One Year Before the Broadcast Flag Locks Up DTV Signals, EFF Announces Plans for a "Build Your Own DTV" Cookbook

San Francisco - One year from today, on July 1, 2005, an FCC regulation known as the Broadcast Flag will lock up your digital television signals. But EFF's "DTV Liberation Project" aims to help the public keep over-the-air programming free.

The Broadcast Flag, which places copy controls on DTV signals, attempts to stop people from making digitally-perfect copies of television shows and redistributing them. It also stops people from making perfectly legitimate personal copies of broadcasts. More disturbing, the Broadcast Flag will outlaw the import and manufacture of a whole host of personal video recorders (PVRs), TiVo-like devices that send DTV signals into a computer for backup, editing and playback. After the Broadcast Flag regulations go into effect, all PVR technologies must be 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.

It's not too late for consumers to get their hands on Broadcast Flag-resistant PVRs. For the next year, DTV tuners can still be manufactured that make digitally-perfect recordings of broadcasts these tuners will continue to work even after the FCC's regulation takes effect. To help people get these endangered devices before it's too late, EFF today launched the Digital Television Liberation Project. The Project aims to create a "cookbook" that teaches technically-minded (and not-so-technically-minded) people how they can whip up their own fully-capable DTV devices. "We want to open the high-definition revolution to everyone, preserving the abilities to time-shift and manipulate media that we've come to expect," said Wendy Seltzer, EFF Staff Attorney and a leader of the DTV Liberation Project.

The DTV Liberation Project will use these PC-based PVRs as benchmarks, comparing the capabilities of the general-purpose computer to the limited subset of viewing options Broadcast Flag-compliant devices can offer. "When people see how many more features today's PVR has than next year's, we think they'll be as puzzled as we are by the FCC's choices to 'advance the DTV transition'," Seltzer said.

The Project, which is currently seeking donations of hardware, money, and volunteers to help develop the cookbook, has already built an HD-PVR around the free software MythTV package. Seltzer will be demonstrating that machine at DefCon in late July.


Wendy Seltzer
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation