As a consumer of digital content, I have a grave concern about the proposed
Broadcast Flag.
I presently enjoy the flexibility and control that technology has given me. By
using the fetaures and functions of products available and accepted in the
market today, 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.
It is this sort innovation that has consistantly driven the economy and
livelihood of the United States.
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 personally be
required to purchase consumer electronic devices that cost more and allow me to
do less, piracy will not be diminished. In effect, the content creators will be
stealing money from average consumers as prices increase and the utility of
devices is diminshed... all-the-while piracy will remain rampant.
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.