute right to
paint our thoughts freely and share them broadly if we are to continue
to live in a free and just society. Significantly, this does not
diminish the power of copyrights one bit – this lawsuit simply aims to
limit the expansive "pre-crime" powers granted to license holders, that
is all.

Of course, even though the lawsuit is in progress, corporations still
have the right to go after developers like you and me for the notional
pre-crimes associated with bypassing encryption. However, one
significant objection lodged by opponents of our lawsuit is that "no
other users have specified how they are adversely affected by HDCP in
their ability to make specific noninfringing use of protected content
… [bunnie] has failed to demonstrate … how "users 'are, or are
likely to be,' adversely affected by the prohibition on circumventing
HDCP." (from Opposing Comment of Digital Content Protection, LLC
Regarding Proposed Class Four, Regarding a Proposed Exemption under 17
USC 1201). This is, of course, a Catch-22, because how can you build a
user base to demonstrate the need for freedoms when the mere act of
trying to build that user base could be a crime in itself? No investor
would touch a product that could be potentially unlawful.

Thankfully, it's 2018 and we have crowd funding, so today I'm launching
a crowd funding campaign for the
in the hopes of
rallying like-minded developers, dreamers, users, and enthusiasts to
help build the case that a small but important group of people can and
would do more, if only we had the right to do so. As limited by the
prevailing law, the NeTV2 can only process unencrypted video and perform
encryption-only operations like video overlays through a trick I call
"NeTV mode". However, it's my hope this is a sufficient platform to stir
the imagination of developers and users, so that together we can paint a
vibrant picture of what a future looks like should we have the right to
express our ideas using otherwise controlled paints on otherwise denied

Find out more about the NeTV2 at the Crowd Supply crowd funding site; or if you think reforming
the DMCA is important but digital video is not your expressive canvas,
consider supporting the EFF directly with a
. Together we can reform
Section 1201 of the DMCA, and win back our fundamental freedom to
express and innovate in the digital age.