As a consumer of digital content, I have a grave concern about the proposed
Broadcast Flag. I enjoy
the flexibility and control that technology gives me. I can be more than a
passive recipient of content;
I can modify, create and participate. Technology currently gives me more choices
by allowing me to
record a television program and watch it later; clip a small piece of TV and
splice it into a home movie;
send an email clip of my child's football game to a distant relative; or record
a TV program onto a
DVD and play it at my friend's apartment. The broadcast flag seems designed to
remove this control
and flexibility that I enjoy.
Historically, the law has allowed for those not affiliated with creating content
to come up with new,
unanticipated ways of using it. For example, Sony invented the modern VCR -- a
movie studio did not.
(Sony did not own a movie studio at the time.) Diamond Multimedia invented the
MP3 player -- a recording
label did not. Unfortunately, the broadcast flag has the potential to put an end
to that dynamic.
Because the broadcast flag defines what uses are authorized and which are not,
unanticipated uses of
content which are not foreseeable today are by default unauthorized. If we allow
the content
industry to "lock in" the definition of what is and is not legitimate use, we
curtail the ability for
future innovation - unanticipated but legal uses that will benefit consumers.
I am a law-abiding consumer who believes that piracy should be prevented and
prosecuted. However,
if theoretical prevention comes at the cost of prohibiting me from making legal,
personal use of my
content, then the FCC should be working to protect all consumers rather than
enable those who
would restrict consumer rights. In the case of the broadcast flag, it seems that
it will have little
effect on piracy. With file-sharing networks, a TV program has only to be
cracked once, and it will
propagate rapidly across the Internet. So, while I may be required to purchase
consumer electronic
devices that cost more and allow me to do less, piracy will not be diminished.
In closing, I urge you to require the content industry to demonstrate that its
proposed
technologies will allow for all legal uses and will actually achieve the stated
goal of preventing
piracy. If they cannot, I urge you not to mandate the broadcast flag.