Court Throws Out FCC Broadcast Flag
In an unexpected win for consumer advocates, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down a rule by the Federal Communications Commission that would have required manufacturers to support a new "broadcast flag" that prevents the copying and redistribution of television programming.
The broadcast flag was introduced in November 2003 and the FCC mandated that all devices capable of receiving television signal, including digital TV receivers and PC tuner cards, must abide by the regulation as of July 1, 2005.
The move sparked an outcry from consumer rights groups and library associations who said the flag violated fair use laws. It is also widely believed that such a change would drive up the prices of high-definition television sets and slow adoption.
The FCC contends the broadcast flag is a necessity for the emergence of digital TV and is supported in its efforts by the Motion Picture Association of America. The goal, the FCC says, is to prevent Internet distribution of copyrighted broadcast content.
However, a three-judge panel concluded that the FCC had "exceed the agency's delegated authority under the statute," by imposing the broadcast flag regulation.
"The FCC has no authority to regulate consumer electronic devices that can be used for receipt of wire or radio communication when those devices are not engaged in the process of radio or wire transmission," the panel wrote in its unanimous decision.
In order to pursue adoption of the broadcast flag, the FCC must now return to Capitol Hill and receive express authority by the United States Congress.