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Hill Urged To Reject Broadcast Flag

6/17/2005 02:59:00 PM Eastern

Washintong – A group of non-profit organizations, public-interest groups and corporate representatives have asked members of Congress to oppose any attempts to give the Federal Communications Commission permission to reinstate the “broadcast flag” content protection system for digital TV broadcast signals.

The groups include the American Library Association, the American Association of Law Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, EDUCAUSE, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Elgato Systems LLC, Free Press, the Medical Library Association, Open Source and Industry Alliance and Public Knowledge.

They argue that the “flag rule” will hurt consumers, restrict educational use of TV and “give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unprecedented power to determine the design of consumer electronics and computer technology.”

The broadcast flag is a digital code that can be embedded into a digital broadcasting stream and signals DTV reception equipment to prevent indiscriminate redistribution of digital broadcast content over the Internet.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on May 6 struck down the FCC’s Broadcast Flag order, for exceeding its authority in “establishing the broad regulatory structure proposed to prevent over-the-air digital television from being sent freely over the Internet,” said the groups.

The groups said that since court’s ruling, the motion picture industry has been working to persuade Congress to give the Commission authority to implement its program.

The complaint claims the flag will hinder consume ran educational use of copyrighted content, and will stifle the design, operation, and further development of innovative consumer electronics.

They say that a technology to restrict distribution of content over the Internet “requires an all-encompassing technology that would affect any device that can: 1) receive broadcast DTV signals; or 2) pass along broadcast DTV content.It would also require federal oversight and enforcement over this broad range of consumer products.”

They say the flag scheme would “prevent a member of Congress from emailing a DTV clip of his district appearance on local television to his DC office. Further, the flag scheme would render obsolete a large number of expensive consumer devices.”

In addition the groups say that the 13 approved flag-compliant technologies that made up the original flag scheme “are incompatible with one another. A broadcast recorded on a TiVo will not play on “5C” device, or vice versa. This lack of compatibility will confuse consumers, especially when their new digital devices turn out to be less consumer friendly than the analog devices they replaced.Such a scheme will surely slow the DTV transition.”

In challenging the claims of Hollywood and the broadcast industry that the rules defining the Broadcast Flag are narrow, the groups said: “The flag scheme puts the FCC in the position not only of dictating DTV receiver design, but also of having to approve every piece of hardware (computers, television sets, and TiVos) and software (like Windows) that connects to a device that captures a digital television signal. This puts a huge burden on the FCC, and the resulting bottleneck will put a stranglehold on innovators and developers.”