Is broadcast flag just a big joke?

The FCC announced today that the Digital TV broadcast flag will be in effect by July 2005. I’m reading through the FCC’s “order” announcing the decision, and I can’t help but ask, “wait, is this some kind of big joke?” The order doesn’t specify at all what the broadcast flag actually is; they just list some options that are currently on the table. I also thought the purpose of broadcast flag was to signal all your DTV ready devices to not let you copy the

broadcast, apparently broadcast flag only prevents you from copying the broadcast digitally. The analog hole is still open, so… what’s the point then? Is this some kind of a big joke?

Supporters of a content protection system state that

compelling digital broadcast programming is critical to the DTV transition and that such content

is inherently at a greater risk of widespread redistribution as compared to its analog counterpart

because digital media can be easily copied and distributed with little or no degradation in


If I wanted to download a DTV broadcast off the Internet, but the only version available was one that sombody recorded using the analog-out on their DTV and a video-cap card, I’d be totally OK with that. Case in point: people today are OK downloading old Seinfeld episodes encoded with an old crappy RealPlayer codec at like 100kbps. If the broadcast flag doesn’t plug the analog hole then whats the point?

In light of our decision to adopt a redistribution control scheme and to avoid any

confusion, we wish to reemphasize that our action herein in no way limits or prevents consumers

from making copies of digital broadcast television content.

If you can pull the digital feed out of your DTV into an “approved” device, what’s to stop anyone from hacking that device to ignore the broadcast flag?

After reading the order, I don’t think the FCC is as evil as the EFF is making them out to be right now… I think they’re very smart people just leading the MPAA on. 😉

We also recognize that with any content protection system, the potential exists

that some individuals may attempt to circumvent the protection technology. We do not believe,

however, that individual acts of circumvention necessarily undermine the value or integrity of an

entire content protection system. The DVD example is instructive in this regard. Although the

CSS copy protection system for DVDs has been “hacked” and circumvention software is

available on the Internet, DVDs remain a viable distribution platform for content owners.46 The

CSS content protection system serves as an adequate “speed bump” for most consumers, allowing

the continued flow of content to the DVD platform. We believe the same rationale applies here.

Heh heh heh… Way to go FCC! You rock!

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