Hollywood and the MPAA thinks you are a criminal. In fact, they think all of the public are criminals. So much, in fact, they have re-petitioned the FCC to allow something that is called ‘selective output control.’ Selective output control would be embedded in some kind of digital format, delivered over HDMI and would allow Hollywood to turn off any signal path that they see fit. Presumably, to turn off the ‘analog hole’ which allows us, the dirty, filthy criminals that we are, to record programming on most of today’s home media gear (like many DVR’s, VCR’s, DVD recorders, etc.)
Hollywood wants this in order to provide first run movies over pay per view or some other mechanism while the films are still in the theaters or at the end of first run theatrical release.
There are many problems with what Hollywood wants, including making millions of televisions and other pieces of gear unable to play some or all future content. We all know that if Hollywood is given an inch, they will want a foot, then a yard, then a mile and so on. They WILL, at some point, turn this on for all content. Count on it. That will have the effect of rendering those aforementioned televisions (and other gear) unusable for pretty much anything other than playing your old VHS tape decks and Atari video games. They already have too much of this ability. The expensive HDTV ready television that I bought just a few years ago cannot display upscaled DVD’s. Most DVD players that do upscaling, including the Toshiba HD-DVD player I have (yeah, I bought one before they were killed.) When I play a DVD on this device, I am greeted with the message that upscaling has been disabled and I will only get the standard 480p signal. In fact, some of the HD-DVD’s play in standard def on this setup. Why? Because my set lacks an HDMI connection. The set was one of the last large screen sets that Toshiba made prior to HDMI coming out. If Hollywood gets its way, I have to stick with the gear I have if I still want to play the material I have.
Another area that Hollywood has far too much control, and, fortunately, has not been abused-yet-is the broadcast flag. HBO and NBC have both used it. NBC claims it was a mistake. HBO makes no bones about it. Since I am a Comcast subscriber and they have removed HBO from the analog cable, I cannot watch HBO on my Windows Media Center PC, so the broadcast flag is irrelevant for me, but I am sure there are those that it still affects.
So far, the FCC has turned down Hollywood’s request. However, the current administration may be more friendly to them. Or not. It is too early to tell, but the FCC has, recently, heard from the MPAA and Hollywood regarding this request. No indication, yet, as to how well Hollywood will be received.
Personally, I find this frustrating and insulting. I purchase about 90% of the material I have. The rest is recorded via the DVR, which means it gets deleted after a time. I could rip DVD’s that I rent, but, honestly, it is not worth the hassle. I will buy that movie or TV series if I want to keep it. And since Hollywood is so damned greedy, I am buying more and more USED DVD’s than I do the new ones. Better yet, I will scour the clearance bins or discount bins where the discs are two to five bucks. That means fewer and fewer dollars to them from me. Even better, however, is the fact that I’m just buying that much now. Why the hell should line their coffers when they consider me a criminal because my television is a few years old? The RIAA found out that ticking off the people who keep the companies they represent is not a good idea. Jamie Thomas aside, they’ve been largely ineffective and the record companies are now embracing digital distribution will few, if any, strings attached. It is time for Hollywood to pay attention. There are more and more alternatives to the Hollywood product. And, after having been ripped off by both the Star Trek movie and the latest Potter film (not that those two movies were bad, they weren’t, but the cost of going to see them was ridiculous) I don’t care much for returning to the theaters. Alternatives like internet video, indie films, podcasts, video games and such things can be just as entertaining as anything from Hollywood (and sometimes better.) Maybe if the quality of the stuff coming out of Hollywood was better, I might feel different. Might. It isn’t better and I don’t.