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EFF: 48 Hours to Stop the Broadcast Flag 702

The Importance of writes "Think the Broadcast Flag is dead? EFF is warning that Hollywood is trying to sneak the broadcast flag into law as an amendment to a massive appropriations bill. 'If what we hear is true, the provision will be introduced before a subcommittee tomorrow and before the full appropriations committee on Thursday. That gives us 48 hours to stop it.' Action Alert here. List of Senator's phone numbers here."
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EFF: 48 Hours to Stop the Broadcast Flag

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  • senators (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SparafucileMan ( 544171 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:14PM (#12868436)
    i'd write my senators, but i can't find my checkbook.
  • BroadCast Flag (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Canadian_Daemon ( 642176 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:15PM (#12868438)
    With the new CRIA law in Canada, and now the broadcast flag in America, it looks like the recording industry 'winning'. It's looks pretty bad for those fighting for digital rights.
  • by flyingace ( 162593 ) * on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:15PM (#12868444) Journal
    Dont know if my news tip will get picked up. These things should not be sneaked in.
    • by Umbral Blot ( 737704 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:18PM (#12868464) Homepage
      Dont know if my news tip will get picked up. These things should not be sneaked in.
      I hope you mean that humerously. CNN, being part of a media conglomerate has a vested intest in seeing the broadcast flag go through. I don't think that they are going to bring it to the publics attention against their own best interests.
      • by Fittysix ( 191672 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:43PM (#12868607)
        CNN may be part of the problem, but in the end they're journalists, they're ALWAYS looking for some kind of news that can raise public intrest. The CNN news room could care less about wether it goes through or not, AOL/TW might have something to say on the matter but the only thing they care about from CNN is the ratings, not the content.
      • "I hope you mean that humerously. CNN, being part of a media conglomerate has a vested intest in seeing the broadcast flag go through. I don't think that they are going to bring it to the publics attention against their own best interests."

        Yes, CNN sues people constantly for bootlegging old Larry King Live shows. Teens and college students just can't get enough of that show.
  • Why.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:17PM (#12868452) Homepage Journal
    Why don't I ever hear stories about conservatives/libertarians sneaking laissez-faire clauses into appropriations bills? Someone should have sneakily repealed DMCA by now.

    Is playing dirty somehow beneath the good guys? Oh, that's what makes them the good guys...

    • Re:Why.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by pete6677 ( 681676 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:26PM (#12868513)
      It can't really be done. One of the big responsibilities of paid industry lobbyists is looking through the details of laws to insert terms that are favorable to them and try to remove those that aren't. As soon as some music customer rights are inserted into an appropriations bill, the RIAA lobbyists will notice and make a big stink out of it, ensuring that the reps who are on their payroll will immediately remove the offending items. It is a nice thought, however.
      • Re:Why.. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MagicM ( 85041 )
        But if they do it frequently enough, and a "big stink" is raised frequently enough, eventually the ability for anyone to do it will be revoked. Right?

        (wishful thinking...)
    • Re:Why.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by The Analog Kid ( 565327 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:44PM (#12868616)
      Ron Paul (L-TX, well should be anyway, stupid ballot access laws), trys to recind big government laws but they always get shot down.
    • Er... (Score:3, Informative)

      by kahei ( 466208 )
      ...aren't Libertarians better known for _protecting_ commercial interests than for using government to enforce public rights??

  • by PipianJ ( 574459 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:18PM (#12868465)
    As soon as it's a rider on an appropriations bill like this, the broadcast flag is a foregone conclusion. The committee probably won't even know what they're doing.

    The broadcast flag is here to stay, regardless of the EFF's "48 hours" claim.
    • by ntk ( 974 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:45PM (#12868625) Homepage
      The rider isn't there yet. We've got a strong rumour that it's going to be proposed, but if you kick up enough of a stink at this stage, it can be quietly withdrawn with no-one having to take a stand.

      Tell you what, why don't you call your Senator anyway, even if you think this is true? What have you got to lose? If the law goes through, you can tell everyone that you were right. And if it doesn't, you get to say you helped stop the flag against all the odds.

      Believe me, I love cynicism as much as the next person, but when it stops you from taking the one tiny step, the single principled stand that might have prevented disaster, you're not a cynic. You're a statistic. And a predictable one at that.
  • Met a Bill I Like (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:19PM (#12868475) Homepage Journal
    Why don't all the "special interests" who hate special interests sneaking arbitrary laws into bills get together to outlaw them?

    Every bill must have a scope. It must apply to a single budget, or a single government organization, or their subsidiaries. Or it must be a "metabill", which specifies only a collection of bills related in an explicit policy, the exact relationship stated in the metabill.

