Public Knowledge: FCC Poised To Grant MPAA Waiver Request

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The Federal Communcations Commission Media Bureau is poised to grant the Motion Picture Association of America a waiver of the selectable output controls on set-top boxes, according to a collection of public-interest groups.

In June 2008, the Motion Pictures Association of America asked the FCC to waive its prohibition on selectable output controls to allow them to selectively block the copying of HD movies via cable set-top boxes. They say in order to move up the multichannel video HD window while still protecting the DVD window, they need to be able to prevent their being copied.

Faced with that prospect, the groups, which include Public Knowledge, Media Access Project and Consumer Federation of America, sent a letter to the FCC warning it not to respond to the "whims of industry" by granting a waiver that would result in substantial harm to consumers by blocking outputs to TiVos or sling boxes.

They argue that MPAA has not offered up "a shred of relevant data in the record to support its claim that the ability to turn off video outputs on common consumer electronics could be used to effectively combat piracy."

Representatives of the MPAA met with FCC staffers in late summer to urge them to grant the waiver, saying it would "enable millions of Americans to obtain access in their homes to high-value content that MPAA member studios intend to distribute."

One of MPAA's initial arguments was that the waiver could help speed the DTV transition by increasing the demand for HDTV, but the FCC has already missed that boat.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which backed the FCC ban on selectable output controls, also supports the waiver.

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