In an unprecedented but unsurprising move yesterday, the FCC has granted the copyright industry the authority to tamper with the output of your television set. It matters little what anybody says about so-called “consumer demand” (why do they always say these things are our idea, huh?) or protecting against piracy, the bottom line of the decision is loss of control in your own living room.
The film industry can block outputs on home television equipment so studios can offer first-run movies while preventing viewers from making illicit copies, U.S. regulators said.
The copyright industry applied for this a couple of years ago, citing losses in DVD sales to rental kiosks, the Internet, and mail order. They wanted a way to beam the movies directly to us without any middleman taking a cut. The industry, of course, says this is due to consumer demand.
I don’t doubt that video-on-demand (VOD) is the way to go, but there was nothing stopping the industry from doing this already. They’ve now created a theatrical paradigm, which, of course, means unwanted messages (a.k.a. “marketing”) will eventually be tossed in with it. Nobody knows how to exploit a captive audience like the copyright industry.
Oh, and wait until the networks (and cable nets, too) decide they want a piece of this exemption.
As always, Dan Gillmor is on top of the issue and offers a wonderful comparison to the old “Outer Limits” television series. Dan is such an advocate for us against all this, and his analogy is spot on. I fully expect the law of unintended consequences will rear its ugly head, and the FCC will one day have to eat crow.