Playing Chicken Over the Broadcast Flag

Last week’s court ruling against the broadcast flag is great news for archivists, librarians, the public, and technology companies.

The fight against DRM on the public airwaves isn’t over though. Broadcasters will be pursuing legislative solutions — it is always easier and cheaper to buy congressional support than to change monopolistic business models — and loudly threatening to withhold content from the public.

For example, the New York Times quotes the MPAA: “We’re concerned, because if proper protection is not in place, consumers could lose content,” said John Feehery, executive vice president for the Motion Picture Association of America, the trade group representing the major Hollywood studios.

Right. Ad hominem arguments are distasteful, but who are the trustworthy actors in this case? The NAB and the MPAA, or organizations fighting the broadcast flag, including Public Knowledge, EFF, Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the American Association of Law Libraries, the Medical Library Association, and the Special Libraries Association?

It’s no surprise the Times fails to explain the reasoning behind the unanimous decision of the appeals court, or to give space to the litigants who won the ruling. Consumers and everyone else will lose not only content, but freedom to innovate, access to historical materials, and an open, competitive marketplace if technology companies are forced to live by laws written purely to benefit broadcasters and the MPAA.

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Online Video and the Future of Broadcasting