Friday, May 06, 2005

Judicial Smackdown!

Now this is one court decision that I hope comes to be a far-reaching precedent. In striking down the FCC's requirement for any and all devices that record HDTV signals, including digital recorders and personal computers, be required to have circuitry to prevent copying of received signals, the DC Court of Appeals took a shot directly at the basis of overbearing regulatory power:
The FCC argues that the Commission has "discretion” to exercise “broad authority” over equipment used in connection with radio and wire transmissions, “when the need arises, even if it has not previously regulated in a particular area.” FCC Br. at 17. This is an extraordinary proposition. “The [Commission’s] position in this case amounts to the bare suggestion that it possesses plenary authority to act within a given area simply because Congress has endowed it with some authority to act in that area. We categorically reject that suggestion. Agencies owe their capacity to act to the delegation of authority” from Congress. See Ry. Labor Executives’ Ass’n, 29 F.3d at 670. The FCC, like other federal agencies, “literally has no power to act . . . unless and until Congress confers power upon it.” La. Pub. Serv. Comm’n v. FCC, 476 U.S. 355, 374 (1986).

As I read it, this means that regulatory agencies can't just bluster their way through doing anything they want. Without a Congress passed/President signed law, the FCC and all of the other rules makers may do nothing. It makes my small government loving heart swell with joy.

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