The entertainment industry lobbyists are basically working ever possible angle to get more "control" over its content. We've already seen how they mess with the legislation process and the international treaty process, and now they're trying to use the FCC as well (not for the first time, either). The latest is that the MPAA is asking the FCC to remove certain restrictions that forbid it from blocking the recording of certain movies and from downgrading the ability to record certain movies
. Basically, the MPAA is asking the FCC let it make use of "Selectable Output Control" to keep its rapidly disappearing "release windows" business model possible.
As you probably know, the movie business has worked for many years on the model of "release windows," where films first show up in theaters, then at special locations (hotels/airplanes), followed by video, then PPV, cable and finally network TV. This is a legacy of an old business model, where the studio had a lot more control over content -- but it makes less and less sense these days, in a world where people have a lot more options for their entertainment time and money. These "windows" have been shrinking, because that's exactly what the customers demand -- and it actually has worked out well for the studios, because with shorter windows they actually get more benefit from a single advertising campaign plus
consumers are happier since they have more options about how they consume the content. But the industry is so focused on these windows, that when anyone dares to upset
the norm, they freak out
The latest situation is because the studios want to keep this totally unnecessary window process in place. So they're asking the FCC to let it either degrade recordings or block recordings of movies if they occur before the movies go to DVD/video rental. The MPAA reasoning behind this is pure bunk, claiming that it would encourage more people to buy HDTVs, speeding up the transition
to digital TV. There are multiple inaccuracies in this claim by the studios. First, while HDTV's are digital, one does not need to upgrade to HDTV to switch to digital TV. More importantly, basically, the studios are pretending that it's someone else's fault that they're unwilling to put good HDTV content on TV. They're basically saying "oh, if you let us block copying, then we'll put much more good content on TV." That's hard to believe for a variety of reasons. There's plenty of demand for content on TV, and if the studios aren't willing to put on good content, then others are finding plenty of ways to fill in the gaps.
Furthermore, there's nothing stopping the studios from releasing movies earlier. Claiming that they need this extra copy protection is a myth. The copy protection won't actually stop copies from being made. "Professional" pirates will easily get around the protection schemes. The only people who won't are your average home family user, who the industry is trying to screw over by making them pay over and over
again for the same content. Besides, even the FCC knows that the MPAA's argument is incorrect. In its own report, it stated:
"In particular, we are concerned that selectable output control would harm those 'early adopters' whose DTV equipment only has component analog inputs for high definition display, placing these consumers at risk of being completely shut off from the high-definition content they expect to receive."
In other words, for every person that "more HDTV content" encourages to upgrade, you're probably going to get more than one person pissed off that their DVR can't record that content. Hopefully the FCC tells the MPAA that its regulatory power isn't designed to let it prop up an obsolete business model.
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