The present and future of post production business and technology

Broadcast Flag (again) and WIPO

Despite being defeated thoroughly in May this year, the media oligopoly (aka the RIAA and MPAA) are once again trying to reinstate the Broadcast Flag that will take away existing media usage rights and attempt to control every consumer electronic device to be built in the future. The Broadcast Flag, if ever passed into legislation, would allow media companies to control every piece of consumer electronics. In their world, if we’re video recording in the street and a car drives past playing copyright music, the video camera shuts down. Existing Fair Use rights will go out the window.

But, as the Electronic Freedom Frontier points out the Broadcast Flag was soundly defeated and Congress are reluctant to get involved in meddling between the American consumer and their TV, so the industry has encouraged 20 suicidal Representatives to attempt to slip the revised legislation through the “back door” – on the back of a budget bill.

Here’s what they’re attempting to slip through unnoticed:

The Federal Communications Commission —
(a) has authority to adopt such regulations governing digital audio broadcast transmissions and digital audio receiving devices that are appropriate to control the unauthorized copying and redistribution of digital audio content by or over digital reception devices, related equipment, and digital networks, including regulations governing permissible copying and redistribution of such audio content….

Courtesy of Boing Boing

I don’t know why the entrenched media companies think that attempting to lock down media this way is in their best interests. At best it’s a serious lack of vision or understanding that everything changes and the only way they have a future is to adapt. These are the same industries that fought tooth and nail against “Betamax”. Jack Valenti testified to Congress that:

“…’the growing and dangerous intrusion of this new technology’ threatened his entire industry’s ‘economic vitality and future security.”

And yet now, the VHS and DVD sales, the successor to Betamax, is worth more to the movie industry than theatrical distribution, and has expanded the industry dramatically with direct-to-DVD movies.

Why would anyone think they’re any more right this time? Why would they have any credibility? They don’t. This is a case of dinosaurs attempting to prevent an ice age. Attempts at broadcast flag and other DRM will fail, whether they’re implemented or not. DRM will probably kill Blu-ray and HD DVD before they’re even out the door (another blog article there!).

There’s another good article on the Broadcast Flag in Susan Crawford’s Blog.

Even if your Representative is not one of the 20 suicidal ones, contact them now and tell them why supporting the Broadcast Flag (and all DRM) is a bad idea. It’s already been knocked out once, it shouldn’t come back, and it shouldn’t come back hidden in a budget bill. If this is to come to pass, let’s have it out in the open, debated in public, and a reasonable decision made.

And if the Broadcast Flag is not bad enough

If you really want to get a feel for the nature of the established media people, consider what the United States official delegation to the World Intellectual Property Organization proposed. Reporting on an article in the Financial Times summarizes it this way:

James Boyle’s latest Financial Times column covers the Webcasting provisions of the new Broadcast Treaty at the World Intellectual Property Organization. Under these provisions, the mere act of converting A/V content to packets would confer a 50-year monopoly over the underlying work to ISPs. That means that if you release a Creative-Commons-licensed Flash movie that encourages people to share it (say, because you get money every time someone sees the ads in it), the web-hosting companies that offer it to the world can trump your wishes, break your business and sue anyone who shares a copy they get from them. This is a way of taking away creator’s rights and giving them to companies like Microsoft and Yahoo, whose representative at WIPO has aggressively pushed to have this included in the treaty.

Even if we publish under a Creative Commons license, or even just publish our own content through an ISP, the ISP owns copyright in our work for 30 years. Fortunately this didn’t get saluted this time but that’s what’s being pushed. Is this what you want? It’s certainly not what I want. Does it protect the rights of the artist as copyright is intended in the US Constitution? I think a resounding “No way” is the only possible answer. Well, does it serve the public good – the other provision in the Constitution? I sure can’t see how.

Follow up note added October 13: The delegation to the WIPO conference, a.k.a. “the forces of radical protectionism” were seeking a “diplomatic conference” in Q1, 2006, which is the last step before a treaty is ready for signatures. Instead they were denied and the proposal will be dissected in at least two more WIPO meeting before a diplomatic conference gets discussed again, allowing for time to make sure this level of protection for carriers is never enacted. /addition

Make your opinion known to your Congressional Representatives now. Otherwise we’ll end up with these things in law, just like the reviled Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Most probably Unconstitutional, but who’s going to “stand up for pirating” and stand against established legislation?

Soon I’ll write on why Digital Rights Management, as it’s planned for Blu-ray, HD DVD and the “Trusted Computing” initiative will stifle creative endeavors and end up killing promising technologies. And why it’s bad for the MPAA and RIAA, if only they had a little vision.



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One response to “Broadcast Flag (again) and WIPO”

  1. >

    Joint Statement to the United States Congress and the Members of the United States Delegation to WIPO on the Proposed Broadcaster Treaty

    Attachment: Why Public Scrutiny of the Proposed Broadcaster Treaty is Needed

    This joint statement is available online at:

    [Editor’s Note: Seth posted the full text of the Joint Statement which was too much for comments on this blog. I have trimmed his post and left the references in place. I strongly recommend reading the full text of the references. Philip]