Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell is coming under
pressure from a key senator to intervene in the debate over the protection of
digital-broadcast signals from illegal copying.
In a July 19 letter to Powell, Senate Commerce Committee chairman Fritz
Hollings (D-S.C.) urged the FCC to adopt copy-protection rules 'quickly' to
advance the digital-TV transition and ensure that high-value digital content
does not funnel solely to cable and direct-broadcast satellite carriers due to
their ability to protect digital content from illegal copying.
In the past, Powell and his top aides have argued that the FCC lacks the
legal authority to craft copyright-protection rules. Hollings said he disagreed,
claiming that federal law specifically and generally authorizes the FCC to act
in this area.
'It is beyond dispute that the public interest would be served by regulations
protecting digital-broadcast content, while at the same time preserving lawful
consumer use of that content such as making a physical copy for time- and/or
device-shifting purposes,' Hollings said in a two-page letter.
Hollings has already introduced copy-protection legislation, which he has
acknowledged was designed to spur private-industry negotiations. He said he has
told Powell he expects to work in August with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on
developing a bill that addresses a range of digital-TV-transition issues.
Last week, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.)
said he would introduce comprehensive digital-TV-transition legislation in
September if the cable, broadcasting, satellite, movie and consumer-electronics
industries fail to resolve their conflicting agendas by then.