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03.22.2004
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Using the broadcast flag to seek control over consumer tools

The content industries and their allies are attempting to use the FCC proceedings on the broadcast flag and on setting new rules for plug-and-play devices to assert widespread control over digital and analog media, according to the consumer groups, Public Knowledge and Consumers Union.

In a filing last week with the FCC, the groups said they have concluded “from reading the full range of submissions in the broadcast flag and plug-and-play proceedings that full regulatory control over all the ways consumers use content is precisely what certain content holders want.”

Had such controls been in effect in 1976, when the video cassette recorder (VCR) was invented, “devices such as the VCR, the TiVo, and Windows-based ‘media PCs’ would have been drastically hindered on their way to market—if allowed at all,” Public Knowledge, a digital rights advocacy group, said in its filings.

The consumer organizations also argued that content companies are attempting to roll back the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in 1984 that allowed the VCR to be used to record television programming for later viewing.

In addition to filing its own comments with the FCC and launching the public-interest group lawsuit challenging the broadcast flag rule, Public Knowledge has worked with Internet entrepreneur Scott Rafer to organize a filing by about two dozen Silicon Valley companies which argues that the broadcast flag proceeding poses a threat to software innovation overall and to open-source software.

For a link to the Public Knowledge/Consumers Union broadcast flag filing, go to: www.publicknowledge.org/content/administrative-filings/bf-replycomments-fnprm. For a link to the Public Knowledge/Consumers Union plug-and-play filing, go to: www.publicknowledge.org/content/administrative-filings/pnp-replycomments-sfnprm.

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