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FCC Allows Blocking of Set-Top Box Outputs 288

Posted by timothy
from the big-mama-deciding-which-kid-to-favor dept.
bth writes with this excerpt of an AP story as carried by Yahoo: "Federal regulators are endorsing Hollywood's efforts to let cable and satellite TV companies turn off output connections on the back of set-top boxes to prevent illegal copying of movies. ... In its decision Friday, the agency stressed that its waiver includes several important conditions, including limits on how long studios can use the blocking technology. The FCC said the technology cannot be used on a particular movie once it is out on DVD or Blu-ray, or after 90 days from the time it is first used on that movie, whichever comes first."
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FCC Allows Blocking of Set-Top Box Outputs

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  • PREDICTIONS ARE IN (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deathcow (455995) * on Friday May 07, 2010 @07:19PM (#32134398)

    1) pirates unaffected
    2) legit consumers annoyed and prevented from seeing their movie

    • by bughunter (10093) <.ten.knilhtrae. .ta. .retnuhgub.> on Friday May 07, 2010 @07:35PM (#32134572) Journal

      3) legit customers resort to piracy
      4) MPAA cites increasing piracy to justify further usability-sacrificing restrictions
      GOTO 1)

      (really, you could flatten this loop anywhere, but the only realistic place to break out of it is at step 4)

      • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Friday May 07, 2010 @08:06PM (#32134876) Homepage

        MPAA considered harmful.

      • by suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) on Friday May 07, 2010 @08:46PM (#32135176)

        (really, you could flatten this loop anywhere, but the only realistic place to break out of it is at step 4)

        The problem is that the only one of those things most execs give a flying damn about addressing is (1). If along with their new DRM they added amazing new capabilities--say creating a mobile device with apps and sleek form factor that plays your protected content anywhere, to address (2), or giving an online store to easily purchase content to fix (3)--then that wouldn't be half bad. Unless of course Apple does that, in which case fuck all.

        But seriously. I have an iTouch with some limited content on it, and will be upgrading to its bigger cousin when I have the money to spare. It does kind of bother me that I can't take my iTunes-bought video and put it on various devices--along with other objections--but the iPhone OS model, which is culminated in the iPad, is really an object lesson for people who think that suing is the only way to stop piracy.

        Yes, iPhones get hacked, and yes, they only operate with iTunes, and yes, apps and music are still stolen a lot in spite of their efforts. However, the biggest advantage they have over the *AAs is that they give you compelling reason to use their products. And hey guess what! The consumers love them for it.

        And no Apple bashing, please. This isn't comparing Apple to Linux, Microsoft, or Google. It's comparing them to RIAA/MPAA. I think we can all agree they're better than THEM.

        • by Peach Rings (1782482) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:23PM (#32135486) Homepage

          Why is it any more OK for Apple to lock down a handheld media device than it is for the MPAA to lock down your set-top-box?

          • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:42PM (#32136036) Homepage Journal
            Slashdot commenters hold monopolists to a higher standard. Apple's handheld media device has plenty of viable competitors: Android, Windows Phone 7, and even MeeGo. Your set-top box does not; without the cable box provided by the cable company, you can't receive cable TV. (Video on demand and less-popular "switched" channels [wikipedia.org] don't work with a CableCARD.)
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by TheRaven64 (641858)

              Slashdot commenters hold monopolists to a higher standard

              Nope, the law holds companies that are in a position to abuse their market share to a higher standard. Slashdot readers, by and large, don't accept 'but we don't have a monopoly' as an excuse for being an asshat. Just because something is legal, doesn't mean it's admirable.

          • by ktappe (747125) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:24PM (#32136274)

            Why is it any more OK for Apple to lock down a handheld media device than it is for the MPAA to lock down your set-top-box?

            1) You do not have to buy an Apple; you can get other smartphones. But much of America has no choice but to get TV from their cable company. I cannot get FiOS where I live (been on waiting list for 4 years) and trees prevent me from having satellite. So I'm stuck with that set top box. You know, the box I shouldn't even have to have if Comcast were to use a STANDARD to encode their digital so that my Media Center could work without an IR blaster? That box right there.

            2) Apple is a vendor. Comcast is a vendor. The MPAA is not a vendor. You cannot choose to or not to purchase from them. They insidiously work behind the scenes on crap like this, whereas you know up front when buying an Apple that it's locked down. It's a minor but notable distinction from the point above.

