Broadcast Flag At Half Mast

By Jon Newton 5/08/05

The entertainment industry cartels’ consumer-control Broadcast Flag is now drooping sadly at half-mast, thanks to a decision by the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

“You've gone too far. Are washing machines next?" - the New York Times has Judge Harry T. Edwards saying during the oral arguments as, “he pressed a government lawyer to justify how the Federal Communications Commission could possibly set standards governing computers and the Internet.”

Jon Newton

Broadcast Flag as it is at the moment was hoisted when the FCC unanimously adopted provisional rules decreeing that digital TVs would have to be able to receive and recognize an electronic 'flag' broadcasters could embed in their programming to "foster the transition to digital TV and forestall potential harm to the viability of free, over-the-air broadcasting in the digital age," as the FCC put it.

Stated another way, it would foster Hollywood control of what people did in their own homes.

“The Broadcast Flag rule would have required all digital TV receivers, including televisions, VCRs, and personal video recorders like TiVo, to be built to read signals embedded in over-the-air broadcast television shows that would place certain limitations on how those shows could be played, recorded, and saved,” says the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation). “The sale of any hardware that was not able to ‘recognize and give effect to’ the Broadcast Flag, including currently existing digital and high-definition television (HDTV) equipment and open source/free software tools, would have become illegal.”

The EFF, together with Public Knowledge, the Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the American Association of Law Libraries, the Medical Library Association and the Special Libraries Association were among groups that protested Broadcast Flag’s adoption.

The court agreed, ruling unanimously that the FCC overstepped its authority when it asserted control over the design of any device capable of receiving HDTV signals.

"Had the flag been implemented, Hollywood, acting through the FCC, would have been able to dictate the pace of technology in consumer electronics,” says Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn.

The EFF’s Wendy Saltzer had her own solution.

Build your own TV.

Seltzer's plans are now on hold, but only that. Hollywood will immediately start implementing Plan B, which you can be sure is ready and waiting.

Stay tuned because it’s not over yet.

Not by a long shot.


Jon Newton is the editor of and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.


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