Press Release

Public Knowledge Asks House Panel To Oppose Content Controls

June 26, 2006 ,

For immediate release
June 27, 2006

Public Knowledge Asks House Panel To Oppose Content Controls

Public Knowledge President Gigi B. Sohn told the House Telecom Subcommittee there is no need for Congress to enact content controls on broadcast digital television and digital radio.

At a June 27 hearing on “The Audio and Video Flags: Can Content Protection and Technological Innovation Coexist?”, Sohn noted that TV networks are now offering their programs on digital services, including the iTunes store and direct downloads, while Warner Brothers is working with BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer company.

Sohn said in her written statement. “Yet even as innovators in the motion picture and recording industries promote these alternative distribution models and the technologies that facilitate them, their colleagues in Washington are asking Congress to step in and give them protection from the vague threat of massive copyright infringement the industry says these new technologies could facilitate.”

She added that the content industry “certainly has not shown that government technology mandates will work to stop actual copyright pirates rather than prevent ordinary consumers from engaging in lawful activities.” Sohn said the content industry is “asking Congress to impose three technology mandates: the TV broadcast flag, an audio broadcast flag, and an end to the analog hole. Each mandate 1) injects government into technological design; 2) restricts lawful consumer activities; and 3) increases consumer costs by making obsolete millions of digital devices.”

Lawmakers should be skeptical of claims that broadcast flag legislation is “narrow,” Sohn said, noting that the rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission “put the FCC in the position of deciding the ultimate fate of every single device that can demodulate a digital television signal. The broadcast flag rules require the FCC to pre-approve television sets, computer software, digital video recorders, cellphones, game consoles, iPods and any other device that can receive a digital television signal.”

If there is to be a broadcast flag, Sohn said, it should be accompanies by reforms to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), along with exemptions for news and public affairs, distance education and programming that is in the public domain.

The content controls for digital radio also are unnecessary, Sohn said, noting that the recording industry is pursuing the controls only for the purpose of stopping personal home recording.

The full written testimony is available here