EFF says Microsoft is complying with NBC broadcast flags

After reports of Vista refusing to record select programming from NBC, online interest group The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says the same thing is happening for over-the-air (OTA) programming.

One user has reported that while attempting to record TV shows from Raleigh's WNCN high definition channel -- the NBC affiliate in the area -- an alert shows up saying that the broadcaster has disabled recording of the programming.

The individual was recording from an antenna signal, and the EFF said it was the first time it knew of the technology being used to restrict OTA programming. Broadcast flags come as part of the new DTV standard.

Such use of the technology, which sends a small piece of data along with the signal, was challenged by the EFF in court in 2005. An appeals court ruled that using the flags to restrict copying was not appropriate and threw the law out.

A three-judge panel said that the FCC did not have the authority to enforce such a law, which opponents argued was a violation of fair use laws.

EFF officials said Microsoft's adoption of broadcast flags was under its own volition, as other programs now ignore it, and have been able to record the programs in question, but it did not outright accuse the Redmond company of any wrongdoing.

"If it is a deliberate 'feature,' they have some explaining to do," EFF international outreach coordinator Danny O'Brien said. "That would amount to putting the desires of content holders above the best interests of its customers."

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