Fight Over “Selectable Output Control” DRM Heats Up

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The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the advocacy group Public Knowledge sent tit-for-tat letters to the FCC yesterday over the issue of Selectable Output Control (SOC). The MPAA has petitioned for waiver on the FCC’s ban of SOC, which would allow analog outputs from consumer electronics devices to be disabled, and, by extension, would prevent people from watching certain content unless they had special digital inputs on their TV sets.

The MPAA says that enabling Selectable Output Control would help stem piracy and would allow studios to release movies on VOD sooner after they appear in theaters.

Public Knowledge doesn’t buy that argument and sees the issue as a matter of control over what kind of TV you can use. It sent a letter to FCC Genachowski asking the Commission to deny the MPAA the waiver. Public Knowledge wrote:

[O]ver the past year, the MPAA has failed to provide a reason as to why the limited interests of its six member movie studios should be allowed to outweigh the interests of those consumers that will be forced to replace over 20 million television sets and countless other devices in order to view content that their current equipment is capable of displaying.

In its response, the MPAA sent its own letter (PDF) to the FCC and wrote:

[G]rant of the waiver would for the first time allow millions of consumers to view high- value, high-definition theatrical films during an early release window that is not available today. MPAA has explained that release of this high-value content as part of an earlier window, especially with respect to movies released for home viewing close to or even during their initial theatrical run, necessarily requires the highest level of protection possible through use of SOC.

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