Will AACS restrictions put the lock-down on your HTPC and your rights??

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Dan Hitchman, Jul 5, 2005.

  1. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    As we get ever closer to a roll out (big, small, something in between?) of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD late this year or next (the latter is beginning to be the more likely scenario)there seems to be the looming threat that the functionality of HTPC's and personal computing in general will take a back seat to Hollywood, the recording industry, and software manufacturer greed and paranoia (more of the former than the latter IMHO).

    The newest requirements of the AACS (which is the industry body coming out with the copy restriction and security requirements for the next generation of HD media), according to posts by Amir of Microsoft on the AVS Forum, it seems that encrypting all forms of inputs and outputs on your computer is a BIG DEAL with Hollywood (and I'm sure with MS); so much so that you may need all new computer hardware (as in practically every piece of equipment due to their perceived threat of someone tapping into the datastream at some point and ripping files) and MS's new Longhorn OS in order to fully use a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD drive in a computer.

    In fact, Longhorn may be the first OS to meet AACS approval... that means every OS from XP on down could be ruled too vulnerable to allow HD drives to operate. Amir hinted that some AACS approved video card or other device may allow direct encrypted linkup to the drive in order to get around this, but said it may be unlikely.

    The Blu-Ray Consortium of companies have not, as of now, formally included AACS requirements into Blu-Ray's specs., but may do so soon as most of their members are also AACS members... and it's the only game in town.

    From a company that says they are for consumer choice MS seems to be quite willing to accept the rule of the AACS body (they are a member as well as most CE companies, and the IRAA, and MPAA) in most matters pertaining to fair use laws (or the elimination of such).

    One such sticking point is the ability to rip CD's and other audio files (and video files, which goes without saying really) to your computer for unfettered use and backup/archival copying... this includes network distribution for whole house A/V systems. Again, personal use is taking a back seat because they claim we are all criminals bent on stealing and selling their "gold" over the internet, etc.

    Amir states MS is for the consumer's rights to make backups for personal use, but many of the requirements of the AACS are calling for revokable 128 bit keys that could shut down parts of your software and/or hardware from your computer or set top players to PVR's if they deem you are doing "suspicious" activities. This key feature is hidden in the guise of internet connectivity in order to download updates to "improve" your player or computer or for consumers to access value added stuff attached to movie and audio discs. While you're connected the mainframe on the web would check to see if you've been "naughty" or "nice." If you are deemed to be "modifying" the original intent of their products, the key codes could be revoked and you get the "blue screen of death" so to speak and you would not be able to play discs any more.

    I would assume one such "red flag" would be hacking or changing firmware in order to set Region Free playback, a feature many of us use in order to circumvent the atrocious Regional Coding restrictions so we can import our favorite movies without some sort of artificial barrier to free markets (this may only get worse, though it is one big reason piracy is so rampant). Since these "hacks" are usually quietly endorsed by manufacturers (and are leaked internally, usually) a new set of AACS rules could fine and severely penalize any manufacturer who slips in such "back doors" and is caught, up to revoking their license to sell high definition playback equipment!

    I am not endorsing piracy and out and out stealing, but am endorsing the basic ability to legitimately buy any disc and have it work in any player in the world without arbitrary restrictions, just like normal CD's and tapes now, and the ability to freely use said purchased products in your own home without prying eyes lurking right outside ready and quite willing to pounce. Just look at the IRAA trying to get laws passed that allow them to monitor your hard drive for "illegal" music downloads. The AACS may allow them this gift without having to go through Congress at all!

    I could go on, but you, I'm sure, are getting the picture of this brave new world order. It's bad enough that they are trying to move towards a world where you don't own any physical media whatsoever, but one in which they have a hand permanently attached to your wallet by way of locked downloaded content you can't save or archive... sort of like DIVX on super-crack.

