Podcasting Part II of “The Internet Heist”

Cory Doctorow
7 min readFeb 14, 2022

Podcasting Part II of “The Internet Heist”

The MPAA’s ‘You Wouldn’t Steal a Car’ graphic; ‘a Car’ has been replaced with ‘the Future.’

This week on my podcast, I read the second part of “The Internet Heist,” a series of three articles about the weirdest, most far-reaching, most bonkers battle of the copyright wars of the early 2000s.


Last week, I read out Part I of the series, which told the story of the Broadcast Flag, wherein the movie studios and TV broadcasters conspired with a corrupt Congressman to make it illegal to build a general-purpose computer unless it had DRM.


The Broadcast Flag’s notional purpose was to prevent high-def digital TV broadcasts from being captured and shared online. The idea had powerful political support, because it was seen as key to shutting off analog TV broadcasting and reclaiming its spectrum for auction to mobile carriers.

In this week’s installment, I explain why the most important consumer electronics and tech companies participated in the exercise: Intel tricked them into it. Intel ran this initiative, and it was the senior member of the two largest DRM consortia (5C and 4C).

Intel let it be known that there would be a law requiring all tech to have DRM, and threatened only Intel’s DRM would satisfy the rule…Unless the tech and CE companies showed up and fought for their own DRM to be included.

Sitting out the proceedings would doom the CE and IT companies to paying Intel for a DRM license for any products they made in future…forever. Meanwhile, that participation by the CE and IT companies provided the Broadcast Flag with the legitimacy it needed to be credible as a mandate.

But thankfully for all of us, the Broadcast Flag collapsed. First, its Congressional sponsor, Rep Billy Tauzin, got mired in scandal and quit his government job to be a $2m/year lobbyist for Phrma, the pharmaceutical assocation. CE and tech companies began to smell a rat, and the chairs of the group created a bunch of private “subcommittees.”

Any time a “public” Broadcast Flag meeting (they were “public” but there was no way to find out when or where they were unless you…

Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr