Broadcast Flag Revisited

For the most part I try to keep politics out of my writing. I jokingly suggested that we might see public service commercials warning that Congress Wants to Break Your Television last month when it seemed possible that the broadcast flag wasn’t completely dead yet. Not only is the broadcast flag not dead, there won’t be any time for public service announcements preventing it because it’s apparently being tacked on to an appropriations bill slated for passage sometime in the next 24-48 hours.

Many people in the United States are already frustrated by how difficult it is to find a legal path to making a backup copy of a DVD. If the broadcast flag passes, it will make copying DVDs, copying television shows and copying whatever the next distribution method for video content up to the discretion of the Motion Picture Association of America. In my opinion, that’s a bad thing because the MPAA already made it fairly clear that copying is not acceptable, to the point where we are forced to watch propaganda in movie theaters and on DVDs. In all likelihood, passage of the broadcast flag will mean the end of Tivo and other digital video recording technologies that give us control over when and where we watch our favorite shows.

While I don’t agree with everything the Electronic Frontier Foundation gets involved in, this is one area where they have my attention. The EFF is taking an active role in helping defeat the broadcast flag. If you live in one of these states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, someone who represents you has input into stopping the broadcast flag. The EFF is making it easy to take action by providing a form letter automatically directed to the appropriate representative from your state. All you need to do is let your senator know you don’t want the government deciding how you watch television.

I personally want more options, not less. Considering the number of questions I receive from people wanting to make copies of their DVDs or wanting to burn a DVD from a television show they recorded, so they can watch the show somewhere other than their living room, I’m guessing many of you reading this would like to have more control over your television viewing schedule, not less. The broadcast flag will put more control in the hands of the MPAA, giving them decision making power over what types of new technology are released to consumers in the United States. With about 60 seconds of your time, you can express your opinion and help make sure that doesn’t happen.

Does our country have more important problems? Of course. But we won’t bother to vote a politician out of office for lying to us. We expect that. If the recent interview with Cory Doctorow of the EFF over at Make holds any insight about what may be in store for worldwide recording rights, the recent victory here in the U.S. may be a boon for European Union nations as well. There’s some thought that with the restrictions of the broadcast flag shot down in the United States, other countries are less likely to implement something similar.