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Professor posts digital device hit list

Could singing fish novelties be hooked by a proposed law requiring anti-copying technology in digital devices? Princeton professor Ed Felten thinks so.

    Could singing fish novelties be hooked by a proposed law requiring anti-copying technology in digital devices?

    Princeton professor Ed Felten thinks so.

    The computer scientist has launched a site, called Fritz's Hit List, that points out devices that could be forced to carry anti-copying technology if Sen. Fritz Hollings', D-S.C., Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA) passes. The bill, which is designed to thwart piracy, would restrict digital products that don't carry government-approved security technology.

    So far, Fritz's Hit List features a catalog of unlikely devices Felten said would be regulated under the law. They include common objects such as baby monitors and automobile navigation systems as well as seemingly innocuous toys such as the Shop With Me Barbie toy cash register, the Sony Aibo robot dog and Big Mouth Billy Bass.

    "That's right, your favorite wall-hanging, singing, dancing, animatronic fish qualifies for regulation as a 'digital media device' under the Hollings CBDTPA," Felten wrote on the site. "If the CBDTPA passes, any new Billy Bass will have to incorporate government-approved copy-protection technology."

    Felten is also hoping people will send in suggestions.

    He said he's trying to illustrate the "heavy hand" of the Hollywood-backed bill, which has garnered opposition from a wide variety of sources, including consumer electronics makers, open-source advocates and free-speech enthusiasts.

    The issue of technology regulation has hit home for Felten, who last year backed away from presenting research on cracking digital watermarks after the entertainment industry warned his talk might run afoul of federal copyright laws. Since then, he's been warning other researchers that their work on issues such as computer security could run afoul of new and proposed laws that are designed to crack down on piracy by giving media companies and the government more control over technology.