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October 13, 2004

Harsh words on the Broadcast Flag

The Boston Globe has some harsh words in regards to plans to regulate devices that record HDTV and the notorious "Broadcast Flag".

The Broadcast Flag is a signal that a television channel can send down with an HDTV stream telling capture devices that this stream cannot be recorded. The FCC has required all capture devices produced after July 1st, 2005 to respect the flag and not record programming with the broadcast flag set. Capture devices can record the program at a lower quality setting.

Will it have an impact on PVR technology? Absolutely, says the article. They point out the technology innovation that occurred around recorded music and MP3. With a similiar requirement (e.g. only allowing recording to be in mono, for instance), it's doubtful we'd have all the products we have today including software jukeboxes, IPods, and online music stores.

Since recording television programming for personal use has been ruled a legal activity for over 30 years now, I do find the broadcast flag requirements bad public policy. I can understand why the movie and television industries want it, but that doesn't make it right. Based on the sales and price trends for HDTV and PVRs, this will undoubtedly have a big impact, and if the broadcast flag rule isn't reversed, it will be a bad one.

Posted on October 13, 2004

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