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

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022