Court rules for libraries, consumers in broadcast flag case

Contact: Bernadette Murphy

Washington Communications Director

(202) 628-8410
For Immediate Release:

May 6, 2005

Court rules for libraries, consumers in broadcast flag case

U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today issued a decisive 3-0 opinion in favor of libraries and consumers when it ruled that the FCC overstepped its jurisdiction by mandating a “broadcast flag” copy protection in new technologies.

The decision is being hailed as a significant step towards restoring the rights of consumers to make lawful copies of digital content. “This is a big victory for consumers and libraries,” said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office, representing the petitioners in the case.

“The broadcast flag seriously undermined the rights allowed nonprofit educational institutions under the TEACH Act to distribute digital content over the Internet for distance learning purposes. It even imposed restrictions on how consumers are able to use digital content in their own homes. We are happy the court has restored the rights of libraries and consumers by ruling that the FCC does not have the right to mandate technological copy protections,” Sheketoff added.

The FCC order required that all digital electronic devices, such as television sets and personal computers, include code that accompanies digital television (DTV) signals to prevent redistribution of the digital content over the Internet. The petitioners in the case believed that the FCC ruling constituted another step toward giving content providers too much control over what users can do with digital content. The broadcast flag prevented the use of an entire category of works—high definition television programs—from being used in distance education.

The petitioners in the case are the American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, American Association of Law Libraries, Medical Library Association, Special Libraries Association, Public Knowledge, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation.