February 21, 2018

Standards vs. Regulation

The broadcast flag “debate” never ceases to amaze me. It’s a debate about technology, but in forum after forum the participants are all lawyers. And it takes place in a weird reality distortion field where certain technological non sequiturs pass for unchallenged truth.

One of these is that the broadcast flag is a technical “standard.” Even opponents of the flag have taken to using this term. As I have written before, there is a difference between standards and regulation, and the broadcast flag is clearly regulation.

For future reference, here is a handy chart you can use to distinguish standards from non-standards.

STANDARD NOT A STANDARD
written by engineers written by lawyers
voluntary mandatory
enables interoperation prevents interoperation
backed by technologists opposed by technologists

Simple, isn’t it?

UPDATE (March 7, 8:00 AM): On further reflection (brought on by the comments of readers, including Karl-Friedrich Lenz) I changed the table above. Originally the right-hand column said “regulation” but I now realize that goes too far.