The battle against the "broadcast flag," a controversial copy-protection technology designed to limit piracy of digital TV programs, is picking up again.
This time, non-profit groups Public Knowledge, Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America have dispatched a joint letter to the chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, urging federal lawmakers to convene hearings on the matter.
Public Knowledge and other public interest organizations were behind the initial legal challenge against the broadcast flag. A federal court in May unanimously tossed out Federal Communications Commission regulations that would have prohibited the manufacture of computer and video hardware without certain copy-protection features.
The decision did, however, leave Congress the option of giving the FCC such regulatory power. Non-profit groups say they're now concerned that such a proposal could slip through as an amendment to one of the large spending bills lawmakers will likely pass this fall.
Congress needs to understand that "there are alternative techniques for protecting television content that do not require putting the FCC in control of the design of almost all digital products, everywhere, that might conceivably contain or transmit digital television," the Sept. 19 letter said.
"A full hearing of the issues surrounding Internet piracy of television...would show that content owners now have all the legal tools they need to pursue, punish, and deter infringers of television and other content," it went on.
At this point, the groups haven't encountered a draft bill or amendment that would revive the flag, but "we're reaching a point where people on the Hill are starting to focus on the issues, and we wanted to make certain this is part of the thought processes," Art Brodsky, communications director for Public Knowledge, said in an e-mail.