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Groups Push Back on MPAA Copy Protection Plan

The Motion Picture Association of America has run into a fight over its plan to deliver early releases of movies over cable.

An army of seven groups—Public Knowledge, Free Press, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, New America Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Media Access Project, Consumer Federation of America and Digital Freedom Campaign—said the studio’s hoped-for service would step on consumer expectations that all legacy equipment will continue to function as it has with all previous cable programming.

The studios are seeking a waiver of the ban on cable devices with so-called selectable output controls for what it calls a new business model—the early release of movies over cable.

“If MPAA uses this waiver to minimum effect, millions of viewers will be forced to purchase costly new equipment to view content that their current equipment is quite capable of playing,” the groups wrote to the FCC. “And while MPAA touts this forced upgrade as an advantage, in reality it is both a violation of consumer expectations and an imposition of a large, unnecessary cost on users.”

What’s more, the groups say, merely shifting the release date of movies hardly counts as a “new business model” worthy of a waiver to the SOC ban.

The Consumer Electronics Association and its Home Recording Rights Coalition said the waiver would give the studios too much control over home devices and thwart development of devices that record programming.

Sony, which has interests in content production as well as consumer electronics, envisioned a middle ground. “Sony Electronics now believes that under certain, very narrow circumstances, SOC could bring benefits to consumers that on balance would outweigh any potential drawbacks,” the company said. “Specifically, the commission should permit SOC (and should only permit SOC) for content delivered under the wholly new business model that the MPAA proposes in the petition.”

DirecTV wrote the FCC in support of the waiver, saying it wants in on the business model. TiVo also saw an opportunity for new services and called for a temporary, “properly crafted” waiver, based on further details about the business plan MPAA has touted.