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Hollywood & The FCC: Plugging dams with Tissue

Protecting digital content flows to the home is easy enough but once it's delivered, there are numerous ways it can be copied. DVD-Rs, DVRs, PC TV tuners, etc. all open the door to having a DRM free copy.

A recent Wall Street Journal article is calling attention to Hollywood's efforts to block the broadcast of video to unsecured devices. "Selectable output control", as it is technically referred to, is currently prohibited for standard definition broadcasts. Hollywood has said that SOC for high definition will allow it to distribute movies to homes shortly after their theatrical release. The FCC is currently considering the proposal and has invited comments from the public.

Somehow I suspect this ideal won't get very far. For starters, it doesn't sit well with the consumer electronics industry. Piracy benefits the CE market (to put it bluntly) but even if it didn't, the last thing a manufacture wants is a group of studios telling it which technologies to deploy.

Then there's the DVD crowd. Wal-Mart accounts for a large portion of all DVD sales. If consumers could purchase an electronic copy of the movie at home before the DVD is available... well... it's just hard to see how that could be good for Wal-Mart's business. Somehow I don't think they'll be on board with this plan either.

Finally there are the theater owners. If you've never seen these guys discuss day-and-date release, you should. The discussion is well salted with statements like, "Over my dead body" and "When you pry it from my cold dead hand." Hollywood's plans for 'soon after theatrical' distribution could easily morph into day-and-date distribution. Probably going to get lukewarm support there.

Not that the theater owners are fans of piracy but let's admit it, this isn't really about that. The pirated copies of films floating around the Internet usually come from video cameras, ripped DVDs, or copies leaked from the studios themselves. "Selectable output control" isn't going to stop that any more than tissue can plug a dam. SOC is about control; controlling the way consumers use content in their home and controlling the market for CE devices. Control = Power = Money

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