Saturday, May 07, 2005

Broadcast Flag at half mast

A US appellate court has struck down the infamous "broadcast flag" rule brought in by the FCC and its friends.

This rule would have required all devices sold in the US capable of receiving or recording digital broadcasts to implement a broadcast flag
by July 1, 2005, to prevent further distribution of the content

Since the rule would have prevented something as simple as recording a TV program, there was naturally considerable opposition. A case was brought against the FCC by the American Library Association on behalf of those opposed, and the Motion Picture Association of America intervened on behalf of the FCC.

The court overturned the broadcast flag rule on the grounds that FCC had overstepped its authority. Congress had never given the agency the power to regulate the use or manufacture of devices after they received a transmission. This is a relatively narrow ground for invalidating the rule, and does not address the issue of fair use.

With the music and film industries unable or unwilling to adjust to technology shifts, these constant assaults on the freedom of an individual to use goods purchased in good faith will continue.

The whole idea that the manufacturer somehow retains rights to how a product is used after it is sold is pernicious.

We have seen lawsuits about mod chips for video consoles, software becoming nothing more than a license (you don't own it, just the right to use it in the way the manufacturer permits), and music and film becoming so schizophrenic they don't know what they are anymore.

Am I buying a CD or just licensing the music? If it is a license, why won't the publishers replace broken CD's? If it is a license, why won't the publishers replace obsolete media with new media as in the transition from vinyl to cassette to CD to MP3?

The decision of the court is quite readable and is available here and here.

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