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More on CDT's broadcast flag flip-flop, by Drew Clark

More on CDT's broadcast flag flip-flop, by Drew Clark
More on CDT's broadcast flag flip-flop, by Drew Clark

Previous Politech message: 

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: FYI, for Politech...
Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 16:18:38 -0400
From: Drew Clark  

Of possible interest to Politech readers...

>>From National Journal's Technology Daily | August 24, 2005

Digital Group Changes Its Stance On 'Broadcast Flag'
by Drew Clark

      A nonprofit technology policy organization that opposed the
anti-piracy "broadcast flag" in December 2003 has reversed course and,
in a Tuesday report, endorsed a more consumer-friendly version of the
technology mandate.
      The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) report says,
"Congress should require the FCC's flag rules to focus narrowly on the
goal of preventing indiscriminate distribution of flagged digital
content over digital networks."
      "This should not be read as an overall endorsement of the flag,"
report author David Sohn said in a Wednesday interview. But he
conceded that if Congress "were to do all the things we say here, we
wouldn't be opposing it."
      The broadcast-flag standard was created in 2001 in an effort to
stop consumers from pirating digital television broadcasts. The Motion
Picture Association of America supported it; nonprofit groups
including CDT, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public
Knowledge decried its potential impact on consumer freedoms; and
technology companies said it would be ineffective.
      In November 2003 the FCC mandated the flag on products like
digital television tuners. By then many electronics companies,
including Intel, had consented to the flag. But the American Library
Association, EFF and Public Knowledge successfully challenged the
FCC's authority to mandate the flag in court.
      Some in the content industry are pressing Congress for
legislation to authorize even broader FCC action. CDT said that would
be a mistake. "If Congress decides to grant broadcast-flag authority
to the FCC, the scope of that authority should be carefully and
expressly defined."
      But unlike previous CDT reports on the subject, the new report
accepts the contention "that over-the-air digital television
broadcasts are susceptible to large-scale piracy and that this poses a
serious threat to the owners of video content."
      Its December 2003 report said "genuine fears have been raised
about unauthorized redistribution" but did not agree that the fears
were valid. That report also recommended that "policymakers continue
to follow the no-tech mandate principle."
      Also unlike previous reports, CDT fails to mention the technology
industry's preferred alternative to the broadcast flag -- encrypting
digital signals. "As a practical matter, encryption at the source is
not something that people think could have a quick legislative fix,"
Sohn said.
      Sohn said he does not believe the paper represents "any big
departure" from previous CDT recommendations, which consistently have
focused on improving what many in the technology community considered
the more onerous effects of the flag.
      "Some folks at CDT have been hoping there was a way to split the
difference between proponents of the flag and critics of it, but the
flag scheme is so inherently flawed that even a modified version of it
will be very bad both for consumers and for manufacturers," said Mike
Godwin, the legal director of Public Knowledge.
      Godwin once worked at CDT. The other former CDT official who
worked on the broadcast flag was Alan Davidson, who left for Google in
      CDT receives funds from America Online, as well as technology
companies including Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Microsoft.

Drew Clark
Senior Writer, National Journal's Technology Daily
Senior Editor, National Journal's Insider Update: The Telecom Act at 

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