    I'm beginning to think that "high definition media" is being used as a kind of code word in the industry for a beginning of total domination of the market place and the ability to wipe out once and for all any kind of consumer control over privacy and fair use rights given to us by the Betamax laws from the early 80's (and much, much bigger sets of documents... the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights).

    What say you?
     
  2. Parker Clack

    Parker Clack Schizophrenic Man
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    Dan:

    I say that we as consumers will have the final vote. That is the vote that we have with our dollars. As with DIVX, if the consumer votes NO by not spending any money on these devices and such restrictions, then it is doomed to fail right out of the box.
     
  3. Harris_C

    Harris_C Stunt Coordinator

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    Here Here to that!!

    Bring on IPTV!!
     
  4. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    Are you sure the average joe is going to realize what's happening with AACS? They'll think a few of these "features" as some cool gizmo, but won't know what it's doing behind the scenes.

    How about dial up DRM? A few studios putting out WMV HD stuff insisted it was added. When you went to unlock the data and get the license for playback it took personal information. Look at MS and it's phone home system to unlock XP (take a look at the privacy settings in the bowels of Windows Media Player). Tivo and services like it gather second by second tracking of what you watch, what you pause, what you record, what you rewind to, what commercials you skip and which you supposedly watch, etc. etc. This data is sold (in fact on 60 minutes or another news magazine, the founders of Tivo basically conceded this fact). Not long ago there was an injunction brought about by a lawsuit that blocked the government from getting your name and that data from Tivo and ReplayTV and the like. It was due to the Patriot Act (the same mentality behind gathering public library data).

    Take a looksee at the AACS and what they want to do by snooping (and possibly shutting down or gathering info. or downloading and "fixing" things with your computer or set top player due to what they feel was tampering) in the guise of WiFi or some other kind of cool internet connection, or controlling your archiving and how much and what type of data you can and cannot use... it goes on and on. You start to accept these non advertised "features" like TIVO (which practically no one is calling out, by the way) and then you accept a little more errosion of privacy and convenience, and a little more, and then just a little more. And then BAM! they got you (I don't think this is paranoia, but fairly well documented actions). The MPAA and IRAA (as one example of powerful industry organizations) are notorious control freaks. You don't think it's not planned out and strategized, with piracy as their shield? Some rags are starting to talk about this stuff in general. Even Newsweek, Time, and of all things Home Theater magazine!

    DIVX taught the movie and music industry one valuable lesson: to be sneaky... over sell a negative, and you bomb. Peel back the ITunes craze and what do you have? Less than CD quality MP3 files at the exact same price (maybe a smidge less) than a regular CD (99 cents per download??) , and many call that convenience and a super deal. Cost to fill one type of Ipod: ~$10,000! And there are new provisions going in to AACS that may limit what you can rip on your computer... even these far less than master quality files.

    They aren't starting with PPV or Pay Per Play, or something dramatic and eye popping right out of the gates, but are ramping up by going into stealth mode (reading some of the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD white papers can give you a glimmer of the potential cash flow they see from this--starting with "value added features" you have to get online on a non-permanent basis--and going from there). In not so many ways (they couch their words carefully) the industry guys on AVS Forum have been hinting at this all along. How many J6P's read the industry chatter or go to forums such as these?

    We need to start getting more informed.
     
  5. Christian Behrens

    Christian Behrens Supporting Actor

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    Parker,

    I don't believe it's as easy as saying the consumer has the last word. Unfortunately, a few years down the road Longhorn will be the only Windows game in town, and with it all the restrictions Dan laid out (and probably a whole lot more).

    Sure, knowledgable people can go to Linux and the like, but for Joe Shmoe ordering his new PC from Dell this won't be an option.

    I fear that we won't be able to feed our TVs and projectors with HD discs like we can DVDs now!

    They want us to pay for playing content, every time and on every device! When you stop paying, it will stop playing. Plain and simple. Don't believe it? The napster subscription thingie is only the beginning.

