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.