Wired has a good story covering the fight against the FCC’s broadcast flag mandate [PDF] which would limit future video technology and put the rights of the television watcher (us) thoroughly in the control of the media industry: Group Warns DVRs Endangered. Read my previous post for more information about the DTV Liberation Front.
The EFF is calling for others to join the DTV Liberation Front. What is the DTV Liberation Front you ask? It is a group trying to make it easier for non-geeks to set up digital video recorders (Tivo-like devices) that will not be subject to upcoming Federal DRM legislation. A year from today (July 1, 2004), The FCC’s Broadcast Flag Initiative will go into effect, limiting what you may do with the content you watch on your television. Never mind the fact that by law, you have every right to copy content for your own personal . A snippet from the DTV Liberation Front announcement:
Today, you can use any device you like with your television: VCR, Tivo, DVD recorder, home theater receiver, or a PC combining these functions and more. A year from now, when the FCC’s broadcast flag mandate [PDF] takes effect, some of those capabilities will be forbidden.
Responding to pressure from Hollywood, the FCC has adopted a rule requiring future digital television (DTV) tuners to include “content protection” (aka DRM) technologies. Starting next year, all makers of HDTV receivers must build their devices to watch for a broadcast “flag” embedded in programs by copyright holders. When it comes to digital recording, it’ll be Hollywood’s DRM way or the highway. Want to burn that recording digitally to a DVD to save hard drive space? Sorry, the DRM lock-box won’t allow it. How about sending it over your home network to another TV? Not unless you rip out your existing network and replace it with DRMd routers. Kind of defeats the purpose of getting a high definition digital signal, doesn’t it?
As the new law won’t be put into place for a year, the group plans to promote knowledge about buying or building DVRs that are not beholden to the whims of large Media interests. These devices will be “grandfathered in”, so they can be used and sold in the future without violating the law.
But the most important goal, in my opinion, is awareness. We have a year to spread the word to the general public. People may not care at the moment, which is why we need to explain to them that future recording devices will have less capabilities than their current VCRs, purely because Hollywood has pressured our representatives into passing a law that is unfair to us (the consumers), and not in the common good. This is yet another case of legislation created to soothe Hollywood’s fears of losing profits to innovation.
So, if you want the ability to skip commercials, or fast forward through any movie you choose to watch in the future, then you need to check this project out and pass the word.
It’s the Hollings Bill by other means — an over-reaching new form of indirect liability that will force technology companies of all kinds to “ask permission” before innovating for fear of ruinous litigation if they don’t.
And so another front in the copyright wars opens, with the aggressors waving the bloody flag of file sharing, but really aiming at a much bigger target.
INDUCE stands for “Inducement Devolves into Unlawful Child Exploitation Act of 2004”. Go ahead, read that again. Yeah, that’s right, copyright laws, and ultimately your rights to make use of media that you have legally purchased will be directly affected by a law meant to protect children from exploitation. By hiding the new restrictions in a child exploitation law, he can try to crush the opposition by painting anyone against the proposed changes as not wanting to protect children. Utterly despicable, though not surprising coming from a politician who has received substantial contributions from the TV/Movies/Music industry, and advocated the idea that media companies should have the right to destroy the computers of people downloading copyrighted media – while his very own Web site was using unlicensed software. Brilliant.
The Act (to be proposed tomorrow by songwriter Sen. Hatch and others) amends the copyright law to say that anyone who “induces” copyright infringement is himself/itself an infringer.
“Induce” means intentionally aids, abets, counsels, or procures. So you can’t even hire a lawyer if you’re doing something risky.
If we don’t put a stop to this now, your VCR may well be illegal in the near future. I am going to follow this issue and post more news as I find it. For now here are some other sites discussing the matter: