If that sounds a bit convoluted to you, you’re not the only one. More and more the movie makers and the content providers (cable, satellite, and fiber optical companies – doesn’t that include everyone?) want to remove the abilities of your hardware at home, claiming that too much innovation for the consumer has made it hard to offer content without worry for them.
from Ars Technica
The movie studio crusade to take over your home theater system just got an endorsement from Time Warner Cable, whose top staff visited the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last Wednesday to ask, yet again, for permission to let cable operators limit video streams to HDTVs and DVRs. At the meeting, representatives of TWC and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) backed the scheme being pushed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA): Hollywood would send movies to cable before they appear on DVD, but the cable operators would clamp down on some of the features found in their subscribers’ TV systems.
Is there a large outcry from consumers to have movies in the home before they get to DVD? The theater to DVD time span has been cut to six weeks, as of the first of this year, so is the wait for that so terrible, when places like Red Box have them for $1? (let’s not forget how convenient Red Box stores are – they are right where you buy the popcorn, candy, and drinks for consumption during the movies)
Specifically, consumers wouldn’t be able to receive these flicks from an analog connection, which the studios say is more susceptible to piracy than a digital stream. The overall scheme is called Selectable Output Control (SOC), a practice currently prohibited by the FCC.
The changes mandated by anyone will be circumvented, sooner or later, it matters only how long it takes, and how much those who want access are willing to pay for that technology. We are back to the constantly changing access cards for DirecTV, from back in the ’90s. As soon as enough people were receiving the content with ‘broken’ cards, DirecTV would insist that the card style would be changed. Do we really want continuous changes of cable boxes to become a part of the landscape, simply to appease the idiots in Hollywood?
The problem here, if I may digress, for just a moment, is one of greed. The buying public sees, and hears, about the margins on movies, concerts, etc, and sees no logical reason for it. Is it really necessary for movies that are made for 30-50 million dollars to make 10 times that amount, simply because of greed? Other than diamonds (it used to also include pharmaceuticals, but no more) what other things in our economy have these margins?
Back to our regularly scheduled programming –
NCTA and Time Warner’s move suggests that, despite the failure of the studios for well over a year to convince the FCC to approve SOC, Big Content remains serious about this plan. As we’ve reported, the MPAA was over at the FCC’s digs in late August to get the campaign back up to speed following former FCC Chair Kevin Martin’s rejection of the SOC proposal last December. This latest NCTA/Time Warner meeting even got into logistics for the proposal.
“We described how operators would implement SOC at the cable headend as an application and how movies could be protected and transmitted by cable operators to subscribers using existing digital connectors and content protection technologies,” the four reps explained. “We also described how cable operators can use their electronic program guides, on-demand menus, and other consumer communications to inform and guide customer purchases and to avoid customer confusion regarding whether early release movies are available to them.”
Ah, to have been a fly on that office wall to hear details about the “content protection technologies” that these cable industry reps have in mind. The ex parte filing, which NCTA sent us, did not report anyone discussing the worries expressed by groups like the Consumer Electronics Association and Public Knowledge that SOC could partially or completely hobble millions of home theater components.
Do you really want to be protected from doing things that you have seen your high-dollar home theater equipment provide? I don’t think so. After all, we know how much more fun being in control is, don’t we. Seeing things the way we want to is most of why we have home theaters. Also, it must be remembered, how much more difficult things are when one has experienced them, and they are removed. The power has been in the consumer’s hand, it won;t be removed with no fight.
Time Warner, and others, are not content to get by on the amounts of the average cable bill, and it really irks them when they see the original profit margins – they want some of that. The MPAA has been quoted as being fully in favor of limited usage – if they could get DVDs made that were play-once-only, they would be ecstatic!
There are groups, like Public Knowledge, that are trying to protect the freedoms we already have with our equipment, but their efforts are not enough. Time Warner has lots of money to put in those Congresspeoples’ pockets, and don’t think for one moment they are not greasing palms right now. The companies involved want their way, and are willing to pay lots of your money to get it.
The MPAA now admits that this could happen in some instances, but it suggests that these estimates are “vastly overinclusive” because they count “homes where consumers do have at least one television set with protected digital inputs (even though they also may have older sets in other rooms in the house). In fact, the vast majority of consumers would not have to purchase new devices to receive the new, high-value content” proposed by MPAA and big cable. Translation: only some of your home’s TV sets won’t work!
Public Knowledge met with the FCC a few days before the latest NCTA/Time Warner meeting, speaking to another small army of FCC Media Bureau reps and arguing that neither MPAA nor the cable folks have really explained why an SOC waiver is even necessary (beyond vague references to “security”). It would be swell if the Commission’s new boss, Julius Genachowski, would tell the public what he thinks about this question, and soon.
Know one thing, whatever the MPAA wants, it is diametrically opposed to what you are going to want – they want more of your money, and freedom, you, quite naturally, want to keep it.