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Television Data Storage Media United States

Preparing for the Broadcast Flag? 735

Posted by Cliff
from the fight-for-your-right-to-timeshift dept.
Couch Potato asks: "I'm worried that, come next July, the FCC mandated broadcast flag will soon take away all sorts of fair use rights I have long enjoyed. Given that there are only a few months left to make purchasing decisions, how best can one prepare for the advent of the broadcast flag?"
"I'm somewhat aware of projects like Myth TV, but it's not all that I want. Specifically, I want to make sure that I can record DVDs or similar files of any program I want off of cable, sattelite or broadcast TV, flag or not and without any other encumbering restrictions (such as the Macrovision DRM for DVDs) and without worry that someday they'll change something so that my old drivers and hardware are suddenly obsolete and useless when faced with updates to the formats. Note that this makes closed-source-only drivers an issue, because assuming the hardware can still be adapted to whatever they change on us, open-sources drivers can be modified and closed-source ones probably won't be, whether for legal or practical considerations. So then, what can someone with a modest budget do to make sure that their constitutional fair use rights don't succumb to planned obsolecense, like the VCR has?"
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Preparing for the Broadcast Flag?

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  • Write Some Letters (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:50PM (#11746946) Homepage Journal
    Hey, the FCC is an arm of the people you helped to elect. If you have a problem with what they're doing, you can either challenge their decisions in court (assuming that someone isn't already) or get people fired up to fight. What people fail to realize (assuming they're smart enough to realize when their corporate government is in the process of screwing them, anyway) is that they still have to elect congresscritters. If people really care about the issue, you can whip them into a frenzy and threaten the re-election prospect of the fat cats from your district.

    If people don't care? Well, it's like the music industry's continued assault on aural quality. Too fucking bad. People are free to do as they will, and that includes fucking themselves over if they so choose.
    • by nizo (81281) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:57PM (#11747059) Homepage Journal
      I was going to write a letter, but decided to watch last night's "Must See TV" for 8 hours instead. I just hope my brain is broadcast flag enabled so I can remember all this fine programming later!
    • Lotsa Luck (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ackthpt (218170) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:01PM (#11747119) Homepage Journal
      you can either challenge their decisions in court (assuming that someone isn't already) or get people fired up to fight.

      Problem being, too many americans are too busy watching their spoon-fed share of culture on TV to care what happens, as long as the crap keeps showing up on their bigscreen they're fat and happy.

      • Re:Lotsa Luck (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mdamaged (708238)
        This reminds me of the famous quote:

        First they came for the Jews
        and I did not speak out
        because I was not a Jew.
        Then they came for the Communists
        and I did not speak out
        because I was not a Communist.
        Then they came for the trade unionists
        and I did not speak out
        because I was not a trade unionist.
        Then they came for me
        and there was no one left
        to speak out for me.
        - Pastor Martin Niemvller
    • by DataPath (1111) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:01PM (#11747126)
      To excerpt from an article posted on BetaNews:

      Two of the three federal appeals court judges from the District of Columbia scolded the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday over what they saw as an overstep of the agency's authority given by Congress. The reprimand came in response to the FCC's ruling on the "broadcast flag."
    • by kmartshopper (836454) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:04PM (#11747157)
      Obviously you're not from the US... when is the last time the public actually stood up for their rights? How about when people were able to come to an intelligent decision? I'd say it only happens every hundred years or so... hell - it even took a massive fight between two large groups of people to decide something as simple as the idea of equality between two separate groups of people. Good luck convincing soccer mom's that freedom of speech has a purpose. Why not take away their SUVs while we're at it?
      • by tomhudson (43916)

        hell - it even took a massive fight between two large groups of people to decide something as simple as the idea of equality between two separate groups of people

        Last I heard, they were still fighting for equal rights for gays and lesbians vis. marriage [tt] ..

        Oh ... you meant 2 other groups of people -

        Last I heard, racial profiling was still policy ...

        Oh ... you meant 2 other groups of people -

        Last I heard, the rich weren't worried abut the draft ...

        Oh ... you meant 2 other groups of people -

        Last I

      • by bechthros (714240) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:35PM (#11747580) Homepage Journal
        "when is the last time the public actually stood up for their rights?"

