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U.S. Court of Appeals rules against broadcast flag technology

The FCC does not have the authority to mandate the use of broadcast flag technology, according to a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling handed down today.

The court said the FCC "acted outside its scope of authority" and that there was "no statutory foundation for the broadcast flag rules." The broadcast flag ruling would have required consumer electronics devices to support a code that could block Internet transfers of some video content, an idea that many groups such as the American Library Association, Public Knowledge, opposed.

The rule was intended to prevent a Napster-type free-for-all with high-definition television programming that could cause significant economic harm to rights holders resulting from unauthorized copying and redistribution of copyrighted music.

But groups that opposed the ruling said the FCC adopted the broadcast flag rule without any evidence that there was a problem in redistribution of digital content.

The court agreed. Its ruling stated that "Congress never conferred authority on the FCC to regulate consumers use of television received apparatus after the completion of broadcast transmissions." The court also said that the flag rules do not regulate interstate radio communications because it has no effect until after the broadcast transmission is completed.

It is now up to Congress to legislate the use of a broadcast flag.