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A serial copy management system (SCMS) is a system that permits the copying of digital media by requiring users to indicate how much they will be copying. This is done through permission flags, to which the user must respond ito copy digital material. SCMS is used in conjunction with digital audio tape (DAT) recorders, but it is not a large part of digital recording devices in today’s world. However, the broadcast flag, which is a specified set of SCMS usage definitions, has been applied to U.S. digital television (DTV) broadcasts, where TV channel data stream controls have flagging systems that either permit or deny DTV copying.
For more than 20 years, SCMS has been used in DAT recorders and MiniDisc (MD) recorders. Neither device was popular with consumers, and SCMS usage has significantly reduced, except for its resurgence in digital TV broadcasts.
In 2003, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated broadcast flags, until a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against the FCC's self-assigned authority in 2005. The motion picture industry perceived the court's decision as a blow, but consumers considered it a victory. Even so, powerhouse record companies and other intellectual property (IP) and copyrighted content holders continue to serve up their own suggestions for broadcast copying laws. However, consumer advocacy groups argue that mandatory broadcast flags would actually force consumers to make the switch to digital TV.