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# EFF: A broadcast flag update

Danny O'Brien is writing for the EFF these days; his hand can be seen in this update on the ongoing efforts to get the broadcast flag wired into U.S. law. "Listen. Suppose our sympatico politicos carve out a bunch of Digital TV provisions that, in fact, do have something to do with government finance? Suppose they stick those provisions in the Senate Commerce Committee's reconciliations bill (due October 26th), where they're practically untouchable? But some key clauses on which these provisions depend will be omitted. Consequently, it will it be vitally important that Congress passes another Digital TV bill to fill the gaps. That Digital TV bill will contain -- oh, look at that! -- the Broadcast Flag language. Oh, and the RIAA's Digital Radio Broadcast Flag, too, just for the sake of completeness."

Posted Sep 27, 2005 16:08 UTC (Tue) by rknop (guest, #66) [Link]

It feels hopeless. We keep trying to keep the government from writing in laws that will stifle individual freedom in the name of greater control to traditional media companies. Sometimes we see victories, but they are always short lived. (Witness how many times the software patent thing rose from the grave in Europe, for example.) There's always more. It seems that at best, we can claim to be mounting a fighting retreat. (After all, DVDs do have region coding and CSS.)

Worrying about keeping this stuff back almost seems like worrying about the mounting threat of hurricanes to coastal states. It's a force of nature that's getting worse with no sign of abating in coming years, and at some point it's better to just give up and resign ourselves to failure.

It would be so much easier if there were somebody with a clue and with the right ideas at the top. As it is, though, the lobbyists of the media companies will win eventually; it's just a matter of time.

And, then, much later, they will all be as dead as buggy whip companies. But in the mean time, it will be unpleasant for all of us. I don't expect evolution to kill off the obselete media companies in my lifetime.

-Rob

Posted Sep 27, 2005 17:25 UTC (Tue) by euvitudo (guest, #98) [Link]

\begin{rant}
You know... congress isn't the only way to beat down these people. I agree that we have to be vigilant there.

However, I don't understand why people won't vote with their pocketbooks. I've been without broadcast/cable/satellite tv for several years now. If people are so upset by this, why not simply NOT (*gasp*) buy into their restrictions.

Sure, there are those that want to "keep up with the Jones'" but if people really hate this stuff, don't give them the opportunity to place restrictions on you. There is much more to life than TV (believe it or not) and Radio (of course, radio is altogether too annoying--too many ads--worse than TV).

As you say, they are going to erode our rights regardless... why not erode the power they have to purchase politicians? Don't give them your money! Simple as that.
\end{rant}

Posted Sep 27, 2005 19:36 UTC (Tue) by ncm (subscriber, #165) [Link]

Perhaps because everybody else is giving them *their* money? The laws are meant for everyone else's "benefit", but they restrict you anyhow. Furthermore, the only equipment most of us can afford is -- via economies of scale -- what is designed for the rest of them.

Region-free DVD players can be had today, but that's because only the DVDCCS has any quarrel with the manufacturer, and even they have no standing to bother the importer. When it is actually a crime to sell an unrestricted HD-DVD player, you won't find any. You also won't find unrestricted HD-DVD drives for your computer, or unrestricted video monitors. Just a little later, you'll find you can't even boot a Free Software operating system on the system you'd like to use because its binary has no official signature.

These things affect all of us.

Posted Sep 27, 2005 21:00 UTC (Tue) by zotz (guest, #26117) [Link]

I just wonder how they are gonna try to put DRM features in my harmonica.

If I end up having to give up my job in tech and lead kayak tours in Abaco, so be it. I don't think they are going to be able to pull it off in the long term, but you never know with these things.

I do think that the more citizens around the world that we can get involved in the creation and re-use of copyleft material, the harder their job will be.

all the best,

Posted Sep 27, 2005 21:27 UTC (Tue) by euvitudo (guest, #98) [Link]

Sure... just because everyone else seems to vote for "that other presidential candidate" tells me that my vote is pointless, and I should just NOT vote.

<sarcasm>That makes a lot of sense!</sarcasm>

If I don't want to support the industry, I'll quit giving them my hard earned cash. Furthermore, I'll stay away from illegal sharing because I *don't* want to give them a reason to gain more power. It's that simple.

I will also tell everyone else how I feel, and what I've done in response... you know... spread the word? How did Linux spread? How did FOSS spread? Certainly not on the backs of corporate slugs or their spineless politicians.

What I am trying to say is as follows: If you really feel emotional about it, quit complaining and start doing something about it.