        How would we know? The corporate media would never tell us even if it actually happened.
    • Candy's dandy but bribes are quicker.
    • by StarKruzr (74642) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:09PM (#11747238) Journal
      Writing letters accomplishes nothing, because they still get their re-election campaign money from (for example) Time-Warner or whomever. If they spend enough money to get re-elected, they get re-elected. Period.

      There is no, repeat, NO hope of galvanizing a significant enough fraction of a Congressman's demographic to make a difference in an election when it comes to issues like intellectual property.

      The only thing you can do is move out of the country or just continue to civilly disobey.
      • by servognome (738846) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:52PM (#11747796)
        Writing letters accomplishes nothing, because they still get their re-election campaign money from (for example) Time-Warner or whomever. If they spend enough money to get re-elected, they get re-elected. Period.
        It comes back to the fact that americans are apathetic towards politics. If spending more money gets you elected, that's a reflection on the mindless drone voting public who will choose one candidate over another because they saw him on TV more.
        There is no, repeat, NO hope of galvanizing a significant enough fraction of a Congressman's demographic to make a difference in an election when it comes to issues like intellectual property.
        Yes there is, just nobody has organized a large enough group of people nor been vocal enough to make them care. This isn't just a technology situation, you can also include small businesses who are either have to pay large amounts for single licenses, or who are "locked out" of innovating new products due to the cost of complying with the wishes of the FCC. Also teach average people about how to maximize the use of their technology fairly, then watch them scream as their rights too are taken away.
        Alternatively, politics isn't necessarily about the majority, it's about who screams the loudest. The FCC bows down to a group not because it's the will of the majority of people, but because the group represents the majority of communications between the FCC and the people (90% of complaints come from 1 group).
    • by tealtalon (714179)
      I wrote my rep in my ditrict. She wrote me back telling me tough shit in not so many words completely siding with the FCC. I may have the email still. It made me furious.

      http://www.house.gov/brown-waite/ [house.gov]

      At least she won't vote for privitizing social security. The average age in this district IS 127. I bring it down a bit.

      http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/fl05_brown-wa ite/telescare.html [house.gov] I swear it wasn't me.
    • by Peaked (856340) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:18PM (#11747353)
      You say the people are free to do what they want? The poster's issue is that in the U.S. that doesn't seem to hold true any longer. The poster did not vote to fuck himself over, regardless of what others voted for.
      With that said, I agree with the rest of your point. The problem here is that majority rule does not work when the majority doesn't care. People need to wake up.
      • by sterno (16320)
        The issue is that if a representative is going to vote on a hundred different issues, people are going to vote based on whatever is most important to them. No matter how well you research the issue, if you are going to vote for a candidate, are you going to vote based on their position on health care, or their position on the FCC flag?

    • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:20PM (#11747380)
      ...all of the Broadcast Flag plans were in motion up long before Bush became president, during Clinton's presidency. Clinton appointed Michael Powell to the FCC [when he became Chairman, he didn't get any more votes], Clinton signed the DMCA into law, and Fritz Hollings (D) (along with four other Democratic senators) is the sponsor of the CBDTPA (née SSSCA or "DMCA 2").

      I'm not saying the parent is speaking to this specifically, but this is just a point of information for others who will no doubt ignorantly vomit out the opposite in this thread.
      • by Orion_ (83461) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:32PM (#11749126)
        Clinton signed the DMCA into law

        Yes, and the DMCA passed Congress without a single no vote. The Senate passed it 99-0, and the House passed it on a voice vote (which generally means that there wasn't any real opposition).

        I don't know if the parent was attempting to point out that Democrats are solely to blame for things like the DMCA and the Broadcast flag or if he was trying to point out that both parties are to blame. It seems clear to me from the record that you can't blame things on just one party. People shouldn't get the impression that the Republicans have somehow been the guardians of our fair use rights against attacks conducted solely by the Democrats.
  • Similar question... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DanThe1Man (46872) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:50PM (#11746958)
    While on the topic, does anyone know if I buy a HD tunner card now, before they become extinct in July, if it will even work after the flag is issued?
  • by Dana P'Simer (530866) * <dana.psimer@dhptech . c om> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:51PM (#11746965) Journal
    I bought the pcHDTV [pchdtv.com] card and am building a Gentoo [gentoo.org] MythTV [mythtv.org] box around it, heres a HOW-TO [comcast.net]. MythTV can record your programs to DVD if you like as well as many other things.