    Of course, Congressmembers should be voting against these big bills, with arbitrary attachments, on the principle of government manageability. But they obviously don't - they're all codependent on letting each other's attachments pass, often regardless of consequences, in exchange for the same favor later on. So we need to force them to stop doing it. Because the mass of laws, their inner complexity and scale, is killing the ability of anyone to participate in our democracy beyond any significant confrontation with the law. When only the lawyers win, we all lose.
    • I totally agree: for a bill to be able to be passed into law, it should only contain clauses relevant to the bill's main aim (as stated in the title, perhaps?).

      But you US-ans should be so lucky. The problem you're settled with now is one which should be obvious: in a nation where no-one takes the sciences, but a lawyer is glamorised (along with other law enforcement agencies like the police, CSI etc), you end up with a nation of lawyers.
      And if your populace is composed of lawyers....they'll do what lawyers
      • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:38PM (#12868585) Homepage Journal
        I think the US has been afflicted with our lawyer-centric modern culture in no small part due to TV. The 46-minute TV drama (plus 17 commercial minutes) is very well suited to glorifying charicatures of lawyers, but not other professions, like engineers, doctors, scientists, teachers. While the Web is better suited for more documentary, even "mockumentary" media presentation, in which lawyers look more boring and contrived than these other jobs. Just like newspapers were a medium more sympathetic to the fiery oratory of a preacher or muckraking politician.

        OTOH, the evolving Web, especially decentralized social networks, might turn out to best feature pornopop idols like Paris Hilton. I think the next few years, especially as mobile multimedia networks defined by people's contact lists begin to dominate, are the defining moment for the next few (human) generations of mass media. It's up to us to take the spotlight back from lawyers, and feature more real people.
    • by bwalling ( 195998 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:51PM (#12868657) Homepage
      Every bill must have a scope. It must apply to a single budget, or a single government organization, or their subsidiaries. Or it must be a "metabill", which specifies only a collection of bills related in an explicit policy, the exact relationship stated in the metabill.

      Please. Did you see what happened to the Interstate Commerce clause? They can relate any two things easier than you can tie it to Kevin Bacon.
      • Re:Met a Bill I Like (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )
        Which they currently do in secret, with side-deals and horsetrading they never have to justify to their constituency, let alone the public. So I specify how to enforce the scope. In another post in this thread, I suggest that Congress vote on each paragraph of a bill individually, with one mandatory paragraph specifying which paragraphs must pass for the bill to pass. Just because lawyers have made a mess of the system doesn't mean engineers can't patch it, including patching DoS holes in the lawmaking syst
  • by krbvroc1 ( 725200 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:19PM (#12868476)
    I didn't think you could legislate on an appropriation bill? Is this for real? Its against the rules of the Senate (rule XVI) []
  • Damnit! (Score:5, Informative)

    by rogabean ( 741411 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:20PM (#12868478)
    Only residents of Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, or Wisconsin can sign this.

    I'm gonna post this over on the various MythTV communities as well... try to get more support drummed up.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    List of Senator's phone numbers here [].

    Nope, slashdotted to hell. But you can get them from the source [].
  • Is Congress susceptible to the Slashdot effect?
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:25PM (#12868506) Homepage Journal
    I'm an Australian so when I first heard about rider bills I honestly didn't beleive it. Then I discovered that Australia also had the problem of rider bills at some stage. We recognised them as a problem and we fixed them. We no longer have rider bills. Does any other democracy on earth still have them? Is it impossible for americans to recognise a problem and fix it without ballsing it up? It just seems you have all these parasites gaming your political process and you do nothing about it. You know how everyone knows that US congressmen take bribes? Well, here in Australia, it's illegal for politicians to take bribes. It's like that in the rest of the world too right? So why can't americans recognise something that's so straight forward and simple (politicans should not be permitted to take bribes) and do something about it?
    • by Ryosen ( 234440 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:32PM (#12868542)
      You know how everyone knows that US congressmen take bribes? Well, here in Australia, it's illegal for politicians to take bribes.

      It's illegal here in the US, too....It's just condoned.
    • by ZorbaTHut ( 126196 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @10:42PM (#12868951) Homepage
      "Next motion on the table: Removing rider bills and criminal penalties for bribery. All in favor?"

      ". . ."

      "All opposed?"

      (chorus of nays)

      "Motion fails."