          • by ZekoMal (1404259)
            Because Apple isn't tracking down individuals who got a copy of their friend's itunes purchases and then suing them for 3 million dollars >.>
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          You can't compare these things. [ ( Satan + Hitler + Cartman + Wicked Witch of the West ) ^ 10 year total execs bonuses ] are better than **AA . It's like comparing light years with yards.

          But, still, Apple is trying very hard, what makes them second place...

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MeNeXT (200840)

          When I buy a DVD or a CD I either pay for plastic or the convenience of enjoying the content when and how I please. In one case I will only spend pennies in the other a lot more. The iTunes solution is even less appealing than the plastic.

          Hollywood and musicians are selling convenient access to their content. Anything less reduces the value of their product. Once we understand the dynamics we can build the business model. Unlike the past there are billions of opportunities to make a profitable sale its only

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Phoobarnvaz (1030274)
          What people are forgetting about this is...we're in the middle of the deepest recession/depression in 70 years. My roommate has all ready dropped the cable...since all the bill seems to keep doing is heading up every time a cable/satellite exec farts or needs a new boy/girlfriend. As soon as my DTV contract is up at the end of the year...that's bye-bye as well. With more & more people doing the same thing...where are all these customers going to come from for the cable companies/MPAA to keep screwing ov
      • by skine (1524819)

        Actually, I tried to watch Kitchen Nightmares tonight OTA. The last 15 or so minutes were so garbled that I have no idea what happened

        Edit (not a real edit, just a "I hadn't quite posted yet" edit): I'm much happier now that I've watched the fireworks display for the BMets game.

        Back to the point: If I'm close enough to the city center to see fireworks from every window in my apartment (I live on Oak St, Binghamton - as for privacy, if you really want to go door to door and ask about skine on Slashdot, then

      • So in mathematical terms, this is a function with a limit of infinite downloads and the MPAA stopping to offer anything that anyone could decode at all. ^^

        I approve. Please continue. ;)

      • Just wait till find out what side the FCC takes on net neutrality should they get their way.

        Muahahahahha!!! [youtube.com]

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday May 07, 2010 @08:07PM (#32134880)

      1) pirates unaffected

      Its better than that. Pirates should be celebrating.
      What this means is that the MAFIAA thinks they can do day & date releases on Pay-Per-View and in the theaters.

      However, there will always be at least a handful of people with the means to capture such PPV transmissions and distribute copies on the net. So it means no more need for crappy camcorders in the theaters and the consequent risk of the recently legislated crazy-ass sentences for getting caught doing so. Now, the pirates can comfortably record new theatrical releases in the safety of their own homes and their hundreds of millions of friends on the net can all download new theatrical releases in HD-quality long before the movies are released on bluray.

      • by natehoy (1608657)

        bluray

        Am I the only one who sees that word as "blurry" unless it is capitalized "BluRay"?

        • by Nemyst (1383049)

          bluray

          Am I the only one who sees that word as "blurry" unless it is capitalized "BluRay"?

          Maybe you're seeing a bit blurry?

        • Am I the only one who sees that word as "blurry" unless it is capitalized "BluRay"?

          You're not the only one, once movie studios start using the Image Constraint Token [audioholics.com] on Blu-ray Discs next year. A player has to downsample outputs without HDCP (e.g. component and early DVI) to SDTV resolution if the disc has an Image Constraint Token. When your TV tries to upsample it back to fill the 1080p panel, your Blu-ray will become a bit more Blu-rry.

      • And even if they find no other method to capture the video, a decent cam with a tripod and a high quality LCD or projector is still better than a handheld cam in a theater

    • by AmigaMMC (1103025)
      Great! Just like the stupid Region Protection of DVD and BD. What about all the honest people like myself who buy original movies in other countries because they can speak the language?
      • by tsm_sf (545316)
        For disks just buy a region free player. They're like fifty bucks on Amazon. All the effort of encoding disks and getting manufacturers to play along goes down the drain with one mouse click.
      • by pnewhook (788591)
        If you have a region 1 player, it will play anything, wont it?
  • Best DRM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheMeuge (645043) on Friday May 07, 2010 @07:19PM (#32134402)

    Federal regulators are endorsing Hollywood's efforts to let cable and satellite TV companies turn off output connections on the back of set-top boxes to prevent illegal copying of movies

    Good. Turning off ALL the outputs will certainly prevent those movies from being copied. I've always thought that such an approach will be the ultimately successful DRM the companies are looking for.

