Recording Industry’s Bill Slammed By Consumer Groups

Lobbyists are trying to persuade lawmakers in the United States to pass a bill that not only resurrects the high definition broadcast flag, but also puts a broadcasting flag on digital radio.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Many remember the broadcast flags for high definition TV.

The MPAA backed broadcast flag was designed to prohibit unauthorized digital recording of High Definition Television content, by digitally telling recording devices what content broadcasters authorize their viewers to record.

The FCC ruled that manufacturer compliance to the broadcast flag was mandatory.

At the time, consumer groups warned that the flag is incompatible with fair use time-shifting, or recording and mixing TV excerpts.

Many who witnessed the events unfold knew that it would be bad at every angle.

Despite the criticism and arguments, the movie industries tried to pass it through the courts anyway. However, the persistence and hard work of involved consumer groups and consumers alike paid off.

On May 6 2005, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out the broadcast flag, unanimously ruling that the FCC lacks the authority to regulate what happens inside TVs and computers once they have received a broadcast signal.

One would think that the movie business’ experience would be enough evidence to suggest that broadcast flags should never be, but not to the recording industry. The recording industry is now trying to persuade lawmakers to make the broadcast flag and the digital radio flags legal in the United States.

The EFF explains, “The recording industry sees the introduction of this new radio technology as an opportunity to renew their decades long effort to take away your right to make personal recordings off the air. Taking a page from the movie business, the recording industry is asking the FCC to force technology companies to incorporate “content protection” technologies that would hobble home recording technologies for HD Radio. Led by the RIAA, the recording industry is particularly eager to make sure that there will never be a TiVo-like recorder for radio.”

Public Knowledge is combining forces with the Consumer Union to urge congress to reject the entertainment industries renewed request to put DRM (Digital Rights Management) on digital radio and HDTV.

Gigi B. Sohn, President and Co-Founder of Public Knowledge said that the recording industry “should be ashamed” of its latest attempts to have government-sanctioned controls on digital radio.

“The recording industry is trying to take away rights that consumers have had for decades.” She said, adding, “I am afraid that it is no coincidence that the industry’s efforts are taking place at the same time that Hollywood is trying to get Congress to codify the TV broadcast flag.”

Sohn said that both the broadcast flag for digital TV and prospective digital radio content controls are, “bad for innovation, bad for consumers and just bad policy.”

Policy advocate for the Consumer Union Kenneth DeGraff said, “A broadcast radio flag won’t solve the problem of Internet piracy and would prevent consumers from lawful home recording off the radio. Millions of kids taped songs off the radio, and over time became loyal music fans. The record industry shouldn’t try to block consumers’ personal, lawful recording–it would mean the end of the world as we know it. The brass in pocket they might gain from a radio flag will cost consumers and the music industry in the long run.”

The groups also pointed out that the recording industry ignores the clear language of the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) of 1992. It allows for the noncommercial copying of digital music.

Sohn and DeGraff added that the industry “tried to make its case before the FCC, which wisely decided not to proceed with the digital radio equivalent of a broadcast flag. Now the industry is trying to scare Congress into believing that with all of the tools available to the content industry to enforce copyrights, and with no evidence that digital radio has caused copyright problems overseas where it has been widely available, that even more controls are needed.”

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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