    -Christian
     
  6. lee ison

    lee ison Stunt Coordinator

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    well you can call me a luddite, but i could care less about hd or blue-ray dvds. I'm 53 and i won't be replacing my movie cat., i've done it once ,the resolution i get now with dvds is more tha enough to satisfy. I think most people (the average Joe)won't either. I'm sure as soon as they are released someone will crack the codes ,digital flags , whatever the very next day or soon after and they will be all over the net with this info.By the way look what is happening with dvdas and sacds, I bet they will be gone in another year. HD- blue ray WHO CARES!? just another marketing scheme to sell you the same stuff again ,I ain't buying it!
     
  7. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    I think you're getting a little too paranoid about this.
    If I have a Longhorn system and I want to watch an HD movie on it, I should be able to - and I see no argument there.

    But you seem to be sure that I will be restricted in some way, after I do something illegal. If I do something illegal should I still be able to watch what I want?

    As for the Betamax law, which is working right now, no one has actually cancelled it. We do have the DCSS(?) act, which was basically only made to stop illegal copying.

    Again, if I don't try to rip anything, (and I can't see any reason why I would), I can't see any problem here at all. The basic difference I see here between the two is that time-shifting is ok, but making 'another' copy of a movie is illegal.

    Ok, I know that - you know that. The only reason you're ripping a second copy is so you don't have to go out and buy one. If I missed something here, please let me know!

    Glenn
     
  8. PeterTHX

    PeterTHX Cinematographer

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    People said the same about VHS.
    Or remember this one?
    "25" is a HUUUGE TV!"
     
  9. lee ison

    lee ison Stunt Coordinator

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    you missed my point i'm too old , too blind to enjoy , and true every one said that about VHS,but we're talking about 245 lines opossed to 480 I may be half blind but even I could see the difference(I've watched the same movies too many times).
     
  10. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    This is not an issue of "illegal copying". It's an issue of where and when you get to take certain actions, and under what circumstances. The studios and other entities have taken a free gift from the State [which the latter is under no Constitutional obligation to grant, though it has the power to do so], a kind of temporary and limited monopoly known as a "copyright", and by perverting it into a kind of property have expanded it beyond all reason.
    If I own a book, I am able to read it anywhere I please as long as there is light. If I own a CD or a LaserDisc, I am able to play it anywhere I can find the appropriate readout equipment. If I own a DVD and I want to watch it on vacation, I cannot do so unless I remain within a certain geographical zone, or carry my DVD player with me, or make modifications to the players I find in the place I go to. Apparently if I own a BluRay or HDDVD and I want to watch it at all I may have to log onto the Internet, key in personally identifying information, and possibly pay -- again -- since in the eyes of the studios ["content owners"] I have purchassed only the medium on which the information they claim to own is stored, and not the information itself or even a permanent license to use it.
    I find this unacceptable in the extreme. Pardon me while I find a MUSE LD player and drown my sorrows in non-content-protected analog HD...
     
  11. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Screenwriter

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    When the DMCA proposals were going through Congress, there were variants that would have outlawed circumvention only in the context of infringement. If I recall correctly, Valenti claimed that this would be "unacceptable". Now why would someone want it to be against the law to engage in lawful forms of copying and use?
     
  12. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    I don't think I am being paranoid, and I'm not agendizing illegal stuff. Just what we can do with CD's right now. There are a lot of enthusiasts who like to make a backup of a DVD to their harddrive so they can make a media server to catagorize their films and add the trailers they want, create slide shows at the beginning, take out the damn forced trailers so they can start the movie right up, etc. You know, making the home theater experience seem more like a regular theater... and they are not stealing squat or buying illegal stuff. They are doing it for the convenience... and they don't need the thought police looking over their shoulder watching and recording their activities.

    Of course any of that can be used for ill gotten gains, but I am not here saying that we should be pre-judged as criminals because of it. That's exactly what the industry is doing: treating us all like potential thieves who must be smacked into submission every so often.

