Of course, telling citizens what they can't watch
on TV is only half of what responsible government is all about.
The other half, of course, is telling us what we must watch. Congress
is rising to the challenge.
Over the past few years wording that would actually criminalize
skipping or fast-forwarding through commercials and promotional
announcements on DVDs and similar media has been quietly slipped
into several copyright-related bills. Skeptical readers to whom
this sounds like hyperbole should take a look at the drafts of HR2391,
HR4077 and S2237, to name just a few.
Despite these repeated attempts, as of this writing, such a prohibition
has not become law, and Americans still have to right to skip or
fast-forward through advertisements. However, since this provision
keeps getting inserted into other bills, it will almost certainly
become law at some point.
When questioned as to why they support such legislation, Congressional
supporters cite concerns over movie piracy, the loss of American
jobs, and even fighting international terrorism. They adamantly
insist that their support has nothing (nothing!) to do with the
hundreds of millions of dollars they receive annually from the entertainment
The attempts to enact such legislation have attracted little attention
primarily because most people realize that such laws would be all
but impossible to enforce. That's about to change.
Last month Phillips filed a patent on technology that promises
to solve the festering problem of viewer choice once and for all.
Since Phillips has not officially named this technology, we'll call
it the "A-Chip". When the A-Chip is incorporated into
a TV, VCR or set-top box, it prevents the viewer from fast-forwarding,
changing the channel, or even turning off the TV until after the
commercials are over.
This technology does everything but tie you down to the chair and
pry your eyelids open. While even Phillips's patent application
acknowledges that this technology may be "greatly resented
by viewers", one can't help but notice that requiring all TVs
to have A-Chips as well as V-Chips would be the perfect way to enforce
the mandatory-ad-viewing laws the entertainment industry so fervently