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2005-05-06

[Liberty] Broadcast Flag FCC Mandate Prevented by Court

UPDATE: The Senate Appropriations Committee has decided to butt out and not restore this odious Big Brotherism. Keep checking, as no man's video collection is safe while the Congress is in session.

The Wall Street Journal reported on May 6 the FCC requirement for a 'Broadcast Flag' has been struck down.

That ruling, which was never requested by the Congress, would have allowed television you record to be automatically erased whenever the station, network or studio wished, and also would have enabled a block on digital copying of TV programs.
(Of course, several Comcast subscribers have posted on line this is already happening, and several cable companies have been explicit about their plans to do so.


Fortunately, the First District Court saw reason and ruled that the FCC did not have the right to require a broadcast flag.
Ruling in a case brought by the American Library Association, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the Federal Communications Commission had overstepped its authority in trying to regulate how consumers can use their TV sets after they receive broadcasts. The case involves something called the "broadcast flag," a slight digital modification to a broadcast digital TV signal, one that wouldn't affect picture quality but would prevent a recording of the show from being uploaded to the Internet. The FCC ordered it into place two years ago and said that by July 1 all video-recording equipment sold in the U.S. -- for instance DVD players and digital video recorders, including those on PCs -- must support the flag.

During courtroom arguments, U.S. Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards told the FCC it had "crossed the line'' by requiring the new anti-piracy technology for next-generation television devices and rhetorically asked the FCC whether it also intended to regulate household appliances. "You've gone too far," Judge Edwards told the FCC's lawyer. "Are washing machines next?'' Thanks to the Wall Street Journal for the snippet from their article.
Here's full opinion from the court (requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader, available for numerous platforms).

For more background, visit the Electronic Freedom Foundation's article on the broadcast flag and the Public Knowledge site.