      That's why.
    • The difference between the US and westminister system countries (like Australia, UK, Canada etc) is not just that the President, Prime Minister (call them whatever, the Big Boss) only rules if his/her party want them to rule. We don't elect prime ministers, we elect members of parliament who appoint a prime minister (who usually happens to be the leader of the majority party).
      The main difference is that they usually are a multi party system; occasionally independents or minor parties hold the "balance of po
  • by Shonufftheshogun ( 620824 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:27PM (#12868514)
    You can fax and email appropriation committee members for free at the EFF's action center [].
  • by Kwirl ( 877607 ) <> on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:44PM (#12868615)

    By the time this story is an accepted submission, it will be 36+ hours past the deadline. All slashdotters should therefore direct their attention to criticizing the outcome pre-emptively in order to maintain an effective schedule.

  • by drwho ( 4190 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:45PM (#12868628) Homepage Journal
    Email is routinely ignored by congressional staffers. Signing a paper petition is a little more useful. A phone call is better still. A written letter is far superiour. Saying what you think in person is better still. The reason for these classifications is that elected officials are getting spammed and information overloaded like everyone else. If you spend more effort getting your particular issue heard, they also feel you will be more likely to remember them on election day. It's fairly valid.

    I am highly critical of these online petitions, because people believe that they have done something, and therefore will not follow up their web form tick-off with something more substantive like the communications mentioned above.

    I know it's a bit too late to dash of a handwritten letter to your rep in this occasion. But a phone call may be appropriate.
    • by hacker ( 14635 ) <> on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:57PM (#12868693)
      "I know it's a bit too late to dash of a handwritten letter to your rep in this occasion. But a phone call may be appropriate."

      And at 200 calls per-hour, they'll just stop answering the phones. Seriously, do you think they're going to listen?

      Going down there in person is a hit-or-miss chance of actually speaking to someone with the power to change anything... or you'll end up in jail for "stalking" your senator.

      The reason they probably slid this through on a rider so fast, was likely so people could NOT write to their senators in time.

      I love my government more and more every day, don't you?

    • Email is routinely ignored by congressional staffers. Signing a paper petition is a little more useful. A phone call is better still. A written letter is far superiour.

      This was true, until Capitol Hill was hit by letters containing anthrax back in 2001-2. Nowadays snail-mail letters get a lot less personal attention than they used to (for obvious reasons).

  • by SeventyBang ( 858415 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:53PM (#12868671)
    ...on one topic: permitting piggy-backing legislation on unrelated legislation. There were Congress Critters who actually added material to 9/11 bills because they knew it would be passed. If contenders for their offices don't point this stuff out, they deserve to lose and take a job working on a honey wagon: fringe benefit - all you can eat.

    The fact the Broadcast Flag has been inserted to another bill is an example of where someone needs to make a phone call to Guido and have him wait on a door step, ring the doorbell, and kneecap someone.

    Some are more adept at doing it than others. One good example is a former KKK member. That should provide enough information to forego the necessity of naming them. Some of the network reporters are good at presenting some of the larger garbage ammendments but they never say who actually added the material to the bill.
  • by melted ( 227442 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:54PM (#12868675) Homepage
    When writing to your senators, please use soft paper. Best of all, use bathroom tissue. This way you will make it comfortable for senators to "work" through your mails.
  • by hacker ( 14635 ) <> on Monday June 20, 2005 @09:54PM (#12868676)

    Ok, so here we have the FCC mandating that we have to all convert our "old analog" television sets to digital television sets by 2007 or something...

    Then we have the "Broadcast Flag" being driven through on a rider, shh... nobody will notice.

    And now they can basically control what you can record via your "Dish DVR" or "TiVo" or TV tuner card or whatever other device you want to use, because of Hollywood pressure.

    We already see DVDs where you can't bypass the intro commercials to get to the navigational menus, even for DVDs which we bought, which should have paid for the removal of those commercials.

    Next, we'll see television sets being sent a signal that ignores the remote control's "channel" buttons during commercials. You just won't be able to switch away during commercials... you'll be forced to watch them (or power off your TV).

    How far are we from a Telescreen here, really? I mean... all they need is a way to peer back in, and a way to stop you from turning off the TV or the volume...

    Orwell would be proud.

