June 27, 2006 | By Danny O'Brien

Flags through Senate Committee Stage

While the Senate floor was href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=2126247">rejecting one flag
amendment, the Senate Commerce committee was letting another two&#8212the broadcast flag and audio flag&#8212slip
by. Senator Sununu spoke strongly against the flags, noting that we don't need technology mandates that inject federal bureaucrats into technology design decisions, but chose ultimately to withdraw his amendments to remove the audio and broadcast flags from the larger telecom package. But he said he may
propose to remove them again when&#8212or if&#8212the bill reaches the Senate
floor.

The bill still has
another day of mark-up in committee, focusing on the controversial
network neutrality proposals. But they won't be revisiting the flags. So, if the committee ultimately passes a telecom reform bill, the flags will be in it.

The good news for now is that the bill's chief sponsor, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), is
having second thoughts about the wisdom of sending the bill to the floor for a vote. "We have to get 60 votes, we don't have them right now," he told reporters after the mark-up hearing (60 votes are needed to defeat a filibuster in the Senate).

Meanwhile, in the House, the matching committee href="http://energycommerce.house.gov/108/Hearings/06272006hearing1960/hearing.htm">held hearings on
the broadcast flag and audio flag. If
the flags get past the Senate, they'll have to pass muster in the House, too.
The MPAA and the RIAA sat on one side of the argument; satellite radio makers,
broadcasters, consumer electronics manufacturers and public interest groups on
the other. The best line? Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Electronics
Association:

"We have to stop measuring creativity by the financial interests of ten
companies.
"

Let your senators know what these technology mandates will do to the
creativity of technologists, tinkerers, and the rest of us. href="http://action.eff.org/site/Advocacy?id=223">Write to them now, and
tell them to vote against the flags, and stand against S.2686, the Stevens
telecom bill.

UPDATE: The Senate committee also apparently added a web labeling provision to the telecom bill during today's mark-up session. According to news reports, this provision would regulate the inclusion of sexually explicit material on web pages through restrictions on top-level homepages and labeling requirements on other pages.


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