Court Overturns FCC's Anti-Piracy TV Rules

11 May 2005

Last week's overturning by the US Court of Appeals of the Federal Communications Commission's proposal to mandate inclusion of anti-piracy technology in new digital broadcast products, has forced Hollywood movie studios to turn their lobbying attentions to Capitol Hill.

The court, in Washington DC, held that the FCC's power over the broadcast industry ends with the receiving of programs by TV tuners and sets. What happens thereafter is not part of the FCC's remit.

Ruled the trio of judges: "In the seven decades of its existence, the FCC has never before asserted such sweeping authority." The court's decision places on ice plans by the makers of digital TV sets, tuners and other electronic devices to incorporate (at Hollywood's behest) anti-piracy technology.

Complains Fritz Attaway, evp of the Motion Picture Association of America: "Broadcast TV will become a second-class delivery service, and high-value content that has to be protected against retransmission will gravitate to cable and satellite."

Consumer groups, however, hailed the decision. "The court clearly said the [law] does not give the FCC the power to dictate the design of devices," says public-interest advocate Gigi Sohn, director of Public Knowledge.

Data sourced from USA Today Online; additional content by WARC staff