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Unentertaining Technologies?
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a prominent and influential consumer watchdog organization that “has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.”

EFF is currently opposing proposals for new legislation that would require additional regulations affecting the complex intersection of intellectual property protection, consumer rights, and digital security technologies. EFF claims that “Hollywood wants Congress to give it new super powers over your TV, radio, and computer.”

The specific technologies in question include “Broadcast Flag,” a signal that could be embedded “in all over-the-air digital television signals.” Working in conjunction with technology that could be included in PCs and video recorders, Broadcast Flag could be used to limit the ability of consumer devices to copy programs or otherwise utilize the broadcast signal.

“Audio Flag” is a cousin of Broadcast Flag and could be used to restrict the recording of digital audio signals.

Before digital media can be viewed or seen, it needs to be converted to analog form. The time during which the signal is in analog format is referred to by some as “analog hole” since it could potentially provide the opportunity to circumvent digital protection technologies.

According to EFF, the Motion Picture Association of America “wants federal bureaucrats to plug the analog hole, forcing technology companies to redesign every device capable of digitizing video so that they restrict legitimate uses.”

The debate over proposed federal requirements for the new technologies is understandably vigorous. America’s artists and entertainment companies constitute the country’s most vibrant and successful industry. Moreover, entertainment is probably the industry in which the US enjoys the greatest competitive advantage vis-a-vis the rest of the world. There is no question that strong intellectual property protection is essential to the future of the industry.

It is also true that America’s technology industry has innovated and thrived under a relatively minimalist regulatory regime. Consumers also have been the beneficiaries of limited regulation.

Crafting policies that secure the legitimate rights and responsibilities of artists, consumers and technologists will be no easy task.

  • Click here for EFF animated feature on the proposed technologies


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