MPAA Doubletalk On FCC Request To Block DVR Recordings

from the the-mainstream-press-may-believe-you,-but... dept

You may recall back in June we wrote about the MPAA’s petition to the FCC to block DVR recordings of certain movies by removing a restriction on “Selectable Output Control” (SOC), allowing it to set rules that forbid recording. What the MPAA is clearly trying to do here is start releasing movies on TV before they’re available on DVD, but wants to do so in a way that users won’t be able to record on their DVRs (though, they hardly come out and say that). Matthew Lasar has an absolutely hilarious interview with an MPAA representative where the MPAA guy tries to pretend that this has nothing to do with blocking recordings of movies and everything to do with stopping piracy.

“I can’t emphasize this enough,” Oster finally exclaimed. “We’ve hit on this a number of times so you might sense some frustration in my voice. ‘Recording’?take it off the table. Put it out of your mind. This has nothing to do with recording at all in any way.”

“Ok. I guess I’m confused,” I replied. “What is selectable output control about then?”

“It’s in large part, first and foremost, about the fact that our industry has a multibillion-dollar theft problem, which is that billions and billions of dollar’s worth of film content is stolen every year,” Oster replied.

“How is it stolen? What’s the mechanics of its being stolen?” I asked. “What happens?”

“It comes in many forms,” Dean Garfield interjected. “It comes in camcording.”

“Did you just say the word ‘recording’?” I asked.

“No!” Oster intervened. “He said ‘camcording’!”

“But isn’t that just basically recording?” I begged.

“No!” Oster insisted. “What we want is to offer consumers high-definition content earlier than they can today. That’s what we want to do! We want our studios to have the flexibility to put in place business models that allow them to offer high definition content on demand to the home, earlier than they do now. Period! Full stop!”

Let’s translate this for everyone. Basically, the MPAA falsely believes that it has a problem with camcording. It likes to come out with all sorts of bogus stats that don’t add up. The truth is that camcorded versions don’t keep people from going to the movies, and most movies online have studio quality versions leaked from insiders.

So what does that have to do with SOC? Not much, really. But the MPAA wants to change the release window pattern it currently uses for movies. Rather than theaters, video, PPV, cable TV, it wants to be able to put some movies on TV before they’re released to video, hoping that it can charge cable channels a lot for showing them. But, if it does that, it’s worried that it will undercut its own business model in the video rental space. So, it falsely believes that it needs this “exemption” from SOC to effectively enable DRM on those movies to prevent them from being recorded. It’s the same old mistake, believing that DRM somehow enables new business models when the truth is that DRM only restricts opportunities. The content will still get recorded and released. The effective DRM will do nothing to stop that — and once the content is out there, it’s out there. However, this will be a pain for plenty of legitimate viewers who start wondering why their DVRs don’t work properly.

It’s not about stopping any kind of piracy. This won’t do that. It’s not about enabling any new business models or new content. It’s about a misguided MPAA which thinks it needs DRM to add yet another way for it to make money while pissing off legitimate users. For that, the FCC should not grant a special exemption.

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Comments on “MPAA Doubletalk On FCC Request To Block DVR Recordings”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Huh?

I dunno.

Back in the day when it was Matrix being pirated, it didn’t look so bad. I don’t know if that was a camcorder capture though. It doesn’t really matter ultimately because seeing that version just made me more interested in going out to the cinema and seeing it again.

I recently got another more recent film for cheap on DVD once the DVD got cheap. That also triggered some interest in seeing that movie on a larger screen and now I am kind of sorry I didn’t see it first run.

An inferior copy of a work is always the best way of advertising the original.

The MPAA needs to start concentrating on making better originals again.

Fire the bean counters.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

The obvious question

Did anyone ask them the obvious question? If they want to get quality products out to the customer faster, Why don’t they just release the movie on DVD or Blu-Ray right after, or even while, the movie is in theaters? Why not keep their current pattern of Theater, DVD, PPV, TV just not have six months in between them?

jonnyq says:

Re: The obvious question

I don’t think they can do that with DVD because extra work goes into production of the DVD – recording commentary, packaging other special features, etc. However, that’s beside the point, and you’re still right. If the special features are what make the DVD worth buying, then having the movie out on PPV or TV ahead of time still just makes sense, as the DVD will still be worth owning later.

Anonymous Poster says:

Re: Re: The obvious question

See, this is where the “special edition” tag comes in handy — initially, a company could release a bare-bones DVD with just the movie and a behind-the-scenes featurette for a low price (think $15) a few weeks after the film’s been in theaters, then (if demand is high enough to warrant it) come out with the special-feature-packed “special edition” DVD for a higher price four to six months later.

Steve R. (profile) says:

The Free Market at Work

Besides the obvious logical flaws in Seth Oster comments there is the the clear disconnect of private companies seeking regulatory support from the FCC for their business model. The usual mantra of private industry is “don’t regulate us, it hurts innovation and business”, obviously the MPPA doesn’t really believe in the free market.

Given our litigiousness society, the DVR manufactures should undertake a preemptive lawsuit against the MPPA for trying to put them out of business. After all, don’t DVR manufactures also deserve their own “special” regulations to foster their business model.