    I liken this to police and the FBI going around and infiltrating regular protest groups, who MIGHT have a beef against one thing or another... or collecting names and pictures or videos of people peacably demonstrating at rallies. This happened in Denver, Colorado (and still is). You remember the news story of the cop who posed as a member of a "radical group" who just so happen to sit around drinking coffee and eating donuts and talking about the vile thing some people call "global peace?" They found out he was a cop sent to spy on them after they read an article in the paper saying he was killed in a car accident. These groups are and were pre-judged when they did nothing wrong.

    However, I digress and take you back to the white papers that were put out by the various format groups. They talk about how they want certain features added to help part you from your money. They leave off certain features or extras and make you go get it on the internet. You may have to pay for it to unlock certain aspects, or bonus features already on the disc. As I stated earlier, they are starting off small and are going to build momentum towards all intellectual property not being owned by consumers. Then you'll have to pay to play it after you've gotten used to this new model.

    They are practically salivating over the revokable nature of these key codes, because if they are lockable, they can add a "fee" for you to "unlock" them. However, they started by trumpeting the 128 bit encryption as a fool proof way to stop illegal copying.

    A handful of studios may allow limited downloading of the content off the disc (again, as you can do for free now on a CD) and onto a whole house network device... if you pay for a time limited issued license. Yeah, they'll let you do the very thing they claim is stealing and a boon to pirates, as long as you pay them first! They are adding these features to OTA broadcasts right now under the "Broadcast Flag" bill the FCC allowed to go through. And you say the Betamax bill is in full force! Some broadcasters through some stations and on satellite have already turned on "copy once" or "copy never" flags already embedded in the HDCP signals for HDMI and 5C signals for FireWire. Time shifting free programming... only when they feel generous. That's how it starts.

    Starting some time this year all new computer based HDTV tuner cards must recognize the Broadcast Flag. After this month, they can't make cards that don't read the flag. The only assurances the FCC have been given that it won't be turned on are that the broadcasters will only conservatively "self police" themselves and only on programming deemed "too important" will they turn on "copy once" or "copy never."

    I think it boils down to the idea that the industry thinks if the program is worth copying you'll "get" to pay for the privelage of watching the show again... like buying the boxed set or renting it (more emphasis on the former than the latter) rather than time shifting it for free if you miss something. As we well know with DVD, not all programs will make it to video... and without syndication cuts.


    A brave new world indeed!
     
  13. PeterTHX

    PeterTHX Cinematographer

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    And now we're talking 1080 lines, more than double, coupled with the pixel width (1920 vs 720) and now we're up to potential TRIPLE resolution. Not to mention TRUE color bandwith 4:2:0 vs 4:2:2 or even 4:4:4.

    The larger the display the bigger the difference. I'm sure you're half-blind eyes can appreciate a sharper larger display.
     
  14. Harris_C

    Harris_C Stunt Coordinator

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    Isn't Google working on an operating system!! [​IMG]
     
  15. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    Nice one, Harris! [​IMG]

    I don't have all of the answers - actually, I don't think anybody does, but I can't put DVD and broadcast TV together in any way.

    HD DVD movies will never be available only on-line, or with a pay per view deal. If I want a movie, it is going to have to be in my hand. I am sure that a lot of other people feel the same way. We would just stop buying. It would be worse than DIVX - much worse. There would be a mad scramble to buy up every DVD on every store shelf, and then it would stop. What do they think they are going to do, require every home to have a computer connected to the Net so I can download it? I don't have a high-speed connection. If I had to get one the cost for movies would go way up - so forget it.

    It is true that the broadcast flag has been set up to restrict viewing, but it doesn't have anything to do with the Betamax laws. What that law did was to open up more shows. Right now, I can record 4 shows and watch a 5th one.

