Our friends at Ars Technica are reporting that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has declined to accept the MPAA's request to allow selectable output control flags in streaming content during his tenure.
This is an undeniable win for consumers, as potentially up to 20 million HDTVs could have suddenly stopped working for new on-demand movies had the FCC gone the other way. Some outlets, like the Mark Cuban/Steven Soderbergh collab 2929 Entertainment, and Comcast/IFC, are already using “day-date” release schedules that have simultaneous releases across theaters and on-demand.
Further, it poses little to no additional piracy threat to movie studios, since the proposed release timeline would have been months after those movies already became available on other publicly-accessible pirate outlets.
Selectable output control (SOC) is a technology that would restrict a consumer's ability to use particular output plugs on their devices for certain types of content. For example, a movie studio could stop you from using your composite jacks to view a legally purchased on-demand movie over cable.
After the MPAA filed a petition to use SOC, we responded with detailed comments and six other major public interest groups joined our concern. In his press conference, Chairman Martin acknowledged the analysis, indicating that he “…wasn't ready to move forward with [SOC] in light of some of the concerns that were raised by the public interest groups.” We'd like to thank Chairman Martin for his foresight and vision on this issue, and hope that the incoming chairman will also see the wisdom in either denying the petition, or allowing it to fade away.
Only time will tell whether the studios will repeat history and implement early-release on-demand over cable despite their protestations otherwise. (Not pointing fingers, but Viacom springs to mind.)