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. In fact, I have been personally involved in the fight against
broadcast piracy in the last few months. 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.