Sunday, May 08, 2005

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Broadcast Flag!

Late last week, a federal appeals court struck down the FCC's requirement to implement a broadcast flag saying that this requirement over-stepped the bounds of the FCC's domain. For those unaware, the "Broadcast-Flag" was going to be a small piece of code attached to digital broadcasts for the purpose of controlling copyright infringement on TV. The flag could be set to determine how the end-user viewed and enjoyed TV shows and movies, whether it deemed that a recording of a certain show could "time-out" after a week or that you could only watch a recording a certain number of times - there are a lot of scenarios here, so be sure to google the term if you want to learn more!

Considering how long this piece of technology has been on the burner, I actually feel for those in the electronics industry who have been spending considerable amounts of time and money to ensure the latest devices for decoding and recording cable and broadcast TV could support the flag. It's shame to have the rug pulled out from under in last minute fashion. On the other hand, I applaud the court for clearly seeing that the FCC was over-stepping it's bounds. Of course, the reality is, the FCC was the long being courted by favor of hollywood corps who want, in ever increasing amounts, more control over what the consumer can and can't do with the material they produce. This has nothing to do with lost profits due to copyright infringment or the pirating of material via whatever means, and more a means for these industries to ensure greater profitability.

From the little I read about the flag, it really wasn't a bad gig in the end. The limitations were not going to be as great as everyone feared, and would provide some in the industry with protection over premium content offered on PPV and Premium channels. Unfortunately, I believe this was a "foot in the door" initiative for Hollywood, which hoped to continue tightening its grip slowly over time. The more people forced into un-warranted purchases of material the better for them. Honestly, I'm getting sick and tired of the archaic practices of this industry. Instead of forcing innovation within and amongst themselves to compete for the consumers buck, they would rather bludgeon us with the heavy stick of the law. As a consumer in a capitalistic society, we are supposed to be the one's with the power; after all, it is OUR dollar that buys the products and services around us! Unfortunately, companies that flourished in our economic system now wish to turn the tables and force us into totalitarian schemes of control and scare us with strong arm tactics. The problem is bigger than just what will happen if we can't share a recorded TV show with a friend, but more so when the power shifts out of the consumer's hands and into the industries'. As consumers, we would be forced into closed systems of control and fear - and in this system, creativity and innovation die. Now I am not calling for a total picture of doom and gloom - what I want is a more creative approach by Hollywood and other entertainment industries to approach the future with more open minds, finding better ways to unlock the content they produce in to consumer's hands where it will flourish in an open system. I enjoy the product, but if it gets locked down so much that I cannot enjoy it how I want it, than I will probably no longer enjoy it. You bite the hand that feeds you, and you will reap the wrong reward. Hollywood, the Recording Industry, et al., listen closely - we still have the dollar in our hand, don't srew with us!

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