Tech leaders, studios agree on copy protection plan
Copyright 2002 Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
San Jose Mercury News…06/05/2002
An influential group of technology companies, consumer electronics manufacturers and motion-picture studios recommended a new standard Wednesday to prevent digital television broadcasts from being spread over the Internet.
The new technology represents a fresh chapter in Hollywood's escalating battle to curb online piracy.
"The MPAA is pleased that what I would call a broad multi-industry consensus has been reached on this," said Jack Valenti, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America.
The Broadcast Protection Discussion Group, a working group formed last November by the same industry organization that set the standard for DVD copy protection, approved standards that make it possible for local TV stations to insert a "digital flag" in over-the-air broadcasts.
A new generation of receivers equipped with similar technology would spot the flag _ and prevent users from uploading copyrighted movies or television shows onto Internet file-swapping services.
The studios have said they need some form of copy-protection to prevent pristine digital broadcasts of popular shows such as "The Osbournes" from being uploaded to the Internet and distributed infinitely. Studios say the fear of being Napsterized has held up the availability of high-quality content.
"You could either think of it as a business imperative for us to protect our business _ or a public-policy matter, which is a unique American institution called local broadcasting," said Andrew G. Setos, technology president for Fox Group and co-committee chair. "That is essentially what we were trying to protect."
Privacy groups expressed outrage at the concept, hatched in secret by large corporations —Intel, Mitsubishi and Fox — that have a financial interest in the outcome. And they expressed concern that the licensing requirements set up a process that gives Hollywood studios veto control over budding television technologies that have yet to be invented.
"The Hollywood studios fought the VCR when the VCR was first invented," said Seth Schoen, technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "If they had had the legal right to approve or disapprove it, they wouldn't have approved it. They would have said this device is built to infringe."