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Broadcast flag issue expected to shift to Congress

Premium television content producers have long threatened to withdraw their HD programming from over-the-air broadcast TV unless those programs are protected from piracy. Now, a ruling by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals could challenge them to make good on those threats.

After the court struck down the broadcast flag rule — which was to begin July 1 — the issue of broadcast piracy is expected to move to Congress. However, the issue is not simple and few expect a quick resolution through legislation.

The broadcast flag is a piece of embedded software that can block viewers receiving digital television programs over the air from retransmitting them over the Internet. The court found that the FCC did not have the authority to require such a scheme in future DTV receivers.

It is widely expected that advocates of the anti-piracy technology will try to circumvent the court’s ruling through federal legislation giving the FCC new authority to establish such rules. But industry experts say that might be a very difficult task.

For terrestrial broadcasters, the issue is a threat only if content providers refuse to provide stations with premium programming. The flag affects only those who receive digitally broadcast over-the-air television content. Programs viewed via cable or satellite are already subject to stringent copy protection schemes.

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