Posted Sep 28, 2005 5:20 UTC (Wed) by njhurst (guest, #6022) [Link]

That's unfair, as the very act of posting here indicates that they are doing something about it. The problem is that for every ideologically driven person there are thousands who quickly give up freedoms for a little short term gain (for example, almost all of my work place has switched from linux/unix to macosx; despite having claimed in the past that they don't like windows for reasons of freedom). You not spending $10 on a DRM DVD will have as much effect on the progress of DRM as King Canute on the tide. EFF: A broadcast flag update Posted Sep 28, 2005 7:02 UTC (Wed) by euvitudo (guest, #98) [Link] That's unfair, as the very act of posting here indicates that they are doing something about it. Really? Posting a comment doesn't mean that you are doing anything about it. However, I'll admit that I do not know whether the previous poster has done/is doing anything about it. You not spending$10 on a DRM DVD will have as much effect on the progress of DRM as King Canute on the tide.

You are merely reaffirming my statement, to which I firmly hold. I also do my best, given the time I have, by advocating an exercise of freedom by not funding the media giants. Sure, $10 here or there doesn't make much difference. But when 1000 people agree and make the choice, then that turns out to be$10000. If 10000 decide to agree and make the choice, then that's $100000. Surely most people spend much more than$10 per year on their beloved media (remember we are discussing the broadcast flag for digital TV/Radio). If only 1000 average people decide and make the choice to no longer fund media companies, and assuming that these people pay $1320 per year to media companies (~$50/mo for Digital Cable/Satellite; ~$30/mo on DVDs; and ~$30/mo on music; pulled these out of a hat), then that's $1.32Million that they did not pay to the media companies. Convince 1e5 people, that's$132Million.

Surely there are more than 1e5 FOSS users that are aware of these issues. ;^)

Posted Sep 28, 2005 12:33 UTC (Wed) by man_ls (subscriber, #15091) [Link]

Furthermore, I'll stay away from illegal sharing because I *don't* want to give them a reason to gain more power. It's that simple.
It's not so simple. It is not clear what "illegal sharing" is; it might even be disregarded as a contradiction in terms, as "sharing" should always be ethically acceptable and therefore legal.

In fact, they gain more power if you consider illegal an activity which was previously allowed. The music industry have succeeded to put fear into a generation of music lovers, and converting innocent sharing into a filthy crime. Hopefully, this situation can be reversed; and one way to do it is to engage in the questionable activity with acceptance of its full consequences. Another way is to defend those that are being prosecuted for it. I think we can make a difference; if it was not for Ed Felten and other brave souls, distributing software like DeCSS might have been cursed and be illegal by now.

Posted Sep 28, 2005 7:27 UTC (Wed) by farnz (guest, #17727) [Link]

If it really bothers you, give up their content and write to your legislators (at all levels capable of imposing unwanted legal restrictions). Let them know that you've stopped purchasing media as a result of these restrictions, and that you would like them to vote against any further extensions of copyright, or increases in the power of copyright holders.

Yes, it's another small step, but it's a significant one for three reasons:

1. You, as a constituent who bothers to vote and write to their legislators, are scary to legislators. Firstly because you could vote for their opponents; secondly, because there is a good chance that you'll push friends and family to vote "because it's important". Your legislators do not want you actively opposed to them.
2. You've put your legislators on notice that you're watching them, and that if they vote for (e.g.) "Save American Disney Act", they cannot later decry the effects it has without creating a local scandal. If the result of the SAD Act is to get a sympathetic party jailed (local schoolkid, for example, or parents who were unaware that their child was using KaZaA behind their backs), your legislator knows that they cannot try and disclaim responsibility, as you'll call them on it. Not a position you want to be in when your opponent goes round accusing you of being against all that makes your local culture great. Further, they run the risk that you'll be sympathetic from a press perspective, and that there'll be a "Legislators Ignore Local Resident" scandal, just because the press want to get at them today (e.g. for refusing to organise a press pass to an important event for them). OK, none of these situations are particularly likely, but they all result in loss of office with disgrace in the worst case; most politicians really can't stand that idea.
3. Finally, you've given them an anecdote to use against the media giants' "piracy is killing our sales" claims. Unless your legislators are statistically trained, in which case they'll see through those claims too, you've added a group to the list that the media giants try and ignore: "people who don't like our restrictions and laws, so don't buy our product." Politicians tend to go in for point-scoring, and if bringing up the anecdote of you discomfits the person trying to buy a new law, they'll do it for fun, let alone the chance of extra money.

Posted Sep 27, 2005 21:25 UTC (Tue) by rknop (guest, #66) [Link]

As you say, they are going to erode our rights regardless... why not erode the power they have to purchase politicians? Don't give them your money! Simple as that.

Somehow, I have a hard time feeling that checking out from all popular culture as an option to avoid these restrictions is part of a good working defintion of the word "freedom".

I resisted getting a DVD player for many years because of all this. Eventually, however, not getting a DVD player became, more and more, checking out completely from popular culture. I didn't want to do that.