  • by Ingolfke ( 515826 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @10:14PM (#12868797) Journal
    In a major media blunder the US Government and major media corporations are denying the resuscitation of the broadcast flag. Despite wide reports, Doug Herzog, President of SpikeTV [] (the First Network for Men) has confirmed that he along with other media executives have decided to abandon all attempts to push the broadcast flag through congress. In a press release Herzong noted,

    "After looking at our summer lineup of movies, and previewing 48 Hours [], starring Eddie Murphey and Nick Nolte, it was pretty clear that we wouldn't need a broadcast flag to keep people from recording our programming. I and a few others, hoping to promote our July 4th weekend of 48 Hours of 48 Hours, only on Spike TV also watched Another 48 Hours []. After we finished the film, we were confident that we had done the right thing to abandon the broadcast flag and honestly were considering abandoning television altogether."
  • by fname ( 199759 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @10:29PM (#12868872) Journal
    The so-called Broadcast Flag is an abomination and needs to be rejected by the Senate. It will do nothing to stop large-scale piracy, and will only serve to limit the fair-use rights of American citizens to time shift television programs, save them for later viewing or view tv program's at a family members house. Authorizing the broadcast flag will force innovative consumer electronics companies to ask for Hollywood permission before introducing new products.

    Media oligarchies, led by the RIAA & MPAA, tried to sue the VCR out of existence. They sued the first makers of MP3 players. They sued ReplayTV into bankruptcy because they dared to introduce an innovative product without the MPAA's permission. If the broadcast flag and similar legislative tools had been around for the last 25 years, we wouldn't have the VCR, iPods, TiVos or computer DVD recorders. These tools have helped democratize content creation, distribution & consumption by putting citizens/customers in charge of their home-made movies, music, and photographs.

    Vote against the Broadcast Flag. It is simply a power grab by media oligopolies intended to criminalize the fair-use of media of Americans of all stripes.
  • Why bother... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @11:18PM (#12869156) Homepage Journal
    Congress is so in the pocket of the big companies, it doesn't seem like we voters even matter any more. I voted Republican and generally support them, and they won. But it still feels like "we" lost the election. That's because "we" don't matter. "They" will always win, but "they" have the money. Party is irrelevant. The courts run the country, the state legislatures are irrelevant and Congress is just the public relations arm of the big corporations.

    Isn't that a cheerful comment on the state of our nation?

  • by geekotourist ( 80163 ) on Monday June 20, 2005 @11:53PM (#12869332) Journal
    Based on anecdotal evidence the Slashdot crowd trends towards the young and male. So tomorrow at some point (8:22 est) the congressional staffers are going to get bored of the "yet another angry techie" call.

    That's where your mom comes in: she's a different generation and (on average) a different gender. This surprises the staffer, and they'll add a +2 to whatever your mom says.

    She can use one of the standard talking points, or mention how she wants her techie child to continue being employed. And, if she has grandkids, then variations of "Nothing, but nothing gets in the way of my showing off hi-def videos of my grandkids to my friends" could be useful. Plus, sad to say, the staffers are more likely to believe her when she says that she votes (or contributes to campaigns) because (on average) its true.

  • by craXORjack ( 726120 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @12:12AM (#12869418)
    80% of you gush over every shitty movie that Hollywood releases and tell everyone how many times you will pay to see it [] or how you will wait in a line at midnight to buy the DVD. Then after stuffing the MPAA's pockets with your hard earned cash, you are outraged when they use a tiny fraction of that money to limit your freedoms by bribing congressmen with campaign contributions and junkets. Did you really need to see Spiderman II? Or Star Wars III? Or Weekend at Bernies IV? Boycott their crap and find healthier ways to entertain yourself than vegging out in front of a boob tube. The money you gave to the MPAA lawyers even by buying Ishtar from the bargain bin is more than 99% of you have ever given to the EFF [] or ACLU [].

    If you haven't figured it out yet, every time you buy a product you are voting with your dollars.

  • Campaign update. (Score:5, Informative)

    by ntk ( 974 ) on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:18AM (#12869707) Homepage
    I thought everybody should know that you may have just slashdotted the United States Senate Appropriations Committee.

    As of 10PM PST, six hours after news first leaked out, we've reached over 4550 messages sent to the 26 senators on the appropriations committee. The median number of emails and faxes per senator is 64; the average is 150.

    Patty Murray (D-WA) received over 300 from her constituents on the Broadcast Flag. Kay Hutchison (R-TX) has received over 500 mails warning her of the controversial rider. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) has over a thousand faxes sitting in her inbox telling her not to accept any Broadcast Flag amendment.

    And that's not including the telephone calls, which are still continuing.

    Hollywood's first chance to slip in an amendment will be at 2PM EST Tuesday, in the Commerce, Justice and Science. Their next opportunity will be the full committeee mark-up [] at 2PM EST Thursday.

    We need to keep the pressure up, but I think it's fair to say that so far this rider is not slipping by unnoticed through the halls of Congress.

    If you're in the states below, please call your senator.


