August 6, 2004  ·  Tim Wu

The Broadcast Flag regime is, I think, something of an embarassment for the FCC. Many of the commissioners came to the FCC to deregulate telecommunications law, not to regulate the electronics industry. Yet they find themselves in mission creep mode, issuing command-and-control rules for the design of consumer products, surely prompting some to wonder what exactly they’re fighting for.

Evidence that the FCC’s heart isn’t really in this stuff comes from its approval this week of thirteen distribution technologies, without much fuss. It supports the sense that the Commission wants out.

Of greatest symbolic importance: Approval of Tivo’s TivoGuard system. That’s the technology behind the TivoToGo system, designed to let Tivo users swap shows they’ve recorded, within certain limits. The MPAA and NFL opposed it for the usual reasons – marginal threats to existing revenue streams. Classic rent-protection behavior, and supposedly what the new FCC exists to fight.

Others have said this before, but the FCC plays at copyright at its peril. As many know, the late 1960s was the last time the FCC played copyright cop, and it was perhaps the most embarassing episode in the history of the Commisison. Acting mainly on the advice of the Broadcast industry, the FCC did what it could to sabotage cable TV, in favor of the great technical wonder of UHF. The motto from the FCC’s own Vietnam should have been “never again.” Today, the FCC’s back in the pseudo-copyright game, and it should be looking for a graceful exit strategy.

  • Alexander Wehr

    Well, they are facing litigation pressures from heavyweight consumer groups.
    It would be easy for them to recend the “flag mandate” on grounds that the case is too firm against them.

    Weather or not the case is actually firm enough for a defeat in court is irrelevant, that is if theyre looking for a graceful way out.

    There could be pictures of hand shaking with the plaintiff parties in the current case of ALA et. al. v FCC, a nice warm fuzzy headline, and thats it.. public image problem solved.

    I dont see that, and i also dont see the case being given the urgency it should have, with so little time remaining until the “compliance” deadline.

    I think the FCC is doing damage control to help its case so it can continue to serve the MPAA’s beck and call.

  • Alexander Wehr

    It doesnt really matter what the broadcast flag ruling is about.

    Mainstream cable and satellite are what most people purchase, and the MPAA intimidated these industries into accepting mandatory encryption standards designed specifically to lock out PC tv tuner cards and pre-mandate vcr’s.

    Because this was approved in a separate ruling in which the FCC simply accepted anticonsumer manipulation of plug and play standards by the MPAA, there appears to be nothing, save for FCC’s willing reversal of the order, to prevent complete breach of our home recording rights, as well as unfair lockout of the personal computer as a possible home “media center”.

    Considering I have been living with the promise of a pc based media center, I am beyond disappointed. I have been robbed, i’m sure others agree with me, especially people who own pre-mandate DVD recorders which cant decrypt the signal.

  • http://www.entertainment-news.org entertainment news

    “… the MPAA intimidated these industries into accepting mandatory encryption standards designed specifically to lock out PC tv tuner cards and pre-mandate vcr�s.”

    I get every channel of Dish Network through a PC tuner card I bought from dsscanada.ca, including PPV events.

  • Alexander Wehr

    The standard has not been implimented yet. I get conflicting reports of when that implementation is to come, but when it is your card will be dead. I wish you luck.

  • Anonymous

    Plug and play will follow the broadcast flag stuff

  • Charlie

    I respectfully disagree with your statement that, “Many of the commissioners came to the FCC to deregulate telecommunications law….”

    I suggest, as do some others [Oh Lord, that sounds like the Fox Nutwork], that “they” came to Washington to exercize BIG Government control over people’s private lives. It’s just that, as FCC Commissioners, this is the arena in which they play.

    But, BIG Government control over people’s private lives is the name of their game.

  • http://www.webhelpdesk360.com Web Help Desk 360

    We provide you creative solutions with reasonable cost. Our Services : Web Development, Graphic Design, Logo Design, Content Writing and Management System, Website Maintenance, Search Engine Optimization, and Online Marketing and much more.