30 Million TVs Broken for . . . Nothing


There is a time and a place to say “I told you so,” and as luck would have it that time is now and that place is here. 

Loyal PK Policy Blog readers may recall the Selectable Output Control debate that raged last fall and winter.  Basically, the MPAA wanted the FCC to give it permission to turn off all HD analog outputs used to deliver movies to TVs.  We raised a number of objections to this scheme.  In addition to the fact that it would undermine the expectations of the owners of 30 million fully functional HDTVs, we pointed out that forcing content onto digital outputs would not actually protect it from unauthorized copying.

Much to our dismay, the FCC decided that the extra layer of DRM was worth breaking TVs and stifling innovation.  Today, it looks like HDCP – the DRM that the MPAA insisted was required to allow them to securely distribute movies prior to DVD release – has been broken.  As a result, anyone who is motivated can make an exact digital copy of a “protected” high definition movie.  Since all it takes is one motivated individual to make that first copy, this DRM (like every type of DRM before it) now serves absolutely no purpose but to inconvenience legitimate customers.

In May, I wrote that “Studios are asking the public to trade the use of any analog inputs on their devices for more magic beans.”  The FCC accepted that trade.  At the time, it looked like those magic beans at least pretended to have some powers to slow down copying.  Today they have been revealed for what they really are – worthless.

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