    • by bughunter (10093)

      And with all those outputs turned off, people are just going to abandon Cable and Satellite TV altogether. Upon finding it harder to watch what they want, the cable companies' customers (imminent ex-customers most likely) will just download their content... legal or bootlegged. Most consumers don't really care - they'll follow the path of least resistance and rationalize their behavior.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:18PM (#32135432)

      Just all the analogue ones. The media industry is convinced that HDMI with HDCP is completely uncrackable and thus what they need to go with. Output over HDMI only, and then nobody can capture your signal.

      Of course there's plenty of ways around that, HDCP is not particularly good encryption and has been broken in numerous ways. However they are convinced if they can just get everyone on it, things will be great.

      However that screws over anyone with an older display. If you have a display that was made before HDCP came in to play (or before they had digital inputs), you are SOL.

      So what will happen is pirates will simply get around it and distribute the content, legit consumers will get screwed. Same as always.

  • by pspahn (1175617) on Friday May 07, 2010 @07:20PM (#32134412)

    Pay for something else!

    Could it be that Federal Regulators might actually want you to stop subscribing to crappy services?

    Adam Smith would be so proud.

    • Could it be that Federal Regulators might actually want you to stop subscribing to crappy services?

      Puhleez! They can't even decide on a secret handshake let alone anything that would be in the consumer's best interests. All Federal regulators want is to remain Federal regulators (until they get a better paying job in the private sector where they can lobby their replacements).

  • by bughunter (10093) <.ten.knilhtrae. .ta. .retnuhgub.> on Friday May 07, 2010 @07:24PM (#32134450) Journal

    Tactics like this are exactly why I prefer systems like MythTV [mythtv.org] for windows and EyeTV [elgato.com] for Mac. Heck, I can much more easily expand my storage space [promise.com] and install commercial skipping scripts [google.com] with those, so I'll just roll my own PVR.

    For sources, you can get clear QAM service on most cable systems, including broadcast digital HDTV. And there's things like Boxee, Hulu, Miro and of course, bittorrent.

    • It really sucks that you can't use it with cable or satellite HDTV though.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Don't know why not. There are HDMI capture devices out there, and it takes all of a few minutes to build an IR blaster and attach it to a serial port or whatever.

      • by Sloppy (14984)

        It really sucks that you can't use it with cable or satellite HDTV though.

        Sucks for MythTV users? Are you kidding?

        If the cable company doesn't let customers watch the TV shows, then the customers need to download the shows via bittorrent. Once the customers download all their TV, then .. um .. what service does the cable company provide? Oh, right: nothing. Result: save money!

        Sucks that they are actively trying to save me money by telling customers

        I know you have been sending us money month after month

        • Ummm, who exactly do you think will be funding millions of dollar TV shows if everyone is torrenting stuff for their MythTV box, just out of curiosity?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TheRaven64 (641858)
            No one. Then these companies can go out of business and ones that think selling a product that people want to buy in a format that they're willing to pay for is a good idea. Or maybe the shareholders will vote the current board out and replace them with a more competent one that has the same idea.
    • by pnewhook (788591)

      I'll just roll my own PVR

      I have yet to see a home built PVR with the capabilities of the PVR that comes from the cable company. Until it does, home rolled PVRs are just an interesting project, but not a viable alternative (for me anyway).

      • by znerk (1162519)

        I have yet to see a home built PVR with the capabilities of the PVR that comes from the cable company. Until it does, home rolled PVRs are just an interesting project, but not a viable alternative (for me anyway).

        What capabilities are you not seeing in the DIY version? I haven't seen any DIY PVR systems that didn't have every feature under the sun (unless they were "lemme see what I can do with this old 486" versions). Seems to me that rather than whining about "missing features", it might do some good to specify which features you feel are missing - perhaps someone will suggest solution that escaped your notice, or perhaps a bored coder will be inspired to implement it.

        Admittedly, I have yet to actually use a PVR/D

  • Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gillbates (106458) on Friday May 07, 2010 @07:32PM (#32134544) Homepage Journal

    Um, how exactly does this those folks downloading content off the net?

    Oh, wait. It doesn't. Instead, it gives me one less reason to use an STB, and one more reason to ditch cable.

    With every passing year I consume less and less commercial content. Hollywood's most effective DRM to date has been their adversarial attitude toward their customers; they can't seem to figure out that I'm not going to pay for what I can't enjoy. Funny, that.

