The copyright industry's drive to get lawmakers to enact legislation that will institute the so-called "broadcast flag" copyright-protection regime appears to be gaining steam.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The copyright industry's drive to get lawmakers to enact legislation that will institute the so-called "broadcast flag" copyright-protection regime appears to be gaining steam.

On Sept. 29, a bipartisan group of 20 members of the 57-member House Commerce Committee, wrote the chairman and senior Democratic member of the panel's Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee urging them to enact the legislation. Sixteen of the letter's signees sit on the 31-member subcommittee.

"Reinstatement of the broadcast flag is essential in order to ensure the successful transition to digital television and to preserve localism and the continued availability of free, over-the-air television by conferring upon over-the-air programming the same protection against unauthorized redistribution over the Internet that programs distributed on cable an satellite are given today," the lawmakers wrote.

A broadcast flag is a set of status bits (or "flags") sent in the data stream of a digital television program that indicates whether or not it can be recorded or if there are any restrictions on recorded content.

In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the Federal Communications Commission overstepped its authority when it ordered set manufacturers to include technology to prevent the unauthorized copying of DTV programs.

The controversial rules were challenged by consumer groups, including library associations. They complained that the FCC requirement would drive up prices of digital television devices and prevent consumers from recording programs in ways permitted under copyright laws.

Entertainment companies said the technology was needed to block viewers from recording shows and films and distributing them free online. Without the protection, copyright holders claim they would refrain from selling high-value content to broadcast outlets, quickening the migration of many programs to pay television from free TV. Lack of that programming could make the switch from analog to digital TV take an even longer time.

While the lawmakers did not specify the legislation, it could move as a stand-alone bill or as part of the digital TV legislation that already is being considered in Congress. With a majority of the membership of the subcommittee and nearly one-third of the full committee backing the legislation, the panel's leaders are unlikely to ignore their wishes.