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Donna Wentworth
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About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

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October 5, 2005

Night of the Living Broadcast Flag

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Public Knowledge has a fresh all-points-bulletin and action alert on the Broadcast Flag, which as Cory pointed out earlier this week, will have to be killed a dozen more times before our representatives finally understand that copyright cartel-crafted/government-mandated DRM is a terrible idea.

Here's PK's sample letter to the members of the two committees that will consider Broadcast Flag legislation:


I write to you today to ask you to oppose any "broadcast flag" or "radio protection" legislation offered in response to the recent U.S. Appeals Court decision striking down the Flag Order issued by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). These protection schemes will hurt me as a consumer: not just by harming how I like to use my consumer electronics and computers, but harming my choice of new and affordable products in the market place.

As a consumer, I want you to be aware of the following points:

* This Legislation is Broad: There is no "narrow" way to implement the broadcast flag scheme because it necessarily puts the FCC in the role of gatekeeper, having to approve and certify every technology that might carry DTV - computers, cellphones, gameboys, etc. Drafts of the language is broad so as to give the FCC permission to do both the broadcast flag and radio protection. As proof of the broad scope of the flag, when petitioned to exempt lawful uses of digital television, the FCC declined saying "practical and legal difficulties of determining which types of broadcast content merit protection from indiscriminate redistribution and which do not."

* Causes Consumer Confusion, Will Slow DTV Transition, and Probably Halt Digital Radio Rollout: At a time when Congress is concerned about making television sets obsolete at the end of the DTV transition, the flag would similarly render obsolete much consumer equipment because commonly used devices will not work together unless all use the same copy protection technology. The broadcast flag will not help the transition to DTV, and indeed might harm it because it makes consumers' TVs less functional than before. Digital radio protection is aimed at being intrusive and restraining inside a consumers own home.

* Limits Fair Use: As the May 11, 2005 Congressional Research Service report noted, the flag will prevent important fair uses, like the ability of teachers to engage in distance learning and the ability of individuals to email fair use portions of works to themselves and others. Making excerpts for public criticism of television media is critical, yet it will be severely limited as a result of this legislation.

Lastly, the flag will also hinder educational use of copyrighted content, and will stifle the design, operation, and further development of innovative consumer electronics. To me, this legislation is a bad idea, especially if Congress were to pass it with zero public debate. I urge you to oppose any broadcast flag legislation.


One more point for open-source programmers and enthusiasts: government technology mandates are especially bad news for open source. Your software is "non-robust," in Broadcast Flag terminology. It won't take orders from the top. That means it could turn out to be more useful and attractive to the market than the "consensus" devices everyone else is agreeing to hobble. That ruins the Broadcast Flag's "well-mannered marketplace." Which means your software is going down.

As PK says, you know the drill. Two minutes out of your day can make a real difference. If you don't think so, read this post. And please, send your letter today.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations


COMMENTS

1. Terry Frazier on October 7, 2005 5:13 PM writes...

Donna,

My Senator called today. Really. I sent an e-mail, based on your post, to my Congressman and both Senators. Today someone from Senator Chambliss' office called to say that the Senator will try to have the Broadcast Flag amendment pulled from the reconciliation bill and put out for open debate.

Thanks for the tip.

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