  • Seriously? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Voyager529 (1363959) <{voyager529} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Friday May 07, 2010 @07:33PM (#32134552)

    I mean not for nothing, but I don't think I've ever seen a movie being distributed on the internet that's been ripped from a cable box. There isn't even a Scene spec for it. By time movies hit Pay-Per-View, there's almost always a version of the film circulating the internet. Maybe somewhere, somehow, there's an exception, but the only piracy I could possibly see this deterring is Joe Sixpack using a set-top DVD recorder to lend to Frank Furter. Stopping piracy is one thing, but I'm wondering how much further this string of ridiculousness can go. Actually, that's probably a bad thing to wonder...

    • It isn't about preventing copies of movies. It's about controlling the use of external DVRs and any means to avoid watching ads. The cable/satellite service wants to be certain they can force you to watch ads tacked on around premium services and thrown up in the OSD when you do any operations like skipping around. They killed CableCard with their foot dragging and now they're going after the last hole in their fortress of pablum.

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:15PM (#32135876)

      I mean not for nothing, but I don't think I've ever seen a movie being distributed on the internet that's been ripped from a cable box. There isn't even a Scene spec for it.

      Scene is far from be all and end all of video piracy, especially when it comes to quality - scene is really only for stupid little kids who are more interested in their silly little rules and their rush to see who can 'release' something first - scene doesn't give a damn about quality, its all quantity and ego. There are plenty of people sharing movies outside of 'the scene' and all their drama.

      Years before bluray, hddvd, or even x264 and mkv people were distributing full-bitrate HDTV caps as mpeg2 transport streams (.ts files). There were two main sources - over the air broadcasts and caps from channels like HBO and Showtime, occasionally people would share caps from 'wildfeeds' - 45mbps satellite backhauls. Ironically, as it is today, almost all PPV transmissions are unencrypted. They might have the 'no copy' bit set, but on the wire between the head-end and the cable box, they are in the clear. So if you tune to the right QAM channel you can record most PPV shows, even the ones your neighbors are watching (just hope they don't pause or rewind because you'll record that too). There are even some scripts floating around out there to periodically scan the block of channels used for PPV and record anything that shows up. Kind of the DVR version of google's "I'm feeling lucky."

  • Is this for real or did I misunderstand what this is about?

    These set-top boxes will be loaded with image identification software, given targets (but nothing that is on DVD already and some other phony limitations) and the scan the output continuously for a matches. If they find one they will scream "Hah, Pirate!" and cut the output. Oh brother!

    And when they find something, they most certainly won't send that data back over the wire, right?!

  • by Captain Spam (66120) on Friday May 07, 2010 @07:37PM (#32134602) Homepage

    The FCC said the technology cannot be used on a particular movie once it is out on DVD or Blu-Ray, or after 90 days from the time it is first used on that movie, whichever comes first.

    Wait, wait. What?

    So let me get this straight... once the movie is released on DVD or Blu-Ray, the technology is not allowed to be used on it? As in, this only (theoretically) affects... what, just the movies that hit PPV a week or so before they hit DVD/Blu-Ray? That's it?

    I mean, that's weak not just from a technological standpoint. That's weak the whole way around. Do people actually pirate movies off of PPV to any extent to make this even worthwhile? Do people actually USE PPV that much? I thought it was all DVD/Blu-Ray copies or leaked theatre reels or whatnot.

    Wow. That just seems... sad.

    • I've had access to cable tv almost all my life and I don't ever remember my parents buying PPV (nor have I ever purchased PPV).

  • FCC, FDA, etc (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OrwellianLurker (1739950) on Friday May 07, 2010 @07:40PM (#32134638)
    The Federal government isn't on our side. Anyone with a clue has already realized this.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by quickgold192 (1014925)

      The Federal government isn't on our side. Anyone with a clue has already realized this.

      Funny. Isn't that like some kind of cue for a people to "alter or abolish it?"

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The Federal government isn't on our side. Anyone with a clue has already realized this.

        Funny. Isn't that like some kind of cue for a people to "alter or abolish it?"

        And promptly be labeled as terrorists and hated by all other Americans. And soon enough, get your citizenship stripped.

  • 1: Rip the content by all means necessary and have it out on the BT sites within hours of release.

    2: Go to the FCC and point out how this did nothing to prevent piracy, while annoying everyone in the process.

