[FoRK] Dare To Be Naive: More On (Moron) Broadcast Flag

Contempt for Meatheads jbone at place.org
Tue May 4 10:22:47 PDT 2004

 From Freedom to Tinker:


   Dare To Be Naive

Ernest Miller at CopyFight has an interesting response to my discussion 
yesterday of the Broadcast Flag. I wrote that the Flag is bad 
regulation, being poorly targeted at the goal of protecting TV 
broadcasts from Internet redistribution. Ernie replies that the Flag is 
actually well-targeted regulation, but for a different purpose:

[Y]ou'd have to be an idiot to think that the broadcast flag would 
prevent HDTV content from making it onto the internet. Since I don't 
believe that the commissioners are that stupid, I can only conclude 
that the FCC is acting quite cynically in support of an important 
constituency of theirs, the broadcasters 

In other words, the purported purpose of the broadcast flag (to prevent 
HDTV from getting onto the internet) is not the real purpose of the 
broadcast flag, which appears to be to give content providers more 
control over the average citizen's ability to make use of media.

Ernie's theory, that the movie industry and the FCC are using "content 
protection" as a smokescreen to further a secret agenda of controlling 
media technology, fits the facts pretty well. And quite a few 
experienced lobbyists seem to believe it. Still, I don't think it's 
right to argue against the Broadcast Flag on that basis.

First, even if you believe the theory, it's often a useful debating 
tactic to pretend that the other side actually believes what they say 
they believe. It's hard to prove that someone is lying about their own 
beliefs and motivations; it can be much easier to prove that their 
asserted beliefs don't justify their conclusions. And proving that the 
official rationale for the Flag is wrong would do some good.

Second, if Ernie's theory is right, the fix is in and there's not much 
we can do about future Broadcast Flag type regulation. If we want to 
change things, we might as well act on the assumption that it matters 
whether the official rationale for the Flag is right.

And finally, I am convinced that at least some people in the movie 
industry, and at least some people at the FCC, actually believe the 
official rationale. I think this because of what these people say in 
private, after a few (literal or metaphorical) beers, and because of 
how they react when the official rationale for the Flag is challenged. 
Even in private, industry or FCC people often react to criticism of the 
official rationale with real passion and not just with platitudes. 
Either these (non-PR) people are extraordinarily good at staying 
on-message, or they really believe (as individuals) what they are 

So although Ernie's theory is very plausible, I will dare to be naïve, 
and will continue to act on the assumption that he is wrong -- even if 
I suspect otherwise.

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