Every Thursday Stephen Speicher contributes The Clicker, a weekly opinion
column on entertainment and technology:
In many ways it's a touching story: boondocks Senator from Alaska sees modern technology for the first time and, as a result, becomes a voice for the people. Throw in an adorable little granddaughter and we've got the makings of a Hollywood movie. However, before we begin the casting process (I see Philip Baker Hall as the Senator and Dakota Fanning for the granddaughter), we might want to look at this a little further.
On January 24th our nation's leaders returned to Washington D.C. and resumed the all-important business of keeping our
streets, financial-well-being, soldiers digital content safe
from, well… us. Disheartened by the Supreme Court throwing the big red challenge flag over the now-dead
Broadcast Flag, lawmakers, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of
America) regrouped and this time they brought the Don, the RIAA (The Recording Industry Association of America). After
all, throwing a DRM party without the RIAA is a little like an after-prom party without the homecoming queen. Also new
this time around was the concept of the Audio Flag. Audio Flag? Yes, in addition to their renewed efforts to codify
into law the [video] Broadcast Flag, the DRM party has also set their sights on digital radio. You see – just
like digital television broadcasts are bit-perfect and ripe for piracy, so too are their audio counterparts.
It's here that the story takes an unusual turn. Ordinarily, these proceedings have a certain feel to them. A cynic might argue that this feel is the result of a cadre of old men whose pockets are well-lined with lobby-money talking endlessly while all-the-while being careful to say nothing. Not this time. This time the Honorable Ted Stevens' pocket was lined with an iPod, a gift from his granddaughter. Immune to the evils of DRM and protected by the seemingly-ubiquitous white ear buds, Stevens momentarily forget his surroundings and began asked probing questions. Stevens asked if this Audio Flag would prevent him from easily importing digital shows onto his iPod. The answer, yes, was a blow to the DRM movement.
While definitely true that an Audio Flag would restrict movement and add friction to the process, the question still remains: is the Audio Flag as bad as it seems?