Court Rules Against ‘Broadcast Flag’

WASHINGTON A federal court on Friday threw out the so-called broadcast flag aimed at thwarting illicit Internet-aided redistribution of TV programs, saying regulators had no authority to impose the requirement.

The action by the U.S. Court of Appeals represents a defeat for networks, movie studios and the Federal Communications Commission.

The content providers had argued they need the flag to prevent rampant theft of programs broadcast in easily copied digital formats. The flag is a digital encoding, invisible to viewers, which instructs equipment whether it may copy the program.

In a 34-page opinion, the court said the FCC exceeded its authority in imposing the broadcast flag in 2003. “There is no statutory foundation for the broadcast flag rules,” the court said. “Congress never conferred authority on the FCC to regulate consumers’ use of television receiver apparatus after the completion of broadcast transmissions.”