UPDATE: Hackers with heart

A small legal loophole may prevent hacker advocate group 2600 Australia from broadcasting DVD decryption codes and other sensitive information on national television.

Grant Bayley, who heads up 2600 Australia, the international organisation's Australian operation, said it was currently devising a 15-second broadcast, which he said would contain text files, delivered at 12 frames per second, and suggestions pertaining to the "ethics" of datacasting, computer security and privacy, and access-controlling DVD encryption.

Bayley said the text contained in the broadcast would not be comprehensible as it appeared live on television, but he suggested viewers record the broadcast on video and then watch the information afterwards "frame by frame".

Bayley maintained information contained in the broadcast would "primarily encourage ethical", educational use of new technologies such as datacasting. However, he admitted some information -- pertaining to the decryption of DVD access codes -- which could not be legally broadcast in the US, would be screened.

Australian Federal copyright laws, even those currently being amended, were unable to prevent broadcasting of information such as DVD decryption codes, regardless of how commercially crippling the information might potentially be, he said.

And, in fact, the Australian Broadcasting Authority said it was not authorised to interfere in a broadcast of any nature. An ABA spokesperson said the government organisation was authorised to respond to a broadcast only after it had gone to air.

Solicitor David McCulloch, director of broadcast policy for industry group FACTS (Federation of Australian Commercial Televison Stations), agreed it was likely that copyright and broadcast laws could not actively object to the content Bayley said would be contained in the 15-second program.

However, McCulloch pointed out that, regardless of the content of the flickering text-based images said to be contained in the broadcast, the program did represent a breach of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practices. It was illegal to broadcast anything that fell "below the threshold of normal awareness", he explained.

"It wouldn't be possible, under the code of practice, to telecast anything that wasn't apparent on face value," he said.

Bayley said the broadcast would be "fed" to Channel 10 by MindShare, a company that supplies advertising material in bulk for the television station. MindShare's own advertising slogan is "Head space invaders". The broadcast time was not yet known, but Bayley said it was expected to screen between 3 and 4 am "some time in the next few weeks".

The title "2600" refers to the frequency of pitch that technology-savvy Americans played into their telephone receivers to thwart long distance call charges in the early 1980s.

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