I've been dutifully ignoring the hysteria around “Broadcast Flag” until now, chalking it up as some problem a bunch of foreigners were going ballistic over and I really didn't care. Today there is a lot of buzz around the net that its going to get snuck back into legislation as an attachment to some other Bill (I never understood how US politics worked in that respect, they can pass legislation on duck hunting and somebody can sneak in a rider to nuke Switzerland).

So today I got curious enough to actually look it up. What the hell was Broadcast Flag anyway? Its a simple binary digit that is supposed to mean “you can't tape this”, save it to any non-volatile media, skip commercials, etc.

The ramifications are that hardware and software vendors are supposed to start complying with this at some point and suitably neuter their offerings to respect the flag.

The situation came up here in Canada last year when XM Radio sued Scott McLean for his TimeTrax software which could record satellite radio broadcasts for later consumption.

Suppose for a minute I am the original artist behind this graphic (which I'm not):

And then I sell it to you, but I tack on a EULA: You agree that you will ONLY look at this image and see a vase or a candlestick. You WILL NOT see two faces when you look at this picture. If you do, you are in violation of the EULA. I will sue you.

Sound nonsensical? It is. Similar to the fact that the picture is nothing until the light bounces off the canvas or the screen, onto our retinas and is parsed by our brains, if I pay you for a bitstream, all it is is 1's and 0's until it hits my processsor and my operating system. What I do with it at that point is my business, not yours.

I believe the marketplace will ultimately reject any technology that embraces this approach and 12 year olds will crack anything that tries.

Category : Staff Memos