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Federal Court Ditches Flag Order

John Stith
Staff Writer
Published: 2005-05-06

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The Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. stomped the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today in a ruling saying the overstepped its authority in ordering electronics manufacturers from putting a "broadcast flag" device in television sets and other video recording devices.

The fear was that users would copy broadcasts of high definition movies and other broadcast programs onto the internet. These flags wouldn't alter the reception of the program but would prevent the program from being transferred to the internet. The Appellate Court said "No!"

The FCC said back in 2003 that all video recording equipment should have the device designed into them and in place by July 1, 2005 if they plan on doing business in the U.S. Anything capable of recording video, including DVD recorders, PCS, etc would be in this category.

Librarians Get Ready To Rumble

Enter the American Library Association. They said the FCC couldn't do that because it was outside their jurisdiction to regulate broadcasts. They said it would severely limit libraries' and schools' ability to teach by placing limits to what they could do and see in the classroom.

The today, the smackdown came after U.S. Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards said FCC had "crossed the line" during the courtroom proceedings. The FCC had no jurisdiction to control broadcasts after the broadcast meaning that while the program was going out over the airwaves, the FCC could deal with it. After that, their jurisdiction ended. They had no authority to control whether or not someone recorded and whatever they chose to do with it.

"The insurmountable hurdle facing the FCC in this case is that the agency's general jurisdictional grant does not encompass the regulation of consumer electronics products that can be used for receipt of wire or radio communication when those devices are not engaged in the process of radio or wire transmission," the court wrote.

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About the Author:
John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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