Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Broadcast Flag is Back

Gyah. After being killed by an EFF lawsuit early last year, the broadcast flag is back in the US, meaning it's bound to make it back here.

For those who don't know, a "broadcast flag" is a signal embedded in digital information that would supposedly prevent unauthorized copying. In fact, it would certainly be used by television networks to prevent what we normally think of as legal - for example, taping a show while you're out.

Why would networks want to keep you from taping Lost while you're out getting the groceries? Simple. Services like on-demand cable and the iTunes TV service make it possible for the networks to force you to pay for something you have, up till now, been able to get for free.

To be clear: There is little evidence that the BF will actually restrict piracy over the Internet. Bits are bits, and they're damn hard to control. What it will do is make a well-established practice of home users illegal.

But, it gets worse: The new BF legislation apparently will apply to everything. Via boingboing:
The Senate has introduced the "Digital Content Protection Act of 2006," a bill that will create "Broadcast Flags" for all digital radio and television, leading to FCC oversight of all new digital media technologies from iPods and PSPs to TVs and DVD recorders.
There are only two choices for the Internet in the 21st century. Either we open up, or shut it down. I'm not arguing for a moral right to piracy, but I think piracy is the price we have to pay for a free digital society. We tolerate pornography and hateful material (in Canada, a federal hate crime is a very limited and specific crime) in liberal societies. Surely building the great freeways of the 21st century is worth shaving the profit margins of massive corporations.

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