EFF Releases HD PVR Cookbook and Build-In Kit

San Francisco - Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced the next stage in its challenge to the Federal Communications Commission's "Broadcast Flag" technology mandate. The organization released a step-by-step guide, the "HD PVR Cookbook," that teaches people how to build a high-definition digital television (HDTV) recorder unaffected by the technological constraints of the Broadcast Flag. In addition, EFF is encouraging people to protest the FCC rule by holding Build-Ins -- gatherings around the country to build unfettered HDTV recorders and experience first-hand the kind of innovation stifled by the government mandate.

The Broadcast Flag, which places copy controls on DTV signals, is aimed at stopping people from making digitally perfect copies of television shows and redistributing them. Yet it also stops people from making perfectly legitimate personal copies of broadcasts. More disturbing, the Broadcast Flag will outlaw the manufacture and import of a whole host of TiVo-like devices that send DTV signals into a computer for backup, editing, and playback. After the Broadcast Flag regulations go into effect, all personal video recorder (PVR) technologies must be Broadcast Flag-compliant and "robust" against user modification -- and that means, once again, that the entertainment industry is trying to tell you what you can do with your own machines.

Now individuals can fight back by hosting a Build-In before the Broadcast Flag goes into effect on July 1, 2005. EFF held the first Build-In at its offices in late January, inviting a number of local programmers, TV fans, and bloggers to try out the Cookbook and test-bake their own HDTV recorders using standard computers equipped with HD tuner cards. The results were smashing: the dozen attendees created five working PVRs over the course of the day, using the KnoppMyth distribution of the open-source MythTV software package. Groups who want to host their own Build-Ins can contact EFF for a "Throw Your Own Build-In" kit, which includes a hard copy of the HD PVR Cookbook, a KnoppMyth CD-ROM, and (of course!) free EFF t-shirts and stickers.

EFF releases its technological challenge to the Broadcast Flag on the same day that the organization and other civil liberties groups challenge the FCC in the courtroom. In ALA v. FCC, the groups -- including the American Library Association and Public Knowledge -- argue that the FCC has overstepped its authority in mandating the Broadcast Flag and that the rule should be struck down.

"Even as we're suing the FCC to stop this interference with technological innovation, we're also helping television watchers to get off the couch and build their own fully capable PVRs," said EFF Special Projects Coordinator Wendy Seltzer, who organized the Build-In. "Every MythTV built helps demonstrate the creative development that may be cut off by bad regulation."


Annalee Newitz
Policy Analyst
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Wendy Seltzer
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation