A Pro-DRM FCC Commissioner

by on April 18, 2006

Last night a FCC commissioner came out in favor of…DRM? Yes, at a reception sponsored by the DC Bar Association in her honor, Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate, the newest addition to the FCC, spoke eloquently on a number of issues but perhaps most remarkable was her advocacy for strong copyright protections. Hailing from The Music City, Nashville, this former Tennessee Regulatory Commissioner proclaimed her love for country music and the artists that wish to use DRM to protect their content.

Now I have no beef with DRM and think content owners should be free to utilize any scheme they want if informed consumers are willing to spend money on it. But regardless of your views of DRM (and TLF bloggers differ I know), I don’t think any of us here want the FCC to get more involved in this matter. The broadcast flag was an FCC rule that allowed the recording of digital broadcasts only by approved hardware devices that could recognize whether or not a certain data stream can be recorded, or if there are any restrictions on recorded content. That rule was invalidated last year in a case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the FCC had exceeded its authority by creating this rule.

Commissioner Tate said that despite the FCC’s lack of legal authority, she can still use her bully pulpit to bring awareness to content protection issues. Fair enough–policymakers, even Supreme Court justices, use their position of prominence to discuss many issues. The convergence of communications and copyright is indeed a legitimate policy issue. Hopefully Commissioner Tate will use her pulpit to advocate for market-driven solutions, not greater FCC authority. She would be effective at this too. She comes across as warm and engaging and persuasive.

Copyright protection shouldn’t be hindered by government through some sort of affirmative access requirement (see France). However, copyright protection shouldn’t be mandated by government either–hardware companies and content interests must learn to play together with the marketplace, not the Grand Ole FCC, as their venue.

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