Broadcast flag dispute continues

July 1, 2005

The broadcast flag didn’t fly this fourth of July. A key U.S. Senate budgetary committee ultimately avoided entering the long-simmering dispute over copy prevention technology for digital TV broadcasts.

At a meeting reserved for voting on spending bills, no member of the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed an amendment authorizing federal regulators to mandate the broadcast flag. An attempt to quietly attach flag legislation to the FCC’s budget failed when consumer groups got wind of the ploy and let the cat out of the bag.

A flood of consumer protest hit committee members. It worked.

Art Brodsky, a spokesman for Public Knowledge, warned that there might be another attempt to insert the flag legislation when the appropriations bill heads to the Senate floor for a final vote.

In November 2003, the FCC voted unanimously to adopt the broadcast flag rule, which required manufacturers of digital TVs and computer HDTV tuners to abide by a complex set of regulations designed to limit Internet redistribution of video clips. However, a federal appeals court in May invalidated the FCC’s rule, saying the agency had exceeded what Congress had permitted. The court did, however, note that Congress had the power to authorize the broadcast flag if it chose.

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