    What it also did was to screw up the ratings system. Dear old Neilson didn't count the recorders in use, and it screwed up the advertising prices. What the broadcasters want us to do is to make us pick and watch one program at any one time. It will force us to pick and choose, but I have a feeling that doing that will backfire also. The networks could flag all prime time shows, even with no recording at all, but the public is spoiled now, and they are going to scream. It will be much worse than what's-his-face jumping down the shaft in EP 5. [​IMG]

    They are trying to control us, but Betamax blew it - forever.

    On a legal note - copying CD's is illegal. They are copyrighted. Just because you can copy songs doesn't make it legal. Hell, I can rip up the pages of a book and feed them into my PC, but it is still illegal. The copyright is there to protect the artist from getting ripped off.

    On that basis, you can see why these companies don't trust us. It sucks, I won't deny that, but they do have a valid reason behind it.

    Glenn
     
  16. Thomas Newton

    Thomas Newton Screenwriter

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  17. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    Glenn, the movie itself doesn't necessarily have to exist online, you can buy the disc and then have to pay to play it. That's what their ultimate goal is until such time as you CAN download movies and music easily... give it time, it will happen.

    The wording in the white papers (and on some of the presentation slides that were floating around the forums) is quite interesting and it looks like they're starting small with some "extra" stuff you may have to unlock from online (and possibly pay for it) and either download it or have it be made available on the disc itself. The insiders were saying something like, if you need a French language subtitle or another language track you may have to add it this way.

    For example, some Japanese anime Disney has the rights to may only have the English dubbed version on the disc (they started off doing it this way on DVD) then you have to unlock the Japanese track and English subtitles, or have to download it into the player's storage chip (they were talking about at some point adding a hard drive to some players). You may not be able to archive that data, or if the website closes down (it has been known to happen) you lose the access to the "extras." If there's no big outcry then I'm sure you'll see them move to the next stage.

    See... they're thinking and taking baby steps, and how much can they get away with now.

    I state again, how many Tivo users know that their viewing habits are being stored by the company for sale to the highest bidder?

    Not only is that an invasion into your home, but one such "use" for this data may be so TV execs. can say, "well this character Joe Blow comes on the screen and 70% of Tivo users change the channel... we better axe him" or "85% of male Tivo users paused on a commercial or TV show with a woman in a skimpy bikini holding a beer... we better put more sexual and alcohol content in our shows, etc." That could destroy whatever creative drive writers have left when developing TV scripts... and as it is it ain't much anymore! The death of a script or story concept by a thousand paper cuts! Or the ever downward spiral of content in TV and movies... more sex! more explosions! more explosive sex, with dogs and beer, and women cheating on their husbands with beer drinking dogs!

    WOW! That's maybe over doing it a bit, but yet scary stuff nonetheless, and something they're seriously considering because it blows the doors off Nielson data collecting, and marketing firms have wet dreams about this crap Just watch the interview with the top marketing exec. from the documentary The Corporation. She's just one example of how they looove to manipulate consumers. And this same kind of data collecting could be tied to the new HD formats as well.

    Dan
     
  18. lee ison

    lee ison Stunt Coordinator

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    1080 lines and a larger image sounds like a lot more money spent , like I said marketing.
     
  19. Marko Berg

    Marko Berg Supporting Actor

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    I find it interesting that the propaganda the music and movie industries have been feeding to consumers for some time now has been taken so seriously that many people believe copying CDs you own, ripping them to MP3 tracks to your computer, or taking a trailer from a DVD and keeping a copy on your hard drive is considered illegal. (I know DMCA might be an issue to consider, however as far as I know nobody has been convicted of making copies for personal use and many other provisions of DMCA are still untested in courts.)

    As far as Europe goes, I am seeing a lot of similar campaigning, and it bothers me. Anti-copy warnings on DVDs and advertisements paid for by the industries use increasingly tough language, even though the presence of such warnings cannot restrict what I am allowed to do.

