FCC 'crosses the line' with broadcast flag - court

Overreaches with DRM order, judge says


The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) overstepped its authority by requiring devices capable of receiving digital TV broadcasts to recognize data called a 'broadcast flag' that can prevent copying, a federal judge has said.

US Circuit Judge Harry Edwards told the FCC that it had "crossed the line" when it required DRM technology to be included in all DTV devices on sale in the USA from 1 July. This would include TVs, set top boxes, PC tuner cards, VCRs, DVD players, and similar devices.

The FCC argued that its ancillary powers authorize it to regulate the reception of broadcasts, not just their transmission. While Congress did not authorize the Commission to regulate the proper designs of the devices, it also didn't expressly forbid it, which FCC takes as a license to issue specifications.

"Ancillary does not mean you get to rule the world," judge Edwards observed.

Judge David Sentelle wondered if FCC thought it could regulate washing machines, since Congress didn't expressly forbid that, either.

In response to FCC whining that without adequate DRM technology, digital broadcasts would be limited, Judge Sentelle noted that, while this might be regrettable, it is not the FCC's responsibility. "It's going to have less content if it's not protected, but Congress didn't direct that you maximize content," he said.

Unfortunately, there is a legal detail here that might moot the whole issue. Judge Sentelle noted that the plaintiffs, largely consumer and library groups, might not have standing to make a complaint against FCC unless they can show how the regulation causes them specific harm.

So it is entirely possible that the complaint will be shut down on a technicality. On the other hand, if it is not, the broadcast industry has additional appeals to mount, and, if finally thwarted in the courts, can always resort to lobbying Congress for the legislation it wants. Thus there is every possibility that American consumers will be stuck with broadcast flag-compliant devices in the near future.

Those thinking of buying DTV-related gear might want to make their purchases sooner rather than later, in hopes that some non-compliant devices are still available. ®

Related stories

FCC Chairman Michael Powell resigns
Feds OK DVD+R/RW DRM tech
FCC locks down US TV


Other stories you might like

  • China is trolling rare-earth miners online and the Pentagon isn't happy
    Beijing-linked Dragonbridge flames biz building Texas plant for Uncle Sam

    The US Department of Defense said it's investigating Chinese disinformation campaigns against rare earth mining and processing companies — including one targeting Lynas Rare Earths, which has a $30 million contract with the Pentagon to build a plant in Texas.

    Earlier today, Mandiant published research that analyzed a Beijing-linked influence operation, dubbed Dragonbridge, that used thousands of fake accounts across dozens of social media platforms, including Facebook, TikTok and Twitter, to spread misinformation about rare earth companies seeking to expand production in the US to the detriment of China, which wants to maintain its global dominance in that industry. 

    "The Department of Defense is aware of the recent disinformation campaign, first reported by Mandiant, against Lynas Rare Earth Ltd., a rare earth element firm seeking to establish production capacity in the United States and partner nations, as well as other rare earth mining companies," according to a statement by Uncle Sam. "The department has engaged the relevant interagency stakeholders and partner nations to assist in reviewing the matter.

    Continue reading
  • California's attempt to protect kids online could end adults' internet anonymity
    Websites may be forced to verify ages of visitors unless changes made

    California lawmakers met in Sacramento today to discuss, among other things, proposed legislation to protect children online. The bill, AB2273, known as The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, would require websites to verify the ages of visitors.

    Critics of the legislation contend this requirement threatens the privacy of adults and the ability to use the internet anonymously, in California and likely elsewhere, because of the role the Golden State's tech companies play on the internet.

    "First, the bill pretextually claims to protect children, but it will change the Internet for everyone," said Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University School of Law professor, in a blog post. "In order to determine who is a child, websites and apps will have to authenticate the age of ALL consumers before they can use the service. No one wants this."

    Continue reading
  • Is computer vision the cure for school shootings? Likely not
    Gun-detecting AI outfits want to help while root causes need tackling

    Comment More than 250 mass shootings have occurred in the US so far this year, and AI advocates think they have the solution. Not gun control, but better tech, unsurprisingly.

    Machine-learning biz Kogniz announced on Tuesday it was adding a ready-to-deploy gun detection model to its computer-vision platform. The system, we're told, can detect guns seen by security cameras and send notifications to those at risk, notifying police, locking down buildings, and performing other security tasks. 

    In addition to spotting firearms, Kogniz uses its other computer-vision modules to notice unusual behavior, such as children sprinting down hallways or someone climbing in through a window, which could indicate an active shooter.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022