Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Broadcast Flag

This front has been quiet for about a year. It's probably safe to discuss it, air it out, and explain the situation for benefit of everyone now that the fires out.
The problem was (and is) the illegal use of copyrighted media. The Brodcast Flag was a technology fix by record labels and movie studios to stop piracy. ...Well, they said it was to stop piracy but the big hammer solution they sugested also stopped all kinds of perfectly legal uses too. What they wanted was to prohibit the manufacture of computer or video hardware without copy protection technology embedded.

For radio this was about the BROADCAST FLAG!. Officially it was referred to as "Digital Broadcast Television Redistribution Control," or the FCC's rule is in 47 CFR 73.9002(b) and the following sections, stating in part: "No party shall sell or distribute in interstate commerce a Covered Demodulator Product that does not comply with the Demodulator Compliance Requirements and Demodulator Robustness Requirements."

n translation... All HD radio and HD TVs will monitor for a "broadcast flag." the device now being remotely monitorable and usable to delete, stop, block and restrict content use. So you cant tape the radio, your favorite shows, nor edit out the commercials when you are allowed etc... This was all intended for television but it took all of 10 seconds for the fiends to realize that radio could go down the same way. More here. One represantative Rep. Lamar Smith,went as far as saying the FCC “might issue rules that impact the Copyright Act.” A gross understatment.

The flag itself woudl have been a sequence of digital bits embedded in a television or radio program that signals that the program must be protected from unauthorized redistribution. It would be invisible and not alter the program audibly or visibly. Thsi technology has existed for a decade.. its called a watermark. More here.

Seems lame but in fact also illegal. You are totally allowed to tape the radio right now. You can do that. But desipte that, the FCC wants to stop it, or to be able to stop it. Or to at least make you sit thru the advertisements when you do. That really sucks. Especially for all those people that like their Tivo so much. Best explained by this comic.

It was so blatantly over the line that even the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the FCC had exceeded its authority in creating this rule. The FCC only has authority to regulate communications, not devices that receive communications. So this illegal backroom attampt by the Bush administration was thwarted. It was so blatantly illegal that even his ditto-head congress wouldn't touch it. It was allowed to die.

So now as will all truly criminally bad, and ill-minded peices of legaslative groupthink we all await for it's inevitable zombie-live return from the dead.