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MPAA Exec Touts Proposed FCC Rule Change

19 Jun, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

It's all about choice, said tranFORMATions keynote speaker Dean C. Garfield, EVP and chief strategy officer of the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) strategic policy and planning division.

The industry has to bow to consumers' demands that they get their content where they want it, when they want it, he said.

“They want multiple choices across multiple platforms,” Garfield said at the conference June 16. “Movies on the silver screen, their TV screen, their PDA … we've been working hard to meet consumer demand.”

Part of that move is changing windows to offer consumers movies in the home on-demand shortly after they're in theaters, but before they make it to DVD.

The MPAA has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to change its rules that prevent studios from blocking certain films from being recorded on DVRs. The petition, if approved, also would prevent some films from being viewed on HDTVs that use analog outputs — the so-called analog hole.

The effort would allow the studios to offer on-demand, high-definition theatrical releases shortly after they appeared in theaters, while preventing people from recording them.

“There is no downside for consumers,” Garfield said. “They will lose nothing they don't already have.”

The Consumer Electronics Association has come out against the proposal, saying it gives the MPAA too much control over who gets to watch what.

The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) said it was still examining the petition, and did not wish to comment about it yet. NATO did however file a request with the FCC June 16 to extend the public comment period, which is already underway and ends June 25.

The FCC rules that the MPAA wishes to change were introduced in 2003 and 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.

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