    I am using an AMD 1700+ CPU with 1 GB memory, an nVidia GeForce FX 5700 128MB board. I only have 80+GB space on the system right now (enough for around 5 hrs recording time ) but I will probably upgrade it later this year.

    I bought this card because it does not have the broadcast bit and since it was made before July it will not be encumbered with all those restrictions.

    I do not, however, plan on abusing that flexibility by sharing my recordings and thus ripping off the content owners. It is the thieves that feel it is thier right to steal from people just because they can that have brought this onerrous situation upon us.

    • by meringuoid (568297) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:07PM (#11747218)
      It is the thieves that feel it is thier right to steal from people just because they can that have brought this onerrous situation upon us.

      You mean the ones with complete contempt for the notion of the public domain, who have repeatedly bought extensions to the duration of copyright in order to deny us the free use of our own culture?

      Yeah, they're thieves all right, and they're the ones who've brought this situation upon us. It really sucks.

    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:45PM (#11747728)

      It is the thieves that feel it is thier right to steal from people just because they can that have brought this onerrous situation upon us.

      I applaud you decision to respect the copyright laws, and not support piracy. On the other hand, I think you are very wrong to think DRM controls have anything to do with piracy. They don't stop anyone from copying a disk, and they are a mere speed bump for anyone who wants to rip content. DRM related laws are not aimed at the lawless, they are useless for stopping piracy. DRM is all about content control for people who obey the laws. Their purpose is to prevent you from moving your already purchased content to a newer format, or displaying it in multiple locations. They are about price fixing in different regions. I'm sorry you have been fooled into believe the smokescreen about piracy. Content producers are not stupid enough to believe that DRM will stop piracy, it is just an excuse.

      To make a second point, while I do not violate copyright laws, I think the dirty hands of the content publishers give them little right to complain about copyright violations. Copyright was a two-sided deal, and they have welshed on their half. If copyrights do not enter the public domain and copy-written works are not available for sale at a reasonable price, then the original agreement has been broken and their is no reason why they should have exclusive rights to publish a work. Just because they bribed politicians with the money they made with their government sponsored monopoly, does not make it ethical to fail to fulfill their half of the deal. Of course, corporations are rarely ethical, and generally will do whatever the law allows them to, including change those laws to make more profit. If someone wants to violate these unfair copyright laws, hack content publishers bank accounts, or steal all their staplers, I say "enjoy and good luck."

    • Keep in mind that the pcHDTV card, and the Broadcast Flag in general, only works with Over-The-Air TV. It does not work with cable or satellite systems.

      The last statistics I saw indicated that less than 20% of Americans don't have cable or satellite. This means that the BF will affect only that small minority who watches digital TV and receives it over the air. It doesn't affect cable viewers, and it doesn't affect satellite viewers.

      As far as I know, HBO generally does not go over the air. That's because
  • Buy offshore (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Neil Watson (60859) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:51PM (#11746971) Homepage
    Can't you just by cards made offshore that will not honor the broadcast flag? If there is a market someone will build them.
    • Can't you just by cards made offshore that will not honor the broadcast flag? If there is a market someone will build them.

      Wont there be software uh... "patches" that will get around the flag?
    • Buy offshore (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TiggertheMad (556308)
      Can't you just by cards made offshore that will not honor the broadcast flag? If there is a market someone will build them.

      And this is why any attempt to controll how an end user uses media will fail. The whole system will work as long as everyone plays ball. As soon as you have somebody that realizes they can make a better product by simply ignoring DMR/Broadcast flages/whatever, they will have 'built a better mousetrap'. And since implimenting copy protection takes extra effort, the product without it
  • by HeaththeGreat (708430) <hborders@mail.win.org> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:51PM (#11746973)
    Just buy an ATI TV tuner card before its too late.
  • by 00squirrel (772984) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:52PM (#11746981)
    Move to Canada!

