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IFTA to FCC: Deny Studios’ HD-Movie Request

The Independent Film & Television Alliance asked the Federal Communications Commission to deny the request by the major Hollywood studios to prevent the copying of some HD movies.

The FCC has a prohibition on selectable output controls on set-top boxes, but the studios want to be able to selectively prohibit the copying of HD movies they want to deliver to homes via multichannel-video providers before they are released on DVD.

Not being able to protect those selected outputs, the Motion Picture Association of America argued, would create an "unacceptably high" risk of illegal copying and distribution, while being able to protect that content would help the digital-TV transition by creating a stronger market for HDTVs.

The IFTA saw it differently. In comments to the commission, the independent producers said allowing the major studios to "remotely shut off a particular output on a program-by-program basis" would harm program diversity by diminishing access to independent films (ones primarily not produced by the MPAA).

The IFTA argued that the MPAA did not define how the service would work, including how consumers would be protected against "overextended use" of the waiver. It also pointed out that the waiver is only for MPAA members and those multichannel-video providers that would do business with them, although it assumed that the FCC would likely grant similar requests.

The public benefits are ill-defined, narrow and outweighed by the potential impact on independent content, the IFTA argued, adding, "If there is some magical new service on the horizon, MPAA, MVPDs and other affected parties, including IFTA’s membership and equipment manufacturers, should work cooperatively to define exactly what sort of service is desirable, how such a service would be defined and whether the use of SOC is essential to the development of that service. Then an appropriate waiver request could, if needed, be framed and prosecuted. At this time, however, the petition tilts too heavily in favor of private interests rather than those of the public."

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.