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Gordon Tries To Re-Fly Broadcast Flag

According to a draft of a new bill, Commerce Committee Hearing member Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) is seeking support for reinstating the broadcast flag.

The "flag" technology is meant to prevent the unauthorized redistribution of digital broadcasts, one of the industry's chief concerns as it switches to digital delivery of its valuable content, some of that value by virtue of its exclusivity.

A digital broadcast flag regime was adopted by the FCC but thrown out by the court earlier this year, which said the FCC did not have the authority to impose the flag technology because it was post-transmission.

Flag backers had initially wanted to include it in the DTV transition bills, but they were stripped to the bone--a hard date for the transition to digital and a subsidy for analog sets--to comply with rules limiting budget reauthorization bills to spending-specific elements.

Prospects have dimmed for a second bill to deal with other DTV-related elements like the flag and multicast-must carry.

Smith's Digital Content Protection Act of 2006 would trump the court by granting the FCC the express power to regulate receiving devices for the purposes of "limit[ing] the unauthorized copying and indiscriminate redistribution of digital audio and video broadcast content over digital networks."

The bill would mandate the flag for digital broadcasts and includes language, attempting to appease fair use advocates like public knowledge, permitting "customary historic use of broadcast content by consumers to the extent such us is consistent with applicable law."

But it would also give the affected industries a chance to come up with their own compromise solution before the FCC issues any new broadcast flag rules.

The bill would create a private-sector panel including computer, equipment, braodcast, cable and public interest representatives to come up with that compromise.

The bill is expected to be discussed at a Jan. 24 Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the flag technologies.

The committee Friday released the witness list for that hearing:Video

•Andy Setos, President of Engineering, Fox Entertainment Group

•Jonathan Band, Counsel, American Library Association 

•Thomas B. Patton, Corporate Vice President, Government Relations, Philips Electronics North America Corporation

•Leslie Harris, Executive Director, Center for Democracy and Technology


•Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Recording Industry Association of America

•Gary Shapiro, President and Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Electronics Association

•Dan Halyburton, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Group Operations, Susquehanna Radio