    /ducks
  • Hmm.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by modifried (605582) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:52PM (#11746982) Homepage
    .. buy from Canada? :)
  • Don't worry... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chrispyman (710460) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:52PM (#11746991)
    Wasn't this a worry when they first came out with DVDs, that you lost your ability to "archive" them? I'm sure that given some time, people will be able to easily defeat the broadcast flag with relative ease. Although the legality of doing so is questionable at best...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    How to best prepare.

    Stock up on:
    Canned Food
    Water
    Yacht Batteries
    Guns
    Ammunition
  • by doormat (63648) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:52PM (#11746997) Homepage Journal
    link from Ars Technica [arstechnica.com]

    Unfortunately they're fighting it on a technicality - that Congress did not give the FCC explicit power to create the broadcast flag, and thusly they have no authority themselves to create it.
    • by Void_Ptr (4920) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:11PM (#11747259) Homepage
      The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

      This issue isn't a technicality but a very valid point with regard to legislation and powers delegated by the U.S. Constitution.

      Our goverment is (and should be) set up in such a way so that, when in doubt, the people have right of way.

      This is not only an issue of the FCC overstepping its authority, but a fundamental question of what the federal government can, and cannot do.

  • Two words: rabbit ears.

    Chris

  • cause the site was already melting when i tried to click it

    mirror [mirrordot.org]

  • meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:54PM (#11747015)
    like any other type of restrictive technology, 95% of the people won't care, the other 5% of us folks will find cheap and easy ways around it. Yeah it won't be legal, but the cops only care if you are selling them or distributing them in large quantities (on the internets).

    Nothing different anti-CD copying measures, anti VHS copying measures, anti video-game copying measures, and so on.

    Nothing new here, move along
  • Honestly. I haven't had a TV/Cable connection for the past seven years. I haven't missed it at all. All my friends drone on and on about the latest episode of "Star Trek: the Berman Tragedy" or "Friends II: Las Vegas," but I honestly don't envy their ability to keep track of the latest shows. So-called news regarding ideas like "Survivor: Soyuz," Martha Stewart's version of "The Apprentice," and sequels to "The Simple Life" just enforce my resolve to not care about television at all.
    • For someone who doesn't care, you sure can remember the most recent pop shows pretty well.
    • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda AT etoyoc DOT com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:11PM (#11747272) Homepage Journal
      I too went years without the evil glowing box. At least three. In that time we didn't even own a TV. (My playstation was jury rigged into our ATI all-in-wonder card.)

      But then we had a kid. When your wife it stuck at home, it only takes a few weeks for her to realize that there is only so much going on on the net in a given day.

      Now, we did get satellite, and with it a DVR package. Fast forwarding through commercials, and being able to stockpile shows for days when I'm sick at home have eliminated my 2 major complaints about the tube.

      The stockpiling is important. Most of my favorite cable channels... ok who am I kidding... the only 2 channels I watch tend to run the interesting stuff in marathons, with a long dry season in between. While I only average a few hours of TV a week, having 8 episodes of Star Trek, and another 6 "Tales of the Gun" are really handy for being home with the flu.

      And having 5 or 6 hours of "Sesame Street" and "Jay Jay the Jet Plane" canned and ready to play is a life saver when you have a toddler. It means you can play their favorite video without it drilling your mind to the point you can recite the dialog by heart.

      And to be fair, she is evenly split between wanting TV, mom and dad time, and bringing a book over demanding we read it to her. If anything, she prefers the books.

    • I watch TV ALL THE TIME, just not live.

      I consistently download 8 shows a week, ranging from Sci-Fi to comedy, to drama.

      Then I stream them to my PrismIQ. I have plenty of entertainment throughout the week, but feel no need to woprk around anybody else's schedule but my own. And I don't see commercials, to boot.

      It probably won't last, but it works for me now.

  • by ackthpt (218170) *
    I'll just hook a wire recorder up to my B&W Dumont TV and my Channel Master Rotor Antenna I'll be all set!

    maybe I should break down and get one of those newfangled video to LP recorders...

  • by Anonymous Coward
    " Given that there are only a few months left to make purchasing decisions, how best can one prepare for the advent of the broadcast flag?""

    Not worry about it.

    1-I doubt it's going to be widely available come July.

    2-It's a bad idea that's going to quickly be realized as a bad idea.

