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the mp3 way: RIAA backs "Broadcast Flag"
By Jon Newton,
(more articles from this author)
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The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has apparently now joined the small group of self-interested movie companies, record labels and hardware and software manufacturers calling for 'broadcast flag' technology to be 'inserted' into streaming stations under the pretext of preventing copyrighted items from being pirated.

'Broadcast flag' systems would allow the entertainment industry and others to plug directly into user environments and control what was being played and/or viewed. In the process, also gaining hitherto private and confidential information from, and about, users and their habits.

"It's really the same model for what's already been happening on the video side," CNET quotes RIAA senior vice president of government relations Mitch Glazier as saying. "The concept of a similar 'broadcast flag' for digital television signals has already gained approval from an industry standards group, but has drawn criticism from opponents who say the technology will strip consumers of their traditional 'fair use' rights."

The 'industry standards group' Glazier refers to is strictly by the industry, for the industry. Dubbed '5C,' it's a handful of companies which surfaced within the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group (BPDG). Members are said to include Panasonic/Matsushita Electric Corp, News Corp Ltd and Walt Disney.

"Convened by a few private companies, the BPDG reached many of its decisions in secret and repeatedly evicted reporters from its discussion lists and conference calls," said the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). "BPDG sought the appearance of consensus and downplayed significant disagreements."

Shortly after 5C was unearthed, in a press release, MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) boss Jack Valenti said, "The MPAA is very pleased that a broad, multi-industry consensus has been reached on the fundamental aspects of a technology, called the 'broadcast flag'."

Broad, multi-industry consensus? This is in truth a small, extremely venal group which under the guise of guarding members against dangerous new technology is doing its best to front what it calls a 'standard' to give members control of digital TV technology and how people use their TVs, DVDs, and other devices in the privacy of their homes.

In fact, Valenti - from 1963 until 1966, a top advisor to former US president Lyndon B. Johnson - warned sternly that new technology threatens an entire industry's [guess which industry] "economic vitality and future security".

However, this wasn't in 2002 - it was in 1982 and Valenti was referring to VCR's.

Be that as it may Glazier, too, has had his moments. Ex-chief counsel, Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property, and former chief of staff to Howard Coble (R-NC), one-time chairman of said subcommittee, he gained a certain notoriety when in 1999 he slipped the now infamous "sound recording" amendment into the unrelated Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act, slated for safe passage through Congress.

This made music recordings 'works for hire' which in turn meant artists weren't able to get possession of their own masters. Naturally, the artists believed they'd been hung out to dry. The Fulsome Five, who stood to make enormous amounts of money, loved it.

"RIAA had succeeded - in November - in getting legislation through Congress that labeled recorded performances as 'works for hire' which artists' reps said would benefit the recording industry at the expense of musicians," said a February 17, 2000, Washington Post story by Judy Sarasohn "Special Interests Of Revolving Doors and Turntables."

"The measure, attached to another bill, came as a surprise to them," it added.

The amendment not only surprised them - it infuriated them and led to an oversight hearing in May, 2000, chaired by the noble Coble who led off with:

"... As many of you know, this amendment has caused some to criticize my colleagues, my staff, and me as having indulged in unfair, deceptive, and sneaky behavior."

He went on that it was his belief that, "opponents of this language were overreacting". However, artists and spokesmen for artists, "continued to express anxiety over the issue and I concluded that my calm interpretation did not assuage their comfort ["assuage their comfort"? ; ] nor did it resolve their problem. So I then decided to grant their request for this hearing."

Glazier ended up at the RIAA as a lobbyist - with a very, very handsome salary increase. RIAA chairman [Yep. 'Chairman', as she herself describes her new job] Hilary 'Reach Out' Rosen, then President and CEO, claimed the RIAA didn't know the position was going to come open when Glazier made the changes to the Satellite act.

But she didn't say, and nor was she asked, if she knew an opening of some kind, ideally suited to Glazier's very special talents, was in the offing.