I want to have the option of participating as a member of society without having to sacrifice all control to big media companies. Sure, one always has the option of living as something approaching an ascetic monk, but would it be better if society were a place that we'd feel weren't too oppressive if we chose to participate in it?

-Rob

Posted Sep 27, 2005 21:36 UTC (Tue) by euvitudo (guest, #98) [Link]

My... what did we *ever* do before big media. Is popular culture really sitting around watching the tube or big screen, or listening to digital radio all day, just so I can say to my friends... "oh, did you see ______ last night? Wasn't that just ______"? Nice conversation piece. ;^)

Whatever happened to creativity? You don't have to become a monk to get away from the media.

Posted Sep 28, 2005 11:58 UTC (Wed) by rknop (guest, #66) [Link]

Oh yeah?

How long before all books are DRMed, hmmm?

I'm not arguing for or against TV watching or movies or music. I AM arguing, however, that it would be idea if people had the option of choosing to engage and BE CREATIVE with those sorts of things without having to sacrficie too much of their freedom of motion and freedom of expression to big media companies.

If you think all movies and TV are crap, that's fine. Don't watch them. On the other hand, if you *do* want to be able to engage at some level with newspapers, recently written popular books, movies, music, the Internet, and so forth, then you really need to be worried about what's going on with DRM and media control.

-Rob

Posted Sep 28, 2005 15:09 UTC (Wed) by mrshiny (subscriber, #4266) [Link]

Is popular culture really sitting around watching the tube or big screen, or listening to digital radio all day?

Yes, I'd say that's a big part of popular culture. Aside from TV, movies, and music, what else IS there? Books, I guess. Maybe a little live theatre.

As for creativity, most people aren't creative. That's why pre-made music and other art is so appealing to people, because they can't make their own, and hey, even if they could, they want to enjoy someone else's work. I can write my own stories, but sometimes I want to enjoy a story someone else wrote. And I certainly can't compose my own music. I do know some people who write their own music but not all of that music is to my taste; furthermore almost nobody that I normally hang out with knows any of the independant artists I am familiar with. So I can't use that as "popular" culture because it's not popular.

Posted Sep 27, 2005 19:39 UTC (Tue) by dannyobrien (subscriber, #25583) [Link]

I know what you mean -- I considered holding back on this post until I could give a concrete action, but really we're at the point where the Broadcast Flag supporters haven't played their hand yet, and I felt it more worthwhile to brief on what was going on in the calm before the storm.

And I think it's worth noting that the tone of the "other side" in this debate is often just as apprehensive, and as fatalistic, as you feel. You, with your general purpose computers and your strange ideas of business models that is utterly alien yet apparently is the only sane choice, look like a terrifying force of nature to some one, too. For all your feeling of hopelessness at an apparently unstoppable lobbying machine, there's somebody looking at your last paragraph with a nagging doubt, and wondering whether it's worth their while to fight against an inevitability. So who knows?

Oh, and there are more reasonable and smart people at the top than it appears: often it's in the nature of politics that those who are most sympathetic can't be seen to come out publicly on your side, but work hard in the background for your cause.

Posted Sep 27, 2005 21:31 UTC (Tue) by rknop (guest, #66) [Link]

And I think it's worth noting that the tone of the "other side" in this debate is often just as apprehensive, and as fatalistic, as you feel. You, with your general purpose computers and your strange ideas of business models that is utterly alien yet apparently is the only sane choice, look like a terrifying force of nature to some one, too. For all your feeling of hopelessness at an apparently unstoppable lobbying machine, there's somebody looking at your last paragraph with a nagging doubt, and wondering whether it's worth their while to fight against an inevitability. So who knows?

The difference is, they are afraid of my having more freedom and thus potentially eroding their ability to control. I'm afraid of their consolidating their control, and thus eroding my freedom. This has two implications. First, I really do think that unless there are convincing reasons to the contrary, things which ehance more freedom for more people are better-- thus, I think I'm on the higher road here. Second, I fear that human history shows that freedom is fragile, and in almost any political situation once some people get control, they will fight tooth and nail to keep and expand that control even at the expense of others.

All they have to do is win once. Get a law in outlawing the general purpose computer, and we're screwed, at least for a time. We, however, have to win every single time they try to get one of those laws in there. The inevitability of the obselescence of modern media companies likely won't affect any present media execs during their lifetime.

-Rob

Posted Sep 28, 2005 2:02 UTC (Wed) by zotz (guest, #26117) [Link]

"All they have to do is win once. Get a law in outlawing the general purpose computer, and we're screwed, at least for a time. We, however, have to win every single time they try to get one of those laws in there."

Perhaps then, we need to go on the offensive. Keep trying to get laws passed that will throw a monkey wrench into their plans. Set up a situation where we only have to win once. Or a series of such situations.

