January 24, 2006 10:31 AM PST

Senate may hoist broadcast flag again

A controversial form of copy protection for digital TV broadcasts inched closer to becoming law on Tuesday after receiving an enthusiastic endorsement from a key U.S. senator.

Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, said at a hearing that the so-called broadcast flag was necessary to curb Internet piracy of TV shows. Future TV tuners would be required to detect the flag and prevent recordings from being redistributed freely.

"It is a subject that requires an act of Congress, in my opinion," said Stevens, who is the influential chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee.

What's digital radio?
Satellite radio was last year's big thing. With a monthly subscription from either XM Radio or Sirius, you can get hundreds of uncensored channels. And yes, one of those is Howard Stern.

Consumer electronics makers are hoping 2006 will be the year of HD Radio. Like satellite radio, HD Radio requires a special receiver. Unlike satellite radio, though, it picks up digital signals transmitted over the same frequencies that FM radio uses. Many are commercial-free.

CNET has reviewed the Boston Acoustics Recepter Radio HD and the Yamaha RX-V4600.

The Federal Communications Commission approved the broadcast flag in November 2003, ordering a halt to the manufacture of non-compliant TV tuners. After a federal appeals court said the FCC did not have the authority to order a ban, the entertainment industry turned to Congress for explicit authorization.

But a second proposal before the committee--to restrict the sale of digital radio receivers that can record songs--met with a lukewarm reception. (Digital radio, sometimes called HD Radio, uses the same frequency range as FM broadcasts and is not the same as satellite radio.)

Stevens asked Mitch Bainwol, the head of the Recording Industry Association of America who testified at the hearing, if such an audio flag would curb his rights to use an iPod purchased by his daughter. Stevens said his daughter bought him an iPod and filled it with songs transferred from CDs.

If I "use it on my own home, on my own iPod, are you trying to restrict that?" Stevens said, adding: "We have a disagreement here, I think."

Bainwol said that unless Congress banned the sale of digital radio receivers without the audio flag, creativity in the music industry would suffer. A receiver that could easily record songs and shuffle the play order like Apple Computer's iPod, he warned, would mean the record labels would not get paid for the download.

It's "not casual recording by listeners," Bainwol said. "It is not taping off the radio like we used to do. We are talking about allowing broadcast programs to be automatically captured and then disaggregated, song by song, into a massive library of music."

Sen. John Sununu, a New Hampshire Republican, said he is adamantly opposed to the federal government mandating either the audio flag (for radio) or the broadcast flag (for over-the-air TV).

As new technologies like radio, TV, videotape and CDs appeared, Sununu said, "we didn't need to step in with a significant statutory government-regulated mandate." Instead of rushing to legislate, he added, the Congress "ought to be at least a little bit more skeptical than we are now" of claims of economic ruin from the entertainment industry.

The politically powerful National Association of Broadcasters also urged caution on the audio flag.

Dan Halyburton, a vice president at Susquehanna Radio who was testifying on behalf of the NAB, said that peer-to-peer networks offer "a more important and immediate threat" than people making their own recordings.

"NAB does not believe that legislation is necessary at this time," Halyburton said. "The immediacy, reality or scope of any threat to the recording industry from a scenario in which consumers make good quality recordings from digital broadcasts on their local radio stations remains to be demonstrated."

8 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
It's like we learned nothing from the VCR
The Supreme Court decided that as long as a technology has
legitimate use, it cannot be considered illegal. Why is it, then, that
every government leader has decided that the POTENTIAL rampant
piracy is worth overthrowing our rights as consumers? Any
recorder that does not have support for this broadcast flag has
legitimate, legal uses, yet they want to make such devices illegal.

Further, wasn't the VCR the best thing that happened to the
business in the long run?
Posted by rebeccal (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Oh they learned!
Actually they learned plenty. They learned that consumers would pay money to view something that they did not own and could view for a limited time. They learned that the concept of pay-per-use could be highly profitable, and are working steadily to make reach a model were EVERY playback of a recording is purchased EVERY time. They will happily make all TV shows available for on-demand replay as long as we pay for the viewing. They've extended their thinking to music now as well.
Allowing consumers to record something and view/listen to it later for free is just plain bad for business because it represents lost sales. Consumers desire a product and are getting it for free in their eyes.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
New Industry
All this will do is create a new industry that manufactures a small, cheap device that will suppress the braodcast flag so the broadcast can be recorded with no restrictions. I will be one of the first to buy one of these devices as soon as they hit the market and I really don't care if they are legal or not.
Posted by yrrahxob (77 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Strong statement against the flags
My group, Public Knowledge, wasn't asked to testify, but did submit a very strong statement in opposition. You can read it here: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.publicknowledge.org/news/letters/gbsohn-statement-20060124" target="_newWindow">http://www.publicknowledge.org/news/letters/gbsohn-statement-20060124</a>

We were the lead group that brought the case that got the flag rules thrown out.
Posted by artbrodsky (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Here we go again...
Did I get it right...
&lt;&lt;&lt;A receiver that could easily record songs and shuffle the play order like Apple Computer's iPod, he warned, would mean the record labels would not get paid for the download.&gt;&gt;&gt;

So, in other words, if we don't like the particular songs that a label chose to put on a CD we do not have the right to change that? We do not have the right to assemble a library of music that suits our listening style?

Get real... we (the consumer) pay the salary of: The performer, The recording studio, the marketing company and the fulfillment company.

If we, the consumers, would get together for once (i'd die of shock if we did) and refuse to play their game we could win! REFUSE to purchase hardware that places limits on our freedom. Refuse to purchase broadcast (or CD's / DVD's) with DRM.
Activly email our representatives our feelings and then VOTE for those who stand on a freedom platform. When we cut the profits of the media moguls they will beg people to buy their goods.

Remember, Boycott Sony!
Posted by chhooks (21 comments )
Link Flag
alarmist nonsense
It's "not casual recording by listeners," Bainwol said. "It is not taping off the radio like we used to do.

Like, how is it different other than being digital? I can see an argument against songs being recorded and the placed on P2P, but that's an issue with P2P which is slowly being legislated out of existence. A home user recording any broadcast and using it in any personal way is not piracy and has been upheld as fair-use by the courts.
So the industry expects every law-abiding consumer to give up fair-use in order to prevent a problem that has not even been proven to have a large financial impact to the record companies. (No, they have not published definitive statistics showing large losses due to P2P. They've used coincidental statistics to suggest losses due to P2P.)
The industry is proposing that every song recorded off the radio is a lost sale... something that has never been true in either the analog or digital broadcast days.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Blown out of preposition
this whole thing is out of whake with the American why of life,(freedom).
Riaa should be sueing everyone, becase I don't know of anyone that has not made recoredings.
Use to when you bought a record you got a full recored of music you liked, now you may be lucky enought to get maybe 2 songs you like &#38; the rest garbage. They should be paying us for advertiment.
Posted by Earl (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Blown out of preposition
this whole thing is out of whake with the American why of life,(freedom).
Riaa should be sueing everyone, becase I don't know of anyone that has not made recoredings.
Use to when you bought a record you got a full record of music you liked, now you may be lucky enought to get maybe 2 songs you like &#38; the rest garbage. They should be paying us for advertiment.
Posted by Earl (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.