There are so many reasons to disagree with the proposed rules, it's hard
to know where to start.
The Notice asks in paragraph 3:
"[is] a regulatory copy protection regime ... needed within the limited
sphere of digital broadcast television?"
And in Appendix A, it answers its own question, saying
"The need for FCC regulation in this area is that the lack
of digital broadcast copy protection has been identified as
a key impediment to ... transition for DTV."
First off, there is no clear evidence that a shift to DTV
is an important enough national goal for the government
to interfere in the marketplace. The market should move to
DTV at its own pace.
Second, one big reason the market has not yet embraced DTV
is simply the horrendous cost to the consumer of the new
equipment. This cost is not constant, however. It is falling
continuously, driven by developments in the computer industry,
which needs many of the same kinds of equipment. The famous
Moore's Law, which predicts that computing power drops in price
by a factor of two every 18 months, has held true over the last
three decades, and has shown no signs of repeal.
The government need not lift a finger to ensure the switch
to DTV, as sheer economics will make it imperative at some
point, once computer technology has advanced far enough.
This may well happen in the next nine years,
during which time computing power will drop in price
by a factor of 64 (!), if Moore's Law holds.
Government action to force the transition to happen by
some arbitrary deadline would be a significant distortion of the market.
Third, Government action in this matter will likely have as
a side effect the unnatural prolongation of copyrights.
Consider: no copy protection scheme yet proposed has made
provision for copies to become readable after the original
copyright term has expired. This is an unacceptable violation
of the original intent of the Copyright Act of 1790, which
wisely limited the duration of copyrights to 14 years, renewable once.
Mandated copy protection would essentially make copyrights immortal
unless archival copying were allowed, and archived copies
contained a time release mechanism which released them from
copy protection after the original term of the copyright lapsed.
Fourth, by mandating effective copy protection, the Government
would be slamming the door on the vital cooperation of amateur
radio operators and software hobbyists who have contributed
so many technical achievements to the state of the art.
This is an insult to their pioneering spirit, and is a terrible
way to thank them for their contributions; but worse, it is
stifling the innovations they would otherwise contribute
to the future state of the art. We cannot foresee what
innovations we might be giving up in exchange for a
slight speedup in the transition to DTV.
Fifth, the nature of digital technology is such that, to
be effective, any copy-protection regime must neccessarily
be draconian, and would effectively prevent general-purpose
computers from being used to their full potential. Do not
believe the representatives of large media companies who
assure you that copy protection is a simple, painless operation;
it is instead tantamount to a lobotomy of the general purpose
computer. The "Trusted Computing Platform Alliance" and
Microsoft's Palladium Initiative are two current efforts
to produce computers which can *only run programs approved
by a central authority*, as this is the only way to implement
effective copy protection.
As software and computers become increasingly important in
our lives, the idea of submitting every piece of software
one runs to a central authority, be it Microsoft or be it
the Federal Government, is an incredibly foolish and
dangerous thing to promote.
Sixth, it is unlikely that any effective copy protection
regime could make adequate allowance for traditional fair
use of copyrighted material.
I could go on, but the above six considerations make
it abundantly clear to me and to every person I have
talked with that the paltry five or ten year speedup
in transition to DTV that the proposed rules aim to
accomplish pale in comparison with the amazingly broad
implications of the proposed rules for our freedom
and future innovations. I urge the commission to drop
the idea of mandated copy protection.
Daniel Kegel
Software Engineer