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May 25, 2004
From Japan, a Broadcast Flag Preview
The Japanese tend to get cool tech far before it reaches the U.S. This time, though, they're previewing un-cool regulation. The Japan Times Online reports on confusion caused by the Japanese version of the broadcast flag, "a special transmission signal that allows only a single copy of the program to be made."
Measures implemented by NHK and private TV broadcasting companies to control the copying of digital television programs have drawn a flood of complaints from TV users, with some saying they have been deprived of certain editing freedoms. ...
Because programs that have been copied once cannot be duplicated or edited digitally, editing the programs via a personal computer has become impossible.
Broadcasters and copyright holders claim they're concerned about copyright violation, but this "remedy" sweeps much too broadly. The elderly people confused by why their expensive equipment no longer works as expected weren't likely trying to infringe copyright. Neither would a child who wanted to edit a news clip in which she appeared to a size to send to her parents, or a parent recording a cartoon to save for his kids.
Japan's apparently voluntary system offers us a preview of what the U.S. is in for in July 2005, when the FCC's "broadcast flag" mandate takes effect here. Buy now to get your fully user-configurable technology, or prepare to be surprised by what you can no longer do.
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