Thursday, May 5, 2005

U.S. Court of AppealsThrows Out FCC's Broadcast Flag

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit ruled against the FCC in a case involving its requirement for electronic devices to support "broadcast flag" anti-piracy protection measures for digital broadcast television. The broadcast flag is a digital code embedded in a digital broadcast stream, which prevents digital television reception equipment from redistributing the content. The ruling is expected to have broad implications on the distribution of digital content.

The court found that Congress had never given the FCC the authority "to regulate apparatus that can receive television broadcasts when those apparatus are not engaged in the process of receiving a broadcast transmission." The broadcast flag affects receiver devices only after a broadcast transmission is complete.

The court noted that in the seven decades of its existence, the FCC has never before asserted such sweeping authority.

The American Library Association filed the challenge to the FCC's broadcast flag rule.

  • In November 2003, the FCC adopted its "broadcast flag" anti-piracy protection measure for digital broadcast television, saying that consumers' ability to make digital copies will not be affected. Under the order, the FCC permitted use of the flag at the discretion of the broadcaster. Equipment capable of receiving DTV signals over-the-air were required to support the broadcast flag requirements by July 1, 2005. Other products such as digital VCRs, DVD players and personal computers that are not built with digital tuners installed are not required to comply with the new rule. In addition, the FCC explained that existing televisions, VCRs, DVD players and related equipment would remain fully functional under the new broadcast flag system.

See also