Broadcast Flag Good News?

June 4, 2005

Lots of reports this week about the MPAA’s efforts (or lack thereof) to drag the “Broadcast Flag” back to life as part of upcoming DTV legislation. As usual, the EFF has the skinny

First there was some apparent good news:

The Motion Picture Association of America is unlikely to push for a broadcast flag component in DTV legislation establishing a 2008 hard date because the bill’s main author, House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX), is against the provision. Meanwhile, the MPAA will keep briefing House and Senate members on a broadcast flag bill’s importance and seek other ways to get the content protections it wants.

A new Congressional Research Service report raises concerns that the broadcast flag’s technological limitations could hinder activities normally deemed “fair use” under copyright law. For instance, students might not be able to email themselves copies of projects incorporating digital video content because no secure system exists for email transmission. “The goal of the flag was not to impede a consumer’s ability to copy or use content lawfully in the home, nor was the policy intended to ‘foreclose use of the Internet to send digital broadcast content where it can be adequately protected from indiscriminate redistribution,'” the report said, quoting from the FCC order.

Then it looked like it might be a bit of premature celebration…

Update: It looks like the “new” report [PDF] was released in April, before the DC Circuit struck down the Broadcast Flag. It repeats the FCC’s assertion of authority to impose the Flag but also notes the objections of public interest organizations (Public Knowledge, EFF, et al.). Evidently, the new bit is that Congressman Barton is (presumably) citing the report to justify his distaste for Broadcast Flag provision, a use we couldn’t possibly encourage more.

So apparently the jury is still out, but appear to be grounds for “guarded optimism” at least…

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