    ALABAMA Senator Richard Shelby (202) 224-5744
    ALASKA Senator Ted Stevens (202) 224-3004
    HAWAII Senator Daniel Inouye (202) 224-3934
    IOWA Senator Tom Harkin (202) 224-3254
    KANSAS Senator Sam Brownback (202) 224-6521
    KENTUCKY Senator Mitch McConnell (202) 224-2541
    MARYLAND Senator Barbara Mikulski (202) 224-4654
    MISSOURI Senator Christopher Bond (202) 224-5721
    NEW HAMPSHIRE Senator Judd Gregg (202) 224-3324
    NEW MEXICO Senator Pete Domenici (202) 224-6621
    NORTH DAKOTA Senator Byron Dorgan (202) 224-2551
    TEXAS Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (202) 224-5922
    VERMONT Senator Patrick Leahy (202) 224-4242
    WASHINGTON Senator Patty Murray (202) 224-2621
    WISCONSIN Senator Herb Kohl (202) 224-5653


    MISSISSIPPI Thad Cochran (202) 224-5054
    PENNSYLVANIA Arlen Specter (202) 224-4254
    MONTANA Conrad Burns (202) 224-2644
    UTAH Robert F. Bennett (202) 224-5444
    IDAHO Larry Craig (202) 224-2752
    OHIO Mike DeWine (202) 224-2315
    COLORADO Wayne Allard (202) 224-5941
    WEST VIRGINIA Robert C. Byrd (202) 224-3954
    NEVADA Harry Reid (202) 224-3542
    CALIFORNIA Dianne Feinstein (202) 224-3841
    ILLINOIS Richard J. Durbin (202) 224-2152
    SOUTH DAKOTA Tim Johnson (202) 224-5842
    LOUISIANA Mary L. Landrieu (202) 224-5824


    "Hello, Senator _________'s office"

    "Hi, I'm a constituent. I'm registering my opposition to
    the broadcast flag amendment being introduced in the
    Senate Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations
    subcommittee mark-up on Tuesday, and in full committee on

    (*** You can give your own reasons for opposing the flag
    here. Here's a sample: ***)

    "The Broadcast Flag cripples any device capable of
    receiving over-the-air digital broadcasts. It give
    Hollywood movie studios a permanent veto over how members
    of the American public use our televisions. It forces
    American innovators to beg the FCC for permission before
    adding new features to TV. "

    "This is an important issue which will affect all
    Americans, and should not be inserted at the last moment,
    with almost no debate."

    "Please oppose the broadcast flag amendment. My name and
    address are ___________________."

    "Thank you for your time."
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @01:32AM (#12869762)
    When writing of calling the senators, rather than just saying how much you dislike the thought of turning over more power to the FCC there's another point you can make that should pull at the heart-strings.

    Remind them of a world of working people working wierd hours - late nights at the mall, night shifts, and the like. These are the forgotten people that all make our lives a little asier that are going to be most screwed by this evil broadcast flag. Not the people of Slashdot who can collectivley hack around most laws, but the bread and butter of each senators voting district who just do thier jobs and don't need the government coming in to tell them what can and cannot be recorded.
  • by cjmnews ( 672731 ) <> on Tuesday June 21, 2005 @10:06AM (#12871768) Homepage
    1. The broadcast flag is intended for broadcasted content, e.g.: over an antenna. So it really affects only 15% of the market.
    2. The broadcast flag will NOT stop you from recording a show. Your VCR, TIVO, PVR, etc will still work. The uproar of not being able to time shift would be too great for them to kill it. (Obviously)
    3. The broadcast flag WILL stop you from being able to publish a broadcasted show over the Internet.
    4. The TV/Movie industry has methods to stop/track recordings from cable/satellite and their Internet transmissions. In some cases they are not using them, in others they are being developed.
    5. The broadcast flag already exists in the content, the legislation is intended to force the hardware to recognize it. Manufacturers can voluntarily act on it now if they choose. But why would you add a feature (raise cost) if you don't have to. Thus the legislation is needed to get the hardware to do what the TV/Movie industry wants.

    I don't care if it is implemented or not. Yes, I time shift continuously as my kids are not allowed to watch any night time TV. No, I don't get any TV or Movie content from the Internet. If I missed the show I missed it. I'll pick it up in reruns if it is important to me, which generally it is not.

    As for commercial skipping, studies have showed that people that fast forward through commercials have the same retention rate as people that watch them all. Now is this saying that people intelligent enough to program a recording device are smarter than those that can not? I don't know. It's all open to interpretation.

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury