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FCC Seeks Comment on HD-Blocking Petition

12 Jun, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is seeking public comment on a Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) petition that could result in new, high-definition theatrical releases on TV before DVD and Blu-ray Disc street dates.

The petition asks the FCC to change current rules in order to allow the studios to block certain films from being recorded on DVRs. The move would also keep the films from being viewed on some HDTVs by blocking analog outputs to digital TVs and DVRs. HDTVs with HDMI connections wouldn't be affected.

The FCC rules, made in 2003, prohibit the use of “selectable output controls,” which embeds video with copy protection data that prevents it from being recorded by DVRs, or degrades the picture if it's viewed via an analog output. Copy protection used in digital media doesn't carry over when the video is converted for analog consumption.

The public has until June 25 to comment on the proposal.

“According the MPAA, the new service will benefit the public by expanding the timeliness and quality of consumers' in-home viewing choices while aiding the digital transition by providing more incentives to purchase new high-definition televisions,” the FCC wrote. “MPAA contends that allowing customers to view high-value, recently released films via unprotected outputs would create an unacceptably high risk of unlawful copying and redistribution.”

“While each studio would have its own independent business model developed through private negotiations with existing and potentially new partners, the purpose of this petition is to remove a general regulatory impediment that prevents implementation of content protection,” the MPAA petition reads. “In order to make this extremely high value content available for general in-home viewing at such an early release window, protections are necessary to ensure it is not exposed to unauthorized copying or redistribution. … Absent sufficient protections, the petitioners' theatrical movies are simply too valuable in this early distribution window to expose them to uninhibited copying or redistribution.”

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