One simple idea I have for something like that is to push for a change in the default for automatic copyright.

If something is published without a clear and specific copyright notice, have the default be some form of copyleft license. That way, instead of all works not carrying a notice being too dangerous for the small person to take a chance on using, it will be clear that all of these works are for re-use so long as you are willing to copyleft your resulting work.

How could the big boys honestly object to this. Their works never have to be released in this way, they just have to affix a proper copyright notice when publishing. Are they going to admit publically to being a dog in the manger?

all the best,

drew

Posted Sep 28, 2005 12:01 UTC (Wed) by rknop (guest, #66) [Link]

Once upon a time, copyright worked something like the way you describe. It was by default public domain. It was also shorter. At the moment, though, if we're going to be realistic, any kind of copyright term reduction is tilting at MAJOR windmills. We're doing the best we can to avoid expansion of DMCA-like restrictions on things that are currently legal, never mind rolling things back to something more sane.

How could the big boys honestly object to this. Their works never have to be released in this way, they just have to affix a proper copyright notice when publishing. Are they going to admit publically to being a dog in the manger?

They would object. Heck, just look at the Authors' Guild complaining about Google Print. Google's policy is, hey, you don't want your work in our searchable database, let us know. To the Authors' Guild, though, that isn't good enough. They want the default to be not in the database.

-Rob

Posted Sep 28, 2005 16:45 UTC (Wed) by jstAusr (guest, #27224) [Link]

I'm not so sure that introducing legislation from the sane side of the fence wouldn't be effective. For instance, from the original post:

> Worrying about keeping this stuff back almost seems like worrying about
> the mounting threat of hurricanes to coastal states. It's a force of
> nature that's getting worse with no sign of abating in coming years, and
> at some point it's better to just give up and resign ourselves to failure.

What makes you so sure that the reverse wouldn't be true? At least it might let the lawmakers know that we are not happy with the current status let alone making things worse.

At least a law making it illegal to willfully restrict the backup of bytes stored on a computer to any desired backup media or device. That will give the giants something to spend their money on besides harassing the public.

Posted Sep 28, 2005 22:44 UTC (Wed) by zotz (guest, #26117) [Link]

"Once upon a time, copyright worked something like the way you describe. It was by default public domain. It was also shorter."

I know, but what I am calling for is something that, given the current situation is in fact better for freedom lovers and worse for the non-freedom loving big boys.

It gives freedom lovers the possibility of a large pool of re-useable works while preventing the use by those who do not wish to share.

I know their first impulse will be to object, but will they? Will objecting paint them in such a bad light that they will feel compelled to let such a law pass? I think it could be worth the push.

"At the moment, though, if we're going to be realistic, any kind of copyright term reduction is tilting at MAJOR windmills."

I am not calling in this instance for copyright TERM reductions. In fact, getting this passed may get them calling for term reductions themselves. (I have some other thoughts along these lines as well. Any other ideas on changes to the laws that will have the big boys calling for shorter copyright terms?)

So, what do we want the defaults to be?

all the best,

drew
--
http://www.ourmedia.org/node/53984
da bubble man video

Posted Sep 27, 2005 19:56 UTC (Tue) by thoffman (subscriber, #3063) [Link]

I suspect that eventually the media companies will get what they want, and all the heavily promoted, produced, big-label music, movies, and other media will be DRM'ed to death. Oh well. Most of that music and media isn't that great anyway. I'll just quit buying it.

Meanwhile, I'll keep listening to my existing (large!) music collection, buying obscure second-hand cd's, renting DVDs every now and then, and completely ignoring the DRM'ed media industry. I'll be listening to (and playing) live music in local coffee shops and pubs, and supporting bands that will continue to sell their CDs without big label support and without DRM. I've been getting along fine without commercial software for 5 years now... free software does everything I need. I expect I'll get along fine without commercial media too.

Posted Sep 27, 2005 21:33 UTC (Tue) by jstAusr (guest, #27224) [Link]

Well, you can give up if you like but it won't stop just because you do. They want it all, not because they have anything against you, but because they want everything for themselves. Your loss is just an unfortunate side effect.

That is why the GNU in GNU/Linux is important. Because freedom is important and we apparently need to be reminded of that every day, all day long. People think RMS wants credit, I think what he wants is freedom for everyone. If we forget about freedom we will lose it because someone else will not be forgetting that they want it all for themselves.

I believe "they" will get what they want if "we" don't remember. We need to educate the general population and get them to remember too.

You can write Linux all you want, I will write GNU/Linux because I want freedom.

Posted Oct 1, 2005 0:37 UTC (Sat) by ronaldcole (guest, #1462) [Link]

Hallowed are the Orii.