Press Release

Public Knowledge Tells FCC Movie Industry Plan for Set-Top Boxes Will Hurt Consumers

October 15, 2009 ,

A proposal by the motion picture industry to use “selectable output control” to hobble the functions of set top boxes won’t stop movie theft but will harm consumers, Public Knowledge told the Federal Communications Commission

In an Oct. 14 letter to William Lake, the chief of the Commission’s Media Bureau, Public Knowledge responded to arguments filed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that such control was needed to bring movies to the public faster than they otherwise might.

Public Knowledge responded that movie companies can bring out their product to consumers at any time and without a waiver of FCC rules. PK told the Bureau: “The MPAA has submitted no proof that grant of the waiver will serve the public interest at all. To the contrary, what proof exists in the record shows that the ‘problem’ of a longer window for release of movies to MVPDs than for release on DVDs is a business decision made by MPAA’s members. Rather than shed crocodile tears for the poor shut ins and busy parents who must either subscribe to NETFLIX to get the earlier window or wait a whole thirty days, MPAA’s members could simply negotiate a shorter release window.”

Public Knowledge added that the industry claim that the waiver is needed to prevent theft was contradicted by an industry witness at a recent FCC workshop in which illegal copies of films are posted illegally on or before the day when movies open in theatres.

In addition, Public Knowledge said that the only data in the proceeding record, submitted by the Consumer Electronics Association, shows that millions of consumers wouldn’t have access to new movie releases because 25 million consumers would need to purchase new equipment.

PK said in its filing: “MPAA has requested extraordinary relief from an existing Commission rule, justifying this request on the grounds that it will encourage MPAA members to release content to MVPDs sooner and thus make this content available to MVPD subscribers a whole 30 days earlier. The fact that at least 11 million of these subscribers would not realize any benefit even if the Commission granted the waiver unless they purchased new equipment substantially undermines the MPAA’s already tenuous claim that the benefit to the public at large (rather than the benefit to MPAA’s members) justifies grant of the waiver.”

A copy of the Public Knowledge letter is here.

Some general background on selectable output control is here.