Build Your TV!

Come July, every high-definition television will be built with a
‘Broadcast Flag’ — a device that allows stations to forbid your
TiVo (or similar gadget) from making a copy of a program onto a
DVD. It’s a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation
backed, not by Congress, but by the entertainment industry. In its
never-ending quest to stop people from illegally distributing
copyrighted material on the Internet, the industry has convinced
the FCC to step on an individual’s right to make a copy of a show
for personal use.

So what’s a Buffy the Vampire Slayer lover to do? The
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) stands ready with the answer:
Build your own TV. The San Francisco-based group recently hosted a
‘build-in’ where, using the open-source software MythTV, people
transformed their computers into televisions that skirt the

But there are bigger worries than not getting to watch Buffy at
will, writer Annalee Newitz warns. Built in to the regulation is
the mandate that recording devices be ‘robust against user
modification.’ That’s bad news for the tech heads who started
dissecting their TVs and radios at age 8. But it’s also bad news
for the rest of us, since innovation is often the result of those
same tech heads tinkering at age 30.

There’s also the bigger-picture concern about trampling the fair
use of copyrighted material. And that fight takes more than a
handful of people making their own TVs. So, EFF has joined groups
like Public Knowledge and the American Library Association to fight
the FCC in court, suggesting that hope may not be lost.
Hannah Lobel

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