Capture the Broadcast Flag


“What’s next … washing machines?” asked Judge Harry T. Edwards in a strongly worded decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  They unanimously agreed that the Federal Communications Commission overstepped its authority in adopting the rule stating, “In the seven decades of its existence, the FCC has never before asserted such sweeping authority.”

I guess tackling the piracy issue isn’t the job of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and they obviously don’t think the FCC should be involved –- they’re right — it’s our job!  Yours and mine.  Right after you finish reading this, go to and tell your elected officials how you feel about this issue.  More importantly, tell them that you care about it!  Our leadership can only lead if you tell them what is important to you.

Now, back to our story — The broadcast flag is a bad idea, but it is an idea.  Limiting distribution is anti-progress, anti-consumer, anti-technology, anti-creative and basically, anti-American.  However, if you are going to protect bits and bytes in the 21st Century, you are going to need at least a little help from Uncle Sam.  The form of that help can take several strategic directions: draconian prevention, speed limit or lip service.

Imagine a continuum that spans the gamut from draconian prevention to lip service.  Rational, thinking people would assume that there is a middle ground that can be achieved.  They’re right, it’s the speed limit.  Punish the offenders on a sliding scale over the limit when they get caught.  Use technology to catch them and make the punishment meaningful, but not unsurvivable.  So what’s the problem?

Well actually, it is pretty significant.  Most entertainment and intellectual property business are built on their form factors.  Movie business sell movies, television business sell television, record companies sell records, etc.  The problem is that files (bit and bytes) are not in any particular form factor so they seriously undermine form factor-based businesses.

At the end of the day, it is the form factor business models that will have to change, not file sharing.  As I have been saying since the earth was cooling, “a file is a file is a file” and, “you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.”  Don’t forget to write to your elected officials – do it right now.  Thanks. Shelly Palmer

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit



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