The bill was eventually repealed, but not before Reach Out, Noble Coble and Congressman Howard 'Tell It Like The RIAA Says It Is' Berman (D-CA) had used the hearing to start a mutual admiration club.

If you have a strong stomach, go here: May 25, 2000 Hearing.

In the meanwhile, in October last year, Glazier was behind yet another 'amendment' for yet another totally unrelated piece of legislation which once again would have benefitted the RIAA. This time it was, believe it or not, the anti-terrorism bill - then only just approved by Congress - which caught his eye. As Wired News put it in "RIAA Wants to Hack Your PC."

"An RIAA-drafted amendment according to a draft obtained by Wired News would immunize all copyright holders - including the movie and e-book industry - for any data losses caused by their hacking efforts or other computer intrusions 'that are reasonably intended to impede or prevent' electronic piracy."

But once again, the amendment was spotted and the story added, "In an interview Friday, RIAA lobbyist Mitch Glazier said that his association has abandoned plans to insert that amendment into anti-terrorism bills - and instead is supporting a revised amendment that takes a more modest approach."

omnibus digital television transmission bill
Back to Broadcast Flag, a July 15 Reuters story said, "Rep. Billy Tauzin, who chairs the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, said his staff has begun to prepare a comprehensive bill that would resolve questions swirling around the new medium, hoping free, over-the-air digital broadcasts would become commonplace before too long.

"'The staff has been ordered to begin drafting an omnibus digital television transmission bill and to have it ready by September for discussion, unless all the parties can tell us by September that they have resolved the remaining issues that stand between their reaching agreement,' the Louisiana Republican said at a press conference."

On the same date, Valenti said, "We are near the edge of an agreement on remaining technical aspects of the broadcast flag, and we're anxious to avoid further delay. We hope to resolve these remaining matters in the very near-term so that we can move forward with implementing the broadcast flag as expeditiously as possible."

I'll bet.

And if you think the above is but a single instance of the entertainment industry's perfidy, think again.

June: A court order requiring ReplayTV maker SONICblue to build and implement software to track customer viewing and send the results to television and film companies was overturned by federal judge Florence-Marie Cooper.

SONICblue's ReplayTV 4000 not only boasts 'autoSkip' which lets users bypass commercials while recording a program, it also has a high-speed Net port that allows them to DL online programs and/or send them to other ReplayTV 4000 users.

The tv companies and movies studios claim this deprives them of advertising revenues and allows people who paid for premium programming to send it to others who haven't.

This all began when LA Central District Court Magistrate Charles F. Eick told SONICblue to modify its DVR's to collect data on what tv-watchers watch and to then pass the information to a group including Paramount, Universal, Walt Disney and MGM; and, CBC, ABC and NBC, all of whom were suing Sonicblue for alleged copyright violations.

"Forcing a company to change its product in order to conduct surveillance on its customers is unreasonable and inappropriate," said Michael Petricone, VP of Technology Policy for the Consumer Electronics Association ...

June The MPAA joined cable operators in urging the FCC to allow remote shutoffs to set-top boxes, said the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and Home Recording Rights Coalition (HRRC).

"By supporting what is referred to as 'Selectable Output Control', both the MPAA and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), are betraying assurances recently given to the Congress and to consumers," says the HRRC on its web page at

The Selectable Output Control capability is, "unconscionable remote control of America's living rooms and which Hollywood studio executives rebuked earlier this year during congressional hearings on digital copy protection," states the CEA.

"Earlier this year, Hollywood executives told Congress selectable output controls were outdated and no longer needed, provided home copies are not redistributed over the Internet," said CEA VP of Technology Policy Michael Petricone, "but MPAA's filing yesterday supports the notion that cable should have the capability of controlling a consumer's television set. Which position are we to believe; the one expressed before Congress or this latest stance taken with a federal agency?"

Stay tuned.

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