The FCC and Congress are arguing about jurisdiction over possible rules involving a “broadcast flag”:
- A political rift over copy-protection standards for digital TV has developed between the Federal Communications Commission and a key panel in Congress.
During a hearing Thursday, members of the House of Representatives’ subcommittee overseeing intellectual-property law warned the FCC that a possible proposal for digital TV regulations could encroach upon Congress’ turf.
In August, the FCC voted unanimously to take the first step toward developing regulations involving a “broadcast flag” to designate shows that may not be copied freely.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the panel’s chairman, said the FCC “might issue rules that impact the Copyright Act.”
Although Smith’s intellectual property subcommittee is responsible for drafting copyright laws, the Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over the FCC. Smith and other panelists expressed concern that copy-protection rules were being set by an executive branch agency instead of by the appropriate committee in Congress.
The FCC has not yet decided to go forward with a broadcast flag rule. The movie studios say that a law or FCC rule will be necessary to require that televisions sold after a certain date recognize the flag and, if it is present, limit consumers’ rights to distribute digitally transmitted shows without restrictions.
….Consumer groups have challenged the broadcast flag proceeding, saying it is unnecessary and unwise.
“The astonishing lack of evidence behind claims of any current or imminent problem facing copyrighted high-quality digital works transmitted over airwaves gives us pause,” the advocacy group Public Knowledge told the FCC. “We have always believed the case for the broadcast flag was thin, but have been amazed to discover that the evidence comes close to being nonexistent.” [CNET]