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WAVING THE BROADCAST FLAG
So you don't really care about politics. That's fine. Neither do I. Sure, you've got a few guys that you really don't like, and you complain about how they're screwing everything up. But when it comes to local politics you probably couldn't even name your congressman. Again, that's fine. I'm right there with you.
So what am I to think then, when the name George Radanovich keeps showing up on the news pages that I read? I read the really geeky news pages, where the articles are generally about "New Advances In Trigonometry!" or "Linux Kernel Performance Review on 64 Bit Architecture!" Pretty geeky stuff.
So when all these fringe news sites start talking about my congressman, it makes me feel a little weird. Like maybe I should care about what's going on with the guy elected to represent me.
What's Old George Up To Then?
Most of the time George Radanovich does what he's supposed to do: fight aggressively for Agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of the greater Fresno area economy, and we need somebody on their side. Agribusiness also pretty much makes sure that George Radanovich is elected every year. In 2004, they gave him more than $83,000 and they're consistently his leading financial backer, having given him more than $290,000 since 1998. (All financial data is available for public viewing at opensectrets.org)
So what in the world is this guy doing that's so wrong that lazy old computer geek/aspiring rockstar me feels like I need to write an article about it?
There's a little thing called the "Broadcast Flag" that Hollywood is desperately trying to get made into law. They got the FCC to try and enforce it, but it was struck down by the Federal Appeals Court, who stated in May that the FCC did not have this kind authority, and that that power lay with Congress. So naturally instead of giving up, Hollywood started calling in favors. But this legislation is so bad, so pro-media/anti-consumer that most congressmen wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. So far, they've only lined up twenty congressmen to publicly back the legislation. And guess who stepped up to the plate?
Good old George Radanovich, who received about $14,000 in 2004 from Hollywood. Not as much as Agribusiness has given him, of course. But still, that's a nice chunk of change if you ask me.
And Why Is This Bad, Exactly?
The Broadcast Flag is a nasty little piece of DRM - Digital Rights Management. You may not have heard of this before, but chances are you've run into it. Like that time you bought the new Switchfoot album, and for some mysterious reason it would play fine in your car, but not on your computer. Or when you wanted to copy that DVD you're friend gave you of that time your band played in his basement, and you couldn't because your computer wouldn't let copy anything off a DVD. Or even (for the real geeks out there) when you pre-ordered that PS2 game from a European distributor and it wouldn't play in your American PS2.
This is DRM. Controlling when and where you can view the media that you legally purchased.
Now, the Broadcast Flag is a particularly bad form of DRM. We've had the luxury (ever since the Universal Studios v. Sony case in 1984, also known as the "Betamax Decision") to do what we want with the media that we buy. We could copy a CD to a tape to listen to it in a Walkman. We could make a copy of a funny magazine article and give it to a friend. We could even tape our favorite shows on TV so we can watch them again later. If Hollywood has their way, this is all about to change.
If Broadcast Flag legislation is passed, it would be illegal to manufacture, sell, or purchase any kind of TV Tuner that does not support this kind of DRM technology. This includes VCRs, TV's, TV tuner cards for computers, TiVO's and similar devices. Basically anything that can let you watch TV.
So you buy a fancy new HDTV set. You want to record a program on your TiVo/VCR/DVD Recorder/Whatever. But for some reason, you can't. That program has been 'flagged', and your TV won't let you record it.
Do you care yet? Because you should.
While this legislation won't affect a lot of us today, if we let Hollywood dictate how we use technology in the future, things are going to get pretty grim. A lot of the rights we now take for granted are going to be slowly yanked out from under us as we move into the next generation of technology. A lot has happened already (copy-protected CD's are nearly the norm in much of Europe, but we Americans get noisy very quickly when they try to pull stuff like that over here), and a lot more is going to happen. So what should you do? Give old George a call, tell him what you think.
Rep. George Radanovich can be reached at 2350 West Shaw, Suite 137, Fresno, CA 93711. Phone: 559-449-2490 Fax: 559-449-2499 online: radanovich.house.gov