    3: SoC dies the death it should have died long ago.

    4: Profit!

    And if this doesn't work, vote for the other party next election.
  • TV? (Score:2, Funny)

    by sohp (22984)

    People still watch this "Television" thing?

  • I have Verizon FIOS Cable and Verzion disables all output ports all the time. They also disable all of the inputs, even the anynet port because they hate people with HTCs. Won't everybody just do this now? In fact I've never had a cable company that enabled any of the ports on their boxes (although I've only had Cox and Comcast), so maybe this is just more common in other parts of the country. It's always kinda sad to see a USB or IEE1394 port, try it out, and discover that it's not even electrically ac
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Friday May 07, 2010 @08:29PM (#32135046)

    My 6 year old DLP set is hardly old technology, yet it does not have HDMI inputs. It only has unencrypted DVI inputs and analog inputs.

    If all the unencrypted outputs are disabled, how do I connect my HDTV to the set top box?

    I refuse to throw away a $4000 television because big-content has a piracy problem. I have an antenna on my roof, and it does a damn good job of getting me 40 digital channels for free. Cable companies should be very careful where they tread. The internet and an antenna satisfy almost all of my TV needs.

    -ted

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Pentium100 (1240090)

      Use this: http://www.hdfury.com/ [hdfury.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MBCook (132727)

      That's why the FCC made this decision the way it did. Actually, it seems like a really fair decision to me.

      They did not say Hollywood could cut the analog (or unencrypted digital) signal any time they wanted. DVDs will be the same, and your Comcrud DVR can't disable it's non-HDMI output when HBO plays Spiderman 2 or some other previously released movie.

      This is only for movies that aren't available otherwise in the home, and only for a limited time. As Ars Technica said, this was designed explicitly so tha

    • by natehoy (1608657)

      You don't. That's why this is good. So far, people are getting the message they've been fed. "Pirates are evil, you need to accept bullshit to fight them." Now the average person will understand that the pirates are not affected by this, but that their multi-thousand-dollar HDTV rigs will now be useless once Hollywood is done getting all these controls passed.

      Then, maybe, people will accept that this is just entertainment, and stop supporting this shit as if it was something important and worth our atte

      • by Torodung (31985)

        Hey, whoa, what do you mean "this is just entertainment?" Next you'll be telling me that dessert is merely the last course.

        --
        Toro

  • by zymurgy_cat (627260) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:05PM (#32135330) Homepage
    I'm surprised the MPAA hasn't asked for the ability to disable your friends' cars so they can't drive over to watch the movie at your house. That way, they'd have to pay to watch it at their houses. Obviously, for those without cars, they'd need a waiver to cap their knees so they can't walk, bike, or rollerskate over to your house. A waiver to jam sticks in wheelchair spokes should also be granted.
  • In related news... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tlambert (566799) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:08PM (#32135370)

    The FCC said the technology cannot be used on a particular movie once it is out on DVD or Blu-Ray, or after 90 days from the time it is first used on that movie, whichever comes first.

    In related news... the Copyright Act of 1790 granted copyright for a term of "fourteen years from the time of recording the title thereof", with a right of renewal for another fourteen years if the author survived to the end of the first term.

    I'm sure they won't enable the technology to do this, and then change the terms out from under us once the technological means are present.

    -- Terry

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:23PM (#32135484) Homepage

    No. To prevent legal copying of movies. See Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc.

  • Speaking of the MPAA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@ovi. c o m> on Friday May 07, 2010 @09:29PM (#32135532) Homepage

    Does anyone have the GPS addy of of Jack Valenti's final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery? Next time I am in Washington DC, I would go out of my way to stop there and piss on his grave. Actually, this could be a new Slashdot "thing".

  • FCC? Aren't these the people that many slashdotters want to enforce Net Neutrality? So, how do you think that would work out in light of this latest ruling?
  • Get an older STB, such as one of the first generation HDTV compatable ones that has only component and RGB out and no DVI or firewire. They do not have the same kind of controlability or copy protection on them. If you find one on eBay your cable company is obligated to activate it (as long as it's the same system - there are two major ones, Scientific Atlanta and Motorola).

    Those boxes can be authorized for a channel or not authorized, but what they cannot do is turn off ports or force downresolutio
  • Paradigm Shift (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mike610544 (578872) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:21PM (#32136256)
    I think we're going to have to go back to the patronage model.
    I would donate $10,000 for a new season of Firefly.

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