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.