July 22, 2004
TiVo, Whipsawed by the Broadcast Flag

Hollywood sold the FCC on the broadcast flag rule with claims that it would only "limit the redistribution of digital broadcast television content, but not restrict consumers from copying programming for their personal use." (FCC Report and Order at 3, citing MPAA Comments at 6-8). Now that the FCC has adopted the flag rule, though, the MPAA is changing face. No longer content to prevent "mass indiscriminate redistribution," Hollywood and its allies want to throw the full force of technology mandates behind all their control dreams.

TiVo finds itself caught squarely in the middle, the Washington Post reports. TiVo developed its first generations of pause-live-TV-and-skip-the-ads products outside Hollywood's grasp, because time-shifting broadcast signal (NTSC) was a recognized fair use. When flag-encumbered (ATSC) HDTV appeared, TiVo couldn't just build, it had to petition for certification as a "covered demodulator product" and "authorized recording method." TiVo's petition describes a byzantine system of encryption and dongles to ensure that television won't escape an authorized secure viewing circle, but the MPAA still wants more: "Will subscribers be allowed to use post office boxes to register a Secure Viewing Group?" it asks in opposition. Might a sports fan share a show with a friend across the country, rather than a daughter in the next room? (docket).

Let's hope this experience serves as a warning to tech companies: Don't be lulled by the copyright industries' claims that "it won't hurt much." Ceding to technology mandates gives the entertainment companies a screw they'll just keep tightening.

See also EFF DeepLinks and Copyfight

Posted by Wendy at 05:59 PM
Induce Act Hearings Webcast (Updated)

The Senate Judiciary Comittee's hearing on the Induce Act is currently being webcast. It's good news that the Committee is holding hearings, and even better news that it has requested testimony from technology leaders who have expressed concern that the broad "inducement" standard could chill American innovation. If you're tuning in, listen for the Consumer Electronics Association's defense of the Sony Betamax "substantial noninfringing use" standard. Les Vadasz previewed that position yesterday in the Wall Street Journal.

Updated: MP3 and OGG recordings available via bIPlog; running commentary on Freedom to Tinker. We had a duet between Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters and RIAA head Mitch Bainwol, but the remaining panelists raised serious questions about the bill's basic approach. It was good to hear them speak out against copyright infringement, without concluding that we need to impose risky new legal uncertainty on all technology innovators.

Update 2 Video of the hearing now available, so you can watch Gary Shapiro raise a bottle of water as he talks about competing with free. Thanks Tom.

Posted by Wendy at 11:34 AM