Anonymous Coward says:


Trust me. You don’t. You want a “lightly regulated” market. The trick is figuring out how little regulation you can get away with and avoid crap like this.

This has more to do with a hodgepodge legal system showing its issues and no one fixing it because Its The Law. Like they didn’t have to make it all up in the first place.

Didn’t you know? DMCA is a Gift From God. No mere mortal created it. It was handed down from on High and can have no flaws…

Yea, right.

Jon (user link) says:


This is seriously pissing into the wind. As long as there’s an open source DVR (there is, MythTV), there will always be a DVR that is capable of ignoring any SOC bits. All it takes is one DVR and one individual, and your content is seeded on torrent sites in hours (if it wasn’t there already, which it probably was). The only thing it’s going to do is upset people that want to record the content to legitimately time-shift it.

DRM is a plague that is being dealt with in the marketplace – it’s dying everywhere. I can’t imagine how studios justify the amount of money they put into ‘fighting piracy,’ when it’s not a battle that’s even remotely winnable.

Michael Britton says:

Gasp! What a surprise!

There are some that say that MPAA stands for “Motion Picture A****les of America” and this kind of gobbledygook just solidifies this position. Like the RIAA, they have an incredible disconnect with reality. They believe that litigation and “reverse regulation” is the answer to everything. Like the previous poster said, they complain bitterly if the government even hints at regulation of their industry, yet beg those same regulatory agencies to protect their profits. What a bunch of hypocrites!

Tse says:

Re: Pretty sure I could crack that right now

> Analog hole. If the video output was directed to a computer
> with a capture card, it should be easy enough to keep a
> copy.

This is exactly what keeps amazing me about all the money spent on ‘copy protection’. If the content needs to be seen and heard, it has to be unencrypted at that point. What this effectively means is that if you can see and hear it, you can plug it in and get at least a decent quality copy, depending on the used hardware. D’oh.

Maybe they’ll start installing DRM chips in our brains one day 🙂

Caleb P says:

Attendance Drop

Attendance is down in theaters because its 9 bucks a movie and you’ll end up leaving a shoe behind when it’s stuck to the floor. It’s really only ‘worth it’ for the few movies where the big screen really enhances the film like movies with large battle scenes or sports films. The rest you can wait till they come out on HBO cause I’m certainly not spending that much to see a movie when it costs $5 in gas just to get to the theater and back.

The focus needs to be on improving the paying customers experience. Even pirates will pay to see a movie if they make it worth it again.

Hoeppner says:

Um cable companies are already starting to do this themselves. Studios would just have to stipulate so in their contracts.

Basically it’s just wasting FCCs time by making it a requirement when it doesn’t need to be.

Granted all DRM is moot. eventually you’re going to have to output your data is a standard digital/analog format that is pretty easy to grab and grabs at a higher quality anyways.

chris (profile) says:

you miss the point

they are trying to stop people using camcorders to steal movies.

if you would pull your head out of your ass for half a second you would see that the best way to stop people from using a camcorder in a theater and uploading to the internet is to prevent people from recording pay per view programming in their homes.

i swear, sometimes it’s like you people are being deliberately obtuse.

BaasGaas says:


The easiest way I have found to get around my Tivo not recording any On Demand or PPV sh*t I order from ComCast, is to plug my camcorder into my Tivo and recording it that way. I then rip it to my PC or back to my Tivo(My TV is to far from my home office, so I do not bother with MythTV or the likes.)

Take that DRM. A very low tech solution. My father-in-law does exactly the same thing. It is just too easy. No need to teach him how to use Linux or get an expensive PC and capture card.

deadzone (profile) says:

Everyone Knows

Everyone knows that the best bootlegs are the “Camcorder” bootlegs. Everything else just pales in comparison from a quality standpoint. My bootleg library is nothing but straight up, high-quality Camcorder bootlegs.

You guys are all ignorant and apparently know nothing about real quality. Heh, I bet you guys think composite cables suck too! Here’s a hint for all of you, Composite cables are the highest quality digital connection you can get!


John (profile) says:

Some ideas

To poster #5: sure, the crack will be out a few days (or a few hours) after the DRM is put into place, but will Joe Average know this? Or will he simply curse at the “stupid machine” because it keeps saying “Error 5: Can not record”? Then will he get made at the MPAA for putting this no-record rule into place or will he get mad at the device-maker and think it’s broken?

And what if we “downgraded” our technology: if this kind of DRM blocks TIVO and DVR’s, why not just plug a VCR into the TV? Sure, people have replaced their VCR’s with DVD recorders, but maybe it’s time to dust them off.

Edd (profile) says:

As is said over and over.. make something worth paying for and people will. Continue to pump out crap and crap remakes is not the way to get people in the theaters.

Make good stuff, people buy.
Make bad stuff, people won’t spend money.

How many years is it going to take to understand this?

I’m not going to spend $10 to go watch some trash.. I’d rather just not watch it at all. Maybe I would be surprised, and the film wasnt complete garbage as I had thought, and be more likely to pick up the dvd when it came out if it was better than expected for the extra dvd content additions but.. If I dont watch it at all, I wont be doing any word of mouth spreading or buying dvds.. so why waste the millions making those shit films to begin with.

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