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broadcast flag

The broadcast flag is the Advanced Television Systems Committee's proposed copy protection encoding for broadcast digital television  (DTV) signals. The flag, developed to prevent unauthorized redistribution of digital programming, would restrict the ways that people could copy broadcast content. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated that all digital recording devices produced after July 1, 2005 must have the capacity to recognize and comply with broadcast flags. However, on May 6, 2005 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against the FCC, maintaining that, in trying to extend its control beyond the transmission of content, the organization had "plainly exceeded the scope of its general jurisdictional grant."

According to some reports, the broadcast flag would have allowed only poor quality recording of flagged content, to tape or special low-resolution DVDs. Although you would still be able to record protected programming on a compliant device, you wouldn't be able to watch it on a non-compliant device. Another concern is that the broadcast flag technology could be used to restrict viewing in other ways. Simson Garfinkel, writing in MIT's Technology Review, claimed that similar encoding could be used to prevent people from time-shifting programs or skipping commercials. A media release from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called the broadcast flag "an ineffective solution to a non-existent problem" that would "raise the cost of DTV devices while reducing the value that they represent to consumers."

This was last updated in July 2008

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