    I am well within my legal rights to e.g. rent a DVD or borrow a CD from a friend or a public library and make a copy for my personal use. If I have to break copy protection to achieve this, that's fine too. Anti-piracy stickers and warnings on packages, "illegal downloads" trailers before the feature, and non-skippable studio warnings simply don't apply.

    However, just being able to legally do many things doesn't mean I can (maybe copy protection will prevent me) or that I want to (maybe I don't want to give up a lot of my free time to download movies from the Internet and spend time authoring and burning DVDs). Maybe I also consider some actions immoral and object to them in principle. In addition, no warning card ever stopped a pirate DVD factory from churning out product for illegal profit.

    I still hope the industries that suffer from massive piracy take other measures to combat the issue than threaten people. I welcome stronger encryption and other technical measures as long as they are not intrusive or prevent normal use of a product, such as CDs with a certain copy protection scheme that do not play in my DVD player or on my computer -- two devices I am most likely to use the CD on.

    Stupid schemes such as the above problem with CDs that give a taste of a possible future, and the issues outlined by Dan Hitchman that do not respect consumers' privacy, as well as threats of lawsuits based on DMCA-type legislative failures, do nothing to raise my support. I am much more likely to support legal releases on future formats that don't treat me as a potential criminal.

    I would rather see Hollywood dead and no more entertainment created than intrusive measures that would hold my computer hostage, track and report what I watch or listen to, and copy protection so ridiculous that you can only watch a movie on the one device you first put the disc into. The personal computer industry had better not follow the example set by Hollywood.
     
  20. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    I agree that it is a huge problem how the industry (movie and music) are trying to protect a faltering business model by criminalizing people left and right. Then sneaking in these features into new-generation players (and trying to ramrod them into computer equipment as well) is indeed also a big problem already because we may well be faced with a fait accompli by the time we realize just how limited we have become in what we can do with the media we have paid for.

    I have no interest in having to pay every time I want to view a movie, and I sure don't have an interest in hardware that is "revocable" should someone manage to crack it.

    That apparently is a feature with the newer upcoming standards... if you buy a Brand X player of type Y and someone manages to chip or otherwise modify that type to bypass security restrictions... well no problem, the "content owners" just add that player type to information on all the new discs they stamp and boom, those discs can no longer be played on that brand and type of player. Any such player of that brand and type, that is. Anywhere.

    That would be a lot of fun, having spent $1000 on that machine and done nothing wrong yourself - yet still what you have is as useful to you as an inert lump of metal.

    The core problem, IMHO, is the fact that the US government (and yes, most likely all the rest of them too...) is for sale. Just spend enough money and you can get basically what you want out of congress, it seems.

    Disney has gotten copyrights extended to ridiculous times (I don't even know if it is 70 years or 100 at this point...) just to avoid having Mickey Mouse falling into the public domain. That did real harm to most of the rest of the public, but Disney of course are laughing all the way to the bank.

    Meanwhile, The RIAA/MPAA/BSA/IFPI keep trying very hard to keep this momentum going and making everybody think that any kind of copying is about on a par with axe murder. Heck, at this point they're even attempting to practically brainwash kids with in-school indoctrination and also use the scouting movement, with stuff like issuing copyright merit badges(!). Yeah, a keen appreciation of intellectual property law is something every scout really must have... [​IMG]

    Let's not even talk about the level of hypocrisy required when it comes to advertising like this by a music industry where the record company can make 7 million out of a release... and leave the musicians who made the music netting zero or even in debt to the company. If they want to feed a musician, they might start by actually not robbing them themselves in the first place.

    Basically, it's getting way out of hand. I'm very relived I'm not living in the US at the moment - at least here in Finland, I can be pretty assured I won't find myself facing a felony conviction and jailtime just for downloading one movie file, like you guys now can in "the land of the free" [​IMG] after a recent law that was passed but the problem is that this insanity is filtering out across the world and just getting worse daily...
     

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