    I doubt it's going to last long, especially for programming people pay for.
  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:54PM (#11747027) Homepage
    The DC Circuit Court [com.com] isn't so sure the FCC has the right to make that rule.

    I have no idea what you can do to try to sway the judicial system, as it's only 2 of 3 so far.

    I guess you could contribute to the folks trying to take the FCC to court over this.
  • by thatshortkid (808634) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:56PM (#11747042)
    I found myself asking this same question, too. So I put the question to the makers of the EyeTV 500 [elgato.com]. This is their response:

    "EyeTV 500 does not support the broadcast flag. Units bought before July 2005 will never support the broadcast flag. We will not update EyeTV 500 units bought before then to support the flag.

    Thus, your EyeTV 500 will never support the broadcast flag. It will ignore flags, and not use DRM for any content. That means you'll have the maximum freedom possible with its recordings."

    It's a little pricey, but it does the compression on the box. I don't have digital cable yet, but I may buy this come May/June just for the fuck of it since pre-July box prices will probably go up dramatically come July 2 (on the black market, of course, since the law bans all inter-state trade of these devices).
  • My plans involve an underground bunker, stocked with old books and DVD's that will be stored in perfectly dark conditions to preserve them for as long as possible. Upon these DVD's are recordings of the great television shows and movies.

    Upon the day of the broadcast flag, I will be taking my family into the bunker along with a supply of food, air, and other needs to last 100 years.

    When my great-grandchildren emerge into the world after society collapses, all the old books (which were deemed illegal during the Copyright Stealing Prevention act of 2050) are burned and all eyeballs gouged out during the Copyright Memory Prevention Act of 2075, when humanity has children born without R/M/AA approved Eyeball Extractors coming to remove their ocular sockets to be installed with DCMA III approved cybereyes (which shut down if it appears the looker is attempitng to actually remember what they see to replay it in their mind later, which of course is a copyright violation), then my great-grandchildren will be able to use these books and DVD's as barter.

    Hm - I wonder how much food they'll be able to buy with a copy of "Cryptonomicon". Maybe I should get another copy....
  • by netruner (588721) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:57PM (#11747066)
    As with all laws, the authority comes from elected officials. So i recommend that you purchase an elected official. You can probably get one cheaper than you think.
  • by Cid Highwind (9258) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:57PM (#11747069) Homepage
    Step 1: Understand that 99.9% of shows on TV are crap anyway.
    Step 2: Cease to care whether or not you can legally record them.
    Step 3: Cancel your cable/satellite service.
    Step 4: Download the 2 or 3 shows you really enjoy watching.
  • by peawee03 (714493) <mcericks&uiuc,edu> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:58PM (#11747078)

    Sure, you can stock up on pre-broadcast flag HDTV cards, and you can do all sorts of other tricks, but to do what you talk of for long-term goals, you're gonna need to work from the inside of the "system". Like others have said, big companies can spend all they want on re-election campaigns, but they still get elected by those who vote.

    What most people forget about American democracy is that it is designed to work well in facilitating peaceful revolutions- when people care and vote. The blame for the sorry state the American government is in lies with nobody save every last American citizen who is currently enfranchised (older than 18, etc.). And I write this as an American citizen.

  • by robyannetta (820243) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:59PM (#11747087) Homepage
    I'll give my $0.02 in this conversation because I may have an answer.

    Once the broadcast flag becomes standard, can't the FCC be sued for violating the Supreme Court order [virtualrecordings.com] mandating fair use in the Sony Betamax case? It would seem to be a slam-dunk of this argument is used.

  • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda AT etoyoc DOT com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:59PM (#11747090) Homepage Journal
    I wouldn't fret it too much. The same folks who brought you "free cable" and "free satellite" are probably going to also provide a little box that takes raw signal in, flips the "evil bit", and sends a pure pirateable stream to your DVR.

    • Your concept of a bit flipper is a little more... complicated than you think.

      Now to write up this explanation for a third time in less than a year... maybe I should save it.

      A digital television transport stream is a stream of binary data divided up into 188 byte packets (the ATSC standard at least). Each packet has a PID stamped on it, and the broadcast flag is carried on a packet with a specific PID (sorry, but I don't have time to drag out the ATSC specs (A/65B in this case I believe)... it would be pos
  • Stop time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ih8sG8s (4112) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:01PM (#11747116)
    You could try to stop time, progress and technical evolution. That way, your shiny new equipment will never become obsolete.

