5/31/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

Output Controls.”

It’s old, because it dates back eight years, as a side argument
to the “plug-and-play” negotiations between
cable and consumer electronics.

It’s new, because it resurfaced on May 7,
when the Federal Communications Commission
agreed to grant a waiver (as it had
said it would) for a new business model that
interrupted one of the early tenets of that
“plug-and-play” agreement. Translation: The
waiver gives movie studios the right to try
a new distribution window — sometime after theatrical release,
but before DVD.

What’s weird is its wording. For starters, as an acronym,
“SOC” more predominately means “system on a chip,” a very big
deal in the electronics universe. Plus, it’s just hard to get your
head around a noun (“output”) positioned as an adjective.

The easiest way to explain it is from the perspective of an
actual movie title. Say that’s you. You’re the movie. You’re a great
movie! Your creators spent a small fortune on you, partially in
the hope that you’d make a killing in theaters, then along the
predicable and long-established distribution window of airlines,
on-demand, DVDs and Redbox.

Thing is, you want a way into home theaters. Most are tricked
out well enough to showcase your beauty. There has to be a
chunk of time in which you could make a killing as a premiere,
less the gas to get to the theater, the babysitter
and the $10 box of Sno-Caps.

Problem is, you don’t want to be stolen on
the very night you meet the world.

Mostly, titles like you get stolen because settop
boxes still straddle the analog and digital
worlds. At issue are those unprotected analog
spigots, like component connectors, available
on those boxes connected to in-home HD
screens. They still produce a pretty good picture for the pirate
who is sitting there, catching (and copying) you over an unprotected

Your answer: Be gone with those leaky, porous analog spigots!
Put a tag in your metadata, which can be captured by the navigation
system/guide. Your “SOC” tag tells the box to turn off the
vulnerable analog spigots when somebody opts to play you in
your fancy new distribution window.

Great idea. Easier said than done. More on that another time.

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