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DTV Arrives With No Flag

SAN FRANCISCO: A Bay Area think tank noted that the DTV transition arrived without the broadcast flag, a code embedded into HDTV content meant to prevent copyright violation. The flag would have required compliance from recording and playback devices peripheral to main receivers. Broadcasters, mostly Fox, supported the flag because they feared Hollywood producers would withhold high-quality HD content if broadcast networks couldn’t protect it with some sort of digital rights management scheme.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is one of the groups that fought the flag in court. The Washington D.C. Court of Appeals ultimately enjoined the FCC from imposing the broadcast flag.

“But while all this was happening, the entertainment industries made a series of dramatic threats,” wrote the EEF’s Seth Schoen. “They said the DTV transition would suffer unless the mandate went through; they said they would pull programming off the air and not license movies for broadcast.”

Motion Picture Association of America’s “Fritz Attaway said “high-value content will migrate away’ from TV without the flag, and Viacom said CBS, which it owned at the time, would not do any hi-defprogramming for the 2003-04 season without the flag.

“It’s six years later and these threats have all fallen flat,” Schoen said. “This week, CBS will broadcast dozens of popular programs, like ‘CSI,’ ‘Without a Trace,’ ‘Survivor,’ and ‘The New Adventures of Old Christine,’ in high definition via over-the-air broadcast. So will all the other major networks. Digital TV also continues to feature popular movies with no DRM.”