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August 5, 2004
TiVo's Pyrrhic Victory
Ernie Miller has a marvelously sarcastic -- and marvelous because sarcastic -- response to the news yesterday that the FCC approved 13 new technologies, including TiVo, as compliant with the broadcast flag:
Oh, heavenly joy! Oh, fortunate day! Our wonderful technological masters, those geniuses of centralized planning, have deigned to bestow on the public the ability to move video files between 10 separate devices with the use of a registered dongle. What visionaries! What prophets, who can see what is appropriate use of technology and what is not!
If only we had had the FCC's sage advice when Sony developed the Betamax. The Supreme Court, in its ignorance, allowed the technology to develop unhindered. What a mistake! Could they not see that there must be regulation to channel and guide the foolish technologists who don't understand how markets function? How dare they create without approval? We must only permit innovation that has been properly considered by government regulators, without which markets would not function efficiently.
Fred von Lohmann calls
the FCC dispensation "a disaster." In order for these "lucky" 13 products to survive, the manufacturers had to agree to hobbled functionality. TiVo made it to market and then under the wire -- but only because it decided early on to compromise functionality. If the RIAA
gets its way, the companies creating TiVo for radio won't even have the choice. Next-generation digital radio will be regulated well before it reaches the market.
Ah -- but why stop at digital television and radio? As the copyright professors suggest, tech mandates could be the new copyright. The FCC could institute a "broadcast flag" for every single device capable of making a digital copy.
As I wrote over at Deep Links, this is what the entertainment industries told us they wanted in 2002 when they backed the Hollings Bill. That legislation would have forced every new digital media technology, at its birth, to comply with some kind of "content protection" design mandate imposed by an inter-industry group and administered by the FCC.
Thankfully, the Hollings bill was defeated. But defeating the broadcast flag(s) will be harder -- especially when people are fooled into believing that TiVo scraping crumbs from the carpet is victory.
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