Putting the Genie Back in the Box

IBM is working with Fox on technology to limit digital television broadcasts to particular local markets. It’s a variation on the “broadcast flag” the FCC is imposing on makers of TVs and other digital media devices, but with a twist.

The argument for the flag is that it protects intellectual property, by limiting unauthorized redistribution of digital content. The IBM/Fox technology, on the other hand, protects business arrangements. It’s designed, I assume, to preserve local advertising dollars, by forcing users to see content intended for their local markets. Nothing wrong with companies trying to fight change in their markets. What’s worrisome is when that battle has government on one side. The danger of the broadcast flag is that it will be the entry point for all sorts of restrictions that have little to do with protecting copyright.