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
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.