    Sorry, that's a small jab. We can't predict what the future will bring. I can tell you this though...

    If you want to be able to do things with bits that the powers that be try to stop you from doing, your best bet will always be had in the hobyist (read free software / oss) areas. This is because companies who want to compete and cooperate to get your money will b forced to play by the rules imposed by those would deny digital rights. Individuals will not bend to this, so the free stuff, while admitedly slower on the curve, will be your best bet, if freedom is your motivation. This means invest in your PC.

    If you want digital input to your TV, go over DVI, but be sure that any set you look at will play non DRM encoded stuff. I believe the MPAA is attempting to mandate the broadcast of digital signals in a format which will limit rights. There are two types of digital interface on a television. My memory is sketchy here, I bought my set over 18 moonths ago. I do know though that there are a couple of different interface/protocol types, some of which use only the protocol which the MPAA is trying to define (in their favour). Be careful of that.
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:04PM (#11747166) Homepage
    I'm amazed at how many people think that simply not watching TV is any sort of solution.

    Broadcast flags are utterly evil for two reasons.

    First, they are contrary to our fair use rights to record programming via Universal v. Sony.

    Second, they create perpetual copyrights. Under the current rules, broadcasters will even be able to stop recording of public domain programming. Why do broadcasters get greater rights than the creator?! That makes no sense. And what's so hard to understand about the phrase "for a limited time"?!

    Merely sitting on the sidelines and ignoring the problem will NOT help! If and when broadcast flags succeed, similar systems will become even more commonplace.
  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:05PM (#11747180)
    Buy an HD tuner that doesn't respect the flag before 1 July 2005, or purchase any such preexisting device after 1 July 2005 (all non flag compliant devices can be resold after that date).

    But it's not that simple, after all. Because the problem is TUNING the content you want to record, e.g., from a satellite provider or cable operator. And since more and more of the digital content is encrypted, and is only able to be tuned by devices sanctioned by the provider, and all such devices will respect the Broadcast Flag, the answer is to "What can I do to prepare for the Broadcast Flag?" is "Not much."

    Unless, of course, you don't mind recording from an analog connection, such as composite video, S-video, or component video. But the FireWire ports that are, for example, also mandated on all HD/digital cable set top boxes after 1 July 2005 will be mostly encrypted. One might ask the question, if they're encrypted, then what the hell good are they? Indeed. But what can you do in the face of a cable provider whose call centers don't even know what FireWire is, or who argues that "technically" the FireWire ports are "functional" (as required by the FCC), even though their output is encrypted.

    The real answer, of course, is that these ports will interact with OTHER 5C-compliant FireWire devices that also respect the Broadcast Flag. There's no way around it unless you go analog. And that INCLUDES all the nice things on the EFF's page. Sure, you can tune over-the-air HD channels and record them. And that's great. In some markets, that may account for a lot of content. But you won't be able to digitally record content that is flagged as Record Never that you're paying for from a cable or satellite operator, because you need THEIR EQUIPMENT to tune to those channels. (Or, something like a CableCard in - guess what - another device that respects the flag.)

    All in all, we'll be able to do less with our current (i.e., digital) equipment than we could do with equivalent equipment (i.e., the VCR) 30 years ago. And most of the operators won't shoulder any of the blame. They'll just point the finger at laws or at the content providers. And then what is a customer to do? The only thing you really *can* do is write your elected officials, and provide feedback to the FCC. Or, not buy any flag compliant devices, which might ultimately prove to be a very hard thing to do.

    In sum: anything you buy now won't guarantee you recording of ALL content you might legitimately have access to, unless you're ONLY concerned about OTA recording.
    • Re:Simple (Score:3, Insightful)

      by javaxman (705658)
      And most of the operators won't shoulder any of the blame. They'll just point the finger at laws or at the content providers. And then what is a customer to do? The only thing you really *can* do is write your elected officials, and provide feedback to the FCC. Or, not buy any flag compliant devices, which might ultimately prove to be a very hard thing to do.

