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Consumer groups hail lowering of the “Broadcast Flag”

Friday, May 06, 2005 3:00 p.m. EST
Gene Kimmelman, Consumers Union (202) 462-6262
Mark Cooper, Consumer Federation of America (301) 384-2204

Court ruling protects consumers’ right to legally record and use video content

WASHINGTON – Consumers across the country won a victory today when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) “broadcast flag” rule regarding the recording of digital video content over the airwaves. The Court ruled the FCC had overstepped its authority in establishing this rule. By overturning the “broadcast flag” rule, the court has prevented the FCC from requiring the use of “flagging” technology in devices such as televisions, personal computers and DVD recorders. The flag would prevent someone from legally obtaining video content and using it for personal use. This decision maintains an important means of communications, especially for low and middle income households.
“Consumers should be able to record their favorite television program for their personal use,” said Gene Kimmelman, Senior Director of public policy at Consumers Union. “This decision is a great win for consumers, helping to ensure the digital information age is open and accessible to everyone. The Court’s ruling overturns yet one more aspect of the illegal and ill-considered assault by the FCC on the fundamental principles of open and nondiscriminatory access to the means of expression in our society.”
Consumer groups also believe this decision goes beyond the “broadcast flag” rule. They believe its impacts will carry on into the upcoming debate on the Telecommunications Act as well as any future regulatory efforts at the FCC.
“By establishing that the FCC overstepped its authority in creating this rule, this decision has an impact beyond the ‘broadcast flag,’” said Mark Cooper, Director of Research at the Consumer Federation of America . “In the upcoming debate over nondiscrimination, this decision should send a strong signal to the FCC that it cannot invent authority to accomplish its policy goals. It is time for the FCC to accept the public policy goals of the Act and exercise its real authority, which is to promote speech and communications, not restrict it.”