Hollywood Takes Another Crack At Getting Permission To Break Your DVR

from the they-just-won't-stop dept

The movie studios and the MPAA have been pushing hard over the last year to get the FCC to let them use "selectable output control" to basically block DVRs from recording certain broadcasts of movies. Their somewhat creative (but totally ridiculous) argument is that this would allow more consumer choice. Now, you might ask how limiting what consumers can do with products they already purchased can possibly allow more consumer choice, but this is where the MPAA tries to play a bit of a jedi mind trick. It claims that if it's allowed to block recording of movies, then it would add another window to its windowed release program of movies (i.e., theater -> special locations (airplanes/hotels) -> DVD -> cable TV -> network TV). If they can break your DVR, they claim that they'll also release it to TV before it's even out on DVD.

Now, it doesn't take much thought to see the logical flaw in the MPAA's plan, but since some politicians are a bit slow, we'll spell it out for them. You don't need to block recording to release the movies early. There's absolutely nothing stopping the MPAA from offering this "consumer choice" right now. The MPAA is simply trying to confuse politicians into thinking that they can't possibly add this other way to get paid for the same content without this DVR-breaking DRM. The simple fact is that (a) selectable output control won't stop the movies from being recorded by some and (b) it won't stop the movies from being offered in unauthorized format online. It won't do a damn thing to stop "piracy." But it will annoy an awful lot of people who bought a DVR to record what they see on TV and are seriously pissed off at why they can't actually make the product they bought work legally.

In other words, it's not at all about "expanded consumer choice." It's about giving the MPAA another way to block legitimate watchers from doing perfectly legal time shifting of the content on their TV.

The good news was that when Kevin Martin ran the FCC, he turned down the MPAA. Though we heard mixed reasons on why (one story is that he tried to do some "horse trading" whereby he would give the MPAA what it wanted if they would side with him on things like a la carte cable), it at least kept the MPAA down. Of course, with Martin gone, it hasn't taken long at all for the movie studios to rush right back up to the new FCC yammering on and on about "expanded consumer choices." Hopefully Michael Copps (the temporary FCC boss) and the rest of the FCC are smart enough to recognize that you don't expand consumer choice by breaking their DVRs.

Filed Under: blocking, business models, drm, dvrs, fcc, mpaa, soc


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  1. identicon
    Chris, 8 Feb 2009 @ 7:19pm

    Re: Re:

    Except that a lot of people ignore these laws, and circumvent any technology used to enforce them.

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