All Your Computers Are Belong to Us

Susan Crawford’s provocative blog post about the broadcast flag brief recently filed by the FCC and Justice Department just got
Slashdotted.

The issue is whether the FCC has legal authority to mandate that manufacturers of digital television receivers incorporate “broadcast flag” technology to limit copying of digital content. As Susan points out, the government’s position in court is quite expansive. The FCC is essentially claiming the authority to regulate any device that incorporates certain communications capabiliites, which includes a huge segment of the computer industry.

I’m actally working on a paper looking at the FCC’s regulation of computers. It turns out that, contrary to popular belief, the FCC has been regulating computers for decades. The rhetoric about “keeping the government’s hands off the Internet” is overblown. But the broadcast flag represents a dangerous exansion of government involvement in computer hardware markets. The important question isn’t whether the FCC is involved in the computer industry, but why and how.