http://www.eff.org/broadcastflag/ Today, you can use any device you like with your television: VCR, TiVo, DVD recorder, home theater receiver, or a PC combining these functions and more. A year from now, when the FCC's broadcast flag mandate [PDF] takes effect, some of those capabilities will be forbidden. Responding to pressure from Hollywood, the FCC has adopted a rule requiring future digital television (DTV) tuners to include "content protection" (aka DRM) technologies. Starting next year, all makers of HDTV receivers must build their devices to watch for a broadcast "flag" embedded in programs by copyright holders. When it comes to digital recording, it'll be Hollywood's DRM way or the highway. Want to burn that recording digitally to a DVD to save hard drive space? Sorry, the DRM lock-box won't allow it. How about sending it over your home network to another TV? Not unless you rip out your existing network and replace it with DRMd routers. Kind of defeats the purpose of getting a high definition digital signal, doesn't it? The Broadcast Flag: The essence of the FCC's rule is in 47 CFR 73.9002(b) and the following sections: "No party shall sell or distribute in interstate commerce a Covered Demodulator Product that does not comply with the Demodulator Compliance Requirements and Demodulator Robustness Requirements." The Demodulator Compliance Requirements insist that all HDTV demodulators must listen for the flag (or assume it to be present in all signals). Flagged content must be output only to "protected outputs" or in degraded form: through analog outputs or digital outputs with visual resolution of 720x480 pixels or less--less than 1/4 of HDTV's capability. Flagged content may be recorded only by "Authorized" methods, which may include tethering of recordings to a single device. The Demodulator Robustness Requirements are particularly troubling for open-source developers. In order to prevent users from gaining access to the full digital signal, the FCC ties the hands of even sophisticated users and developers. Devices must be "robust" against user access or modifications that permit access to the full digital stream. Since open-source drivers are by design user-modifiable, a PC tuner card with open-source drivers would not be "robust." It's not even clear that binary-only drivers would qualify. Together, these rules mean that future PVR developers will have to get permission from the FCC and/or Hollywood before building high-definition versions of the TiVo. The products that they do build will be epoxied against user experimentation and future improvement. The rules mean that open-source developers and hobbyists will be shut out of the HDTV loop altogether.