      The more I think about all of this, the more I think it may all come back to really bite content providers. I believe many people will be less likely

  • Screw them. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wowbagger (69688) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:09PM (#11747234) Homepage Journal
    Yes, I did buy a pcHDTV2000 card, more on general principles than anything else, but my overall attitude on the broadcast flag can be summed up in two words:

    Screw them.

    If the broadcasters insist upon making me not the master of my TV, PVR, and DVD player, then I shall not consume their product - I'll read a book, I'll work on my car/computer/house/physique, and generally be better off than I am now.

    The manufacturers of HDTV sets aren't seeing quite the volume they want - guess what guys, if you continue to make things less friendly to the consumer they will not consume as much!

    Perhaps we shall see a rise of "GPL TV" - people creating shows for download (Considering the success of Homestar Runner, this may not be as far-fetched as we might think). Imagine - a Star Dreck^WTrek that has somewhat sensible science and stories! A rendition of Starship Troopers that is actually faithful to RAH's vision!

    But no matter what - if my TV does not recognize me as its lord and master, then it shall be summarily expelled from my castle.
  • by btavshan (699524) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:10PM (#11747254)
    Knowing a number of close friends that have worked in congressmen/senators' offices, I can tell you that writing/calling your congressmen will do.....NOTHING. They get ridiculous numbers of emails/calls a day (in addition to the normal spam and telemarketing no doubt), and just end up feeding it off on some intern who sends out cookie-cutter replies. No one in Washington or the state capitol wants to listen to you.
  • Broadcast Flag (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LinearBob (258695) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:14PM (#11747308)
    First, you need to know what the 19.3 megabit DTV "Transport Stream" looks like. The "Broadcast Flag" is a small collection of bits embedded in "Transport Stream." DTV equipment will be required to watch (or listen) for those bits and take the appropriate action.

    But suppose you know where those bits are, and what they mean, too. Why couldn't you simply flip the ones you don't like and then record or whatever? All you would need is a serial to parallel converter to turn the serial stream into a 16 bit parallel bus (for example) and them suck those bits into a DSP, where you do a little bit bashing. Then run them into a parallel to serial conervter to reconstruct the transport stream as seen by your digital disk recorder? If you have a commercially made unit, it will be looking for the flag bits, so it will know what it can or cannot do, but your freshly set bits tell it that this program is OK to record and play as long as you like.

    I think such a device is likely to appear as a small plastic box with 2 firewire ports and a wall-wart, selling for $20 in a year or two.

    Remember Macrovision on VHS? Do you know how easy that was to defeat? All you had to do was to make your VCR run with fixed video gain instead of AGC all the time. A little hardware hacking was all that was needed. This shouldn't be much worse. But don't try bit bashing after the compressed video is expanded. The data rate there is likely to be upwards of a gigabit, and most folks don't know how to make PCBs to handle stuff going that fast. This is precisely why the DRM folks want the interconnects to be 1 gigabit or faster. But remember, the "broadcast flag" must be readable in the 19.3 megabit transport stream.
    • Re:Broadcast Flag (Score:3, Informative)

      by smartfart (215944) *
      But suppose you know where those bits are, and what they mean, too. Why couldn't you simply flip the ones you don't like and then record or whatever?

      That's illegal, according to these guys. DMCA and all that. Defeating their encryption scheme is against the law.

  • by MORTAR_COMBAT! (589963) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:19PM (#11747369)
    wtf are you talking about. search the text of the US Constitution [house.gov] and you will not find the phrase "fair use".

    you seem to be talking about the generally held /interpretation/ that the language actually present in the constitution denotes a "fair use right" -- and much as the "right to privacy", the "right to own a handgun", "the right to choice", and the "right to have gay sex", anything up to interpretation is likely to be re-interpreted.

    us freedom-loving people have had it high on the hog with the centralisation of power under a liberal government (except for gun rights). now that this centralised power is under conservative control we're shocked (shocked!) when the interpretation changes to our disliking. boo fscking hoo.

    if we want a lasting right to fair use, to privacy, or whatever, we had better get it /in writing/ and not rely on changing interpretation or to wait and see which pile of lawyers has the bigger money pile.

