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Consumers For Crippled Devices

Alternatively titled Michael Powell: Still A Complete Ass.

Press Statement of Chairman Michael K. Powell Re: Digital Broadcast Content Protection, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking -

The Commission's adoption of the "broadcast flag" represents another important step in the digital television transition. Today's decision strikes a careful balance between content protection and technology innovation in order to promote consumer interests.

I’m not really sure how mandating that future devices be crippled in their ability to record content broadcast over the public airwaves strikes this balance, but then again, I’m not Michael Powell.

In working through the difficult technical and policy questions in this area, I am very pleased that we have once again crafted digital TV policy in a bipartisan manner.

Nice to know that both parties sold consumers out. Great.

The public will gain real benefits from the broadcast flag. First, the broadcast flag decision is an important step toward preserving the viability of free over-the-air television. Because broadcast TV is transmitted "in the clear," it is more susceptible than encrypted cable or satellite programming to being captured and retransmitted via the Internet. The widespread redistribution of broadcast TV content on the Internet would unnecessarily drive high value programming to more secure delivery platforms. The losers would be the 40 million Americans who rely exclusively on free over-the-air TV.

So, by mandating that the new equipment is incredibly restrictive and a secure delivery platform, we prevent TV content from moving to… some other, unspecified “secure delivery platform.” That’s like saying the cure to a disease is to just get the disease, since then you won’t have to worry about getting it.

A few other issues with this. First, “high value” programming has already moved to more secure delivery platforms. You know, like cable and satellite television. Additionally, there are premium channels, pay-per-view events, etc.

The real point is, broadcast television isn’t going to cease to exist because people can distribute television shows on the Internet, as Powell suggests. That already happens now. It’s just absurd. The majority of consumers don’t have any interest in downloading television shows to watch on their computer, and getting those shows watchable on a television set in the living room isn’t very easy for most users.

But even if it were true, and somehow Internet distribution of TV is something consumers are just desperate for, so much so, that they would rather download shows that watch their television sets, then Powell should be working with the industry to create distribution means of TV programming on the Internet, not helping them ensure it doesn’t happen. I mean, wouldn’t that be serving consumer interests? How are consumer interests served by preventing the public from consuming media in the means they desire?

Second, our broadcast flag decision will promote innovation in content protection technologies.

First, wouldn’t there be more “innovation” if television moved to that hypothetical “secure delivery platforms?” Because, you know, they’d have to make even more restrictive devices. Second, innovation in content protection technologies? Consumers are supposed to be excited that the industry will come up with better copy protection schemes to destroy fair use rights?

Powell is such a tool it hurts.

[See also: Scott Raymond’s Open Letter to Powell | PVRBlog: FCC Adopts Hollywood Tech Mandate | Electronic Frontier Foundation archive on the Broadcast Flag]

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