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Commerce Delays Considering Broadcast Flag

Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) said he would work with Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) and others on the issue of codifying the broadcast flag in the context of a "fair use" bill."

Barton and Rick Boucher (D-Va.) in March introduced the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act of 2005.

No broadcast flag amendment was introduced Tuesday in connection with the DTV hard date bill being marked up, but reps from media capitals California and New York got on the record with their support, and several legislators entered letters into the record supporting the flag for TV and radio.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), joined Bono in actively supporting the flag, saying that as the country moved into the digital age, "wholesale piracy of broadcasts could become routine."

The FCC adopted the broadcast flag security technology to restrict post-transmission distribution of digital TV content, but the D.C. appeals court said the commission didn't have authority beyond the transmission process.

Congress is free, however, to give the FCC that express authority, which Bono, Engel and others were advocating.

Gigi Sohn, president of fair use lobby Public Knowledge, was pleased that a broadcast flag amendment was not introduced. "We appreciate Chairman Barton’s leadership and his recognition of the very complex nature involved in imposing technological mandates not only on broadcast digital television but also on digital radio," she said. "The Committee should have an in-depth examination of these issues as part of its regular order, and we look forward to those discussions."

Public Knowledge opposes the flag, saying it would "hamper technological development and restrict the rights of consumers."