Broadcast Flag Good News?

June 4, 2005

Lots of reports this week about the MPAA’s efforts (or lack thereof) to drag the “Broadcast Flag” back to life as part of upcoming DTV legislation. As usual, the EFF has the skinny

First there was some apparent good news:

The Motion Picture Association of America is unlikely to push for a broadcast flag component in DTV legislation establishing a 2008 hard date because the bill’s main author, House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX), is against the provision. Meanwhile, the MPAA will keep briefing House and Senate members on a broadcast flag bill’s importance and seek other ways to get the content protections it wants.

A new Congressional Research Service report raises concerns that the broadcast flag’s technological limitations could hinder activities normally deemed “fair use” under copyright law. For instance, students might not be able to email themselves copies of projects incorporating digital video content because no secure system exists for email transmission. “The goal of the flag was not to impede a consumer’s ability to copy or use content lawfully in the home, nor was the policy intended to ‘foreclose use of the Internet to send digital broadcast content where it can be adequately protected from indiscriminate redistribution,'” the report said, quoting from the FCC order.

Then it looked like it might be a bit of premature celebration…

Update: It looks like the “new” report [PDF] was released in April, before the DC Circuit struck down the Broadcast Flag. It repeats the FCC’s assertion of authority to impose the Flag but also notes the objections of public interest organizations (Public Knowledge, EFF, et al.). Evidently, the new bit is that Congressman Barton is (presumably) citing the report to justify his distaste for Broadcast Flag provision, a use we couldn’t possibly encourage more.

So apparently the jury is still out, but appear to be grounds for “guarded optimism” at least…

More Broadcast Flag FUD from the MPAA

May 26, 2005

Dan Glickman, CEO of the MPAA has on his hipboots and is spreading it deep over on CNET with “Why the broadcast flag should go forward”.

Without proper protections, it will be increasingly difficult to show movies, television shows or even baseball games on free television.

Free television? What’s that? I don’t know of any free television.

Let’s see — there’s the stuff I pay for by watching ads and buying products (broadcast TV), there’s the stuff my tax dollars and donations pay for (PBS), there’s the stuff I pay a monthly fee for and still watch ads (basic cable/sat programming), and the stuff I pay for and don’t see ads on (premium cable/sat programming). Oh, and home shopping, infomercials, and tithe-TV.

Nothing free there, unless it’s hiding under a rock.
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Broadcast Flag Lesser Evil?

May 13, 2005

Engadget thinks maybe we were all a bit too hasty in celebrating the killing of the Broadcast Flag in US Appeals Court.

Their concern? Once Congress gets into this, we might end up with a technical solution to “protecting” digital content that would actually work…

However, the fact remains: the Broadcast Flag was a highly sidestep-able solution to the “problem” of content-protection. The technical implementation had more loopholes than a bowl of Fruitloops. Device manufacturers had little incentive to bulletproof their devices and, unlike OpenCable devices, testing wasn’t rigorous enough to ensure that content stayed protected. Furthermore, broadcasts remained in-the-clear and there was nothing to disrupt existing receivers/recorders. In short, the Broadcast Flag would have been as effective as DVD protection.

Okay… So the old method was brain dead (it just encouraged you to violate the DMCA like it was a five hundred dollar a night call girl handing out free gift certificates).

I’m just not sure I buy the idea that Congress is going to cause something more effective to replace it. On the whole, betting on Congress producing effective solutions to anything is a sucker bet in any year with a digit in it…