    if we don't want a powerful central government dictating law to us from their corporate puppeteers, then massive decentralisation of that power or, at least, less corrupt influences on that power, are needed. seriously, is there a more sure recipe for corruption than to put as much power in as few hands as possible? guess what, the Constitution never outlined plans to vest this much power in Washington, DC, but a rampant-running series of /interpretations/ centralising power not only left us with an FCC which could mandate the broadcast flag, it left us with not much choice other than to just take it in the arse when they mandate it. the FCC is just another massive government agency battling for tax dollars in a massive, misspent, misfortunate contest of penis size as budget cap.
  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:35PM (#11747570)
    A number of groups like the EFF, American Library Association, etc. are all challenging the broadcast flag [com.com] in court. With a bit of luck it's implementation will be delayed or even stopped.
    • This is truly an interesting case, and it marks a significant point in American history. The broadcast flag is obviously, blatantly, hideously un-American, but whether or not it stands will be decided based solely on how much of our legal system is owned by Hollywood. If I were a gambler, I would put my money on Hollywood. It's pessimistic, I know, but I think we've already crossed the bridge and there's no turning back. I say that based on the fact that ridiculous things like DMCA and INDUCE have/will
  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:41PM (#11747660)
    The broadcast flag is designed to control content due to the success of TV shows on DVD sales. Also factor in the nice high resolution broadcast quality versions you could be saving/recording instead of buying on HD DVD... :) They just dont want you to record what you've already paid for. And yes sitting through commercials during a tv show is paying for a tv show. Afterall, they dont get advertising money for tv shows if they didnt have our ratings numbers. Hey according to the FCC, Them's is our airwaves! ;) HAHAHAHAHA. As if fucking over the entire public wasnt enough for the FCC, spitting that bullshit back in our faces should have resulted in riots ;)

    I think the real shame is that as a result of this broadcast flag, Hollywood will simply fuel an entire underground HD-TV show swaping network on the internet.

    There will be 10x the amount of traded HD-TV shows being swapped online. There will be a huge demand for those who can provide recorded versions of your favorite tv show.

    Dont these companies realize that the more they squeeze the people, the more willing the people are to fuck them back?

    We're a country of rebelling bastards, its what we do best :)

    So let the corperations continue to own and control our government. It's nothing new. We've already lost that war years ago.

    Hollywood, say hello to the larger than ever, more elite than ever, more unstoppable than ever, and more right than ever... underground HD-TV show scene that you have created. Way to learn from the past, you fucking morons (hollywood).

  • by dowobeha (581813) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:44PM (#11747716)
    1. Buy an HDTV card now.

    pcHDTV 3000 from here [pchdtv.com]

    Air2PC from here [mythic.tv] or here [cyberestore.com]

    2. When you're ready, build a computer for MythTV. Use this guide [wilsonet.com], look here [miami.edu] for HDTV tips, and ask questions on this mailing list [mythtv.org]. You can also search for answers on the mailing list archive [gossamer-threads.com].

    3. You say that Myth isn't all you want. I think you're wrong. Here's what it can do:

    It can record analog content from cable, satellite, and over-the-air broadcasts.

    It can record digital content from over-the-air broadcasts, including HDTV.

    It can record unencrypted digital content over firewire from some digital cable boxes.

    Using free tools that come with MythTV, you can cut commercials and export any recording from MythTV to a number of different formats, including Divx, Xvid, VCD, SVCD, and DVD.

    4. Here's what it can't do:

    Myth can't record encrypted digital content from digital cable or digital satellite. Keep in mind that no PC-based solution can do this. The only possible ways to do record content from these sources in digital format are to use a black-box solution (usually) provided by the cable or satellite company or to put on your black hacker hat and crack the encryption. If you choose the former, odds are slim and none that you will be able to export the recordings.

  • This is the same industry who's copy protection for CD audio data over digital is to have two bits set. Turn those bits off and you can copy all you want over TOSLINK.

    This is the same industry who let the CSS decryption code leak out.

    This is essentialy the same industry who tries to copy protect XBOX and PS2 games, only to have $10 chips start showing up a week after the machines come out, or, better yet, loading a save game file that creates a FTP server you can log in to by way of a buffer overflow in a font package.

    I don't think we have anything to worry about here, folks.

    Let them make their piddly little broadcast flag. Give it a week and you will see a story here on Slashdot that says, "HD Broadcast Flag stripped from content with 2 lines of Pearl."

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