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Kos wrote yesterday that the Net Neutrality amendment was defeated yesterday in the Commerce Committee, and there have been several diaries about that since. A bill that was kept however has not been remarked upon here. This is the revival of the broadcast flag, which the FCC had mandated several years ago but was struck down by a court. Now the entertainment industry is trying to bring the broadcast flag back with a new law.

It is worth not forgetting the broadcast flag provision when considering the intended ellimination of net neutrality, because considering both together starkly exposes the Republicans' stand on these issues, with regards to government regulation.

Opponents of net neutrality argue that passing a law preserving it (to counteract a deregulatory move made by the FCC to revoke it) is bad, basically because government regulation is bad, and that things would sort themselves out fine in the free market without net neutrality.

With respect to the broadcast flag however, Republicans take precisely the opposite position. By supporting the broadcast flag, they are saying that it is necessary for the government to control which of those transmissions that we listen to or watch on TV we can record: something that is unprecedented. It has been taken for granted up until now by everyone that if you can hear something on the radio or hear it on TV you should be able to record it, but the broadcast flag would change all that. The government would require all electronic devices that are capable of receiving digital TV or radio signals to implement restrictions blocking recording of those signals if the producer of the signal has embedded in it a flag indicating that it does not want the signal recorded. In other words, the government will mandate that you no longer control what you do with your electronic devices, but the corporations of the entertainment industry do.

Taken together, the Republican positions against net neutrality and for the broadcast flag show that Republicans are not against regulation, but merely have a new understanding of its purpose: according to Republicans, government regulation exists not to protect the public and serve the common good, but to allow corporations to regulate people.

It is not widely recognized just how much of an intrusion into how we use our various electronic devices the broadcast bit would be. A recent article in Spectrum, the flagship publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, has laid this out:

If Congress does enact these broadcast flag regulations, existing tuner cards will ignore the flag, but it will be unlawful to manufacture any new cards without the feature. Products that would have to be redesigned in response to the flag mandate would include the wide variety of inexpensive tuner cards available today, as well as TV hard disk digital recorders, DVD recorders, and any other hardware or software that would make it possible to receive or view digital broadcast television. The broadcast flag law would force designers of tomorrow's digital television devices to either implement one of a limited list of approved content-protection technologies to restrict flagged broadcasts or hire lawyers to seek FCC approval for any newly developed content-protection mechanism. Neither option would ensure backward-compatibility with existing high-definition televisions or interoperability with the other digital media equipment consumers might have already purchased. These requirements would inevitably mean higher costs for technology developers and would handicap the introduction of new features. And all this would happen without stopping those who are truly determined to redistribute HDTV programming.
A second, even more intrusive bit of proposed legislation is The Digital Transition Content Security Act, better known as the analog hole act. This would deal with the problem that  no mechanism presently exists to protect "intellectual property" if it is in analog form -- so that copy-protection devices can be circumvented by converting from digital to analog and back again -- by forcing all digital-to-analog devices to have new copy-protection "feautures" built into them. As the Spectrum article notes:
The Analog Hole Bill is Hollywood's attempt to control an even broader range of devices than the DMCA does. The chips used to convert video from analog to digital are in today's digital cameras, camera phones, and personal media players. A host of future new devices are likely to include this basic technology. The Analog Hole Bill would require that all these products incorporate content-protection technologies certified by federal regulators and include hardware and software to block any end-user modifications. The days of hardware "tweaking" would end. The legislation would also dictate the kinds of video outputs permitted, potentially orphaning generations of older products, including television sets, stereo speakers, and VCRs. Such legislation, combined with other laws already passed and pending, would lead to a world in which federal regulators, not creative engineers, would dictate many product features and design decisions. In place of the new era's digital developments, Hollywood's vision takes us back to the Stone Age.
I have not been able to find out anywhere what the Commerce Committee did with the analog hole bill.

Originally posted to Alexander on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 04:27 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I never heard of such a thing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tryptamine, dlcampbe, HoundDog

    until you just now posted about it.

    I'm not the most well-informed person in the world, not by a long shot -- but I'm one of the more well-informed people I know -- and if I don't know about it, I guarantee you, most non-bloggy people don't know about it, either.

    Thanks for posting this; I'll put more time and effort into informing myself about this crucial part of the equation.

    RECOMMENDED, natch.

    •  Matt Stoller mentioned this briefly... (3+ / 0-)
      in the post Kos quoted: "There was also contention over the broadcast flag provisions in the bill, which will come out on the floor.  Senators love their TIVOs."

      One place to keep up on developments in "intellectual property" is P2P Unite. That's where I found the Spectrum article Death by DMCA I quoted from, which is worth reading in full because it goes into the history of the entertainment industry's project to expand copyright until fair use is virtually gone, brain-damaging all kinds of electronic devices in the process.

      Liberalism is the origin and center of American politics. Thus, to reject liberalism is to reject America.

      by Alexander on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 05:04:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  good diary! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    keep at it.

    standardization strategy and coalition tactics is a KEY component of to the monopolists' ride.

    a lot of  "consumers" can't imagine how many angles there are to NN and the obliteration of competition by multiple legislative efforts.

    Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

    by MarketTrustee on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 04:30:52 PM PDT

    •  What bothers me most about the entertainment (0+ / 0-)
      industry's constant screaming about "intellectual theft" is that it obviously believes that corporations have a God-given right to make exorbitant profits no matter how much the world changes, and that the purpose of government is to ensure that they maintain those profits. Sadly, most  Washington politicians agree wholeheartedly with both points.

      Contrast this with the question of whether workers have a right to a decent job. When workers lose their high-paying jobs because of free trade, never getting as good a job back, they are told that that is the price of progress: a price corporations must never pay, given that they have enough money to throw into the cesspool known as Washington.

      Liberalism is the origin and center of American politics. Thus, to reject liberalism is to reject America.

      by Alexander on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 05:11:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  standardization (0+ / 0-)
        a.k.a. totalitarian hygiene, a.k.a. copyright enforcement. ... jeeeezus.

        all i'll say is KEEP AT IT. and NAME those congressional critters who author or cosponsor laws that undermine competition among the rivals. make them bite each other.

        plus help consumer/voter understand WHO and WHAT they are voting for.

        Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

        by MarketTrustee on Fri Jun 30, 2006 at 05:36:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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