Public Knowledge's "Selectable Output Control" video -- show this to your friends and get them to take action

The good folks at Public Knowledge have produced a fantastic video explaining the MPAA's "Selectable Output Control" proposal -- the idea that a TV show should be able to disable parts of your home theater (for example, if MTV is worried that your Dolby sound outputs might be used to record the audio portion of music videos, they could shut down those outputs and only allow you to hear sound via the speakers in your TV).

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to engage in “selective output control” (SOC). If the FCC agrees, the MPAA and the movie studios it represents (Paramount, Sony, Fox, Universal, Disney, and Warner Brothers) would be able to “turn off” any output plug they choose, like those on the back of consumer electronics devices of an entertainment system, during special video-on-demand movies on cable television. Public Knowledge opposes SOC and along with Consumer Federation of America, Digital Freedom Campaign, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Media Access Project, New America Foundation, and U.S. PIRG, has filed comments urging the FCC to deny the MPAA’s request.
Selectable Output Control (via Lawgeek)


  1. That people get paid $100k plus salaries to make stupid decisions like this simply astounds me.

  2. Excuse me for sounding a bit naive, (I’m a bit out of it tonight and politics is making my head hurt), but is this the kind of thing that would benefit from writing to our members of Congress and/or Senate and voicing our opposition? Can’t remember right now if Congress and Senate have jurisdiction over the FCC. Pretty sure one of them does. This is an absolutely absurd idea and to think that anyone outside of the MPAA and the studios would agree with it boggles my mind. Has there been any legislation written up on this or is it just a concept being floated around.

    If it does get approved and actually happens, I hope we see a whole slew of devices hitting the market that would strip those offending commands out of the signal.

  3. Maybe they can make it so an MPAA representative has to be with you in your home during a movie viewing. They could make me some popcorn, pour me a Coke, maybe give me a shoulder rub and tell me how awesome I am for watching “Die Hard” or whatever. That’s some legislation I could really get behind.

  4. Signal goes in to evil switch chip, signal comes out. My supply of wire and solder should get me thorough this crisis :-)

    Seriously though, it seems like the signal will have to be encrypted and the decryption done on this SOC chip, or it would be trivial to hack. So we’re back to the lovely game of “find the hidden key in the hardware”.

    It will get broken if they try it. Hopefully some 3rd party manufacturers will make “consumer friendly” devices and take a massive market share away from these jokers. Then they’ll probably have us arrested for importing illegal technology.

    Get out of my living room! I invited Princess Leia and Darth Vader here, not George Lucas.

    The worst part is all those media player computers we have been buying (mine’s a via mini-itx that runs diskless linux. yay!) will stop working. Well mine will stop working because I don’t suck the Redmond teat, MS will probably do whatever these manufacturers want.

    Leaving me entirely screwed :-(

  5. There will always be a way around these stoopid things. ALWAYS.

    I’d second Takuan; encourage the crippling of stuff we’ve already paid for and we’ll eventually just stop buying into it in the first stoopid place.

    I’ve been burned in the past and I ain’t goin’ back there.

  6. The issue seems to be that the output can be used to record a pay-for-view movie (as the example given), and then the copy will be uploaded into the Netverse. I can see why a distributor of media (such as movies or music) would like to have some control over the product. I do not think it is too difficult to try and solve a digital problem with digital means. Besides, it just gives creative people an opportunity to out-smart the software. This sort of back and forth between industry and consumer may be the kind of stimulus that is required for security innovations to evolve.

  7. @RJ:

    Maybe they can make it so an MPAA representative has to be with you in your home during a movie viewing. They could make me some popcorn, pour me a Coke, maybe give me a shoulder rub and tell me how awesome I am for watching “Die Hard” or whatever.

    if that scenario were real, i suspect the MPAA rep in your home would be more likely to sell you the popcorn and coke at three times the retail price, confiscate any potential recording devices before the viewing, give you a 30 minute emotional lecture on the evils of movie piracy and then slap you every time you tried to fast-forward through a preview or promotion on the DVD.

    on their way out the door they’d tell you about how you’re probably a crimial anyway and threaten to sue your infant daughter to teach her a lesson.

  8. damn… “criminal”

    what’s the word for noticing a typo a split second after hitting ‘post’?

  9. this is why the big media companies really don’t like Linux. It gives users too much power and also why Microsoft keeps trying to sew things up with the big media companies so that new format digital media ONLY plays on Microsoft’s “trusted” platforms with end-to-end encryption from the media all the way to the rasterizer in the HD screen… It’s what Microsoft was trying to do with Vista, create a platform that was the only game in town for the new sexy HD media…

  10. @igpajo,

    Generally, this issue is under the jurisdiction and discretion of the FCC. The rest of the story is that the FCC already BANNED MVPDs from attaching an SOC signal to their streamed content about 8 years ago.[1] They left an exception open for SOC for “new business models”.

    The MPAA is asking for a -waiver- of this ban under the pretense that early video-on-demand is a “new business model”.

    Although I’m sure it will be helpful to contact your representative or senator, it may be more direct to submit a Comment to the FCC at:

    The Proceeding number is 08-82.

    Trust me, someone at the FCC _does_ read every single submitted comment. In fact, lots of people in many different organizations read every comment. ;)

    [1] Note that SOC, along with the constrained image tag and the ability to revoke keys and outputs, is already in the tru2way spec. Which is why I hate it.

    (Disclaimer: I only speak for myself; I do not speak for my employer, any and all mistakes are my own doing and I take responsibility for them, etc. etc.)

  11. #10: MythTV already can’t record encrypted digital HD content without expensive, illegal, and unreliable hacked hardware.

  12. If one person, anywhere manages to extract the movie in full, encode it without SOC and upload it to the Internet, the whole purpose is defeated.

    I wonder why the MPAA doesn’t ask themselves the following question: Will people be more likely to watch a movie in a form that won’t work on their television and stereo or one that will?

    Honestly, I would happily pay for television, movies and music if they were offered to me at a reasonable price in a manner that was as convenient and usable as stealing from the Internet.

  13. People with just a TV and it’s native speakers won’t care. People who just spent $6000 on their TV/ 7.1 system definitely will. They can only lose customers this way. Ergo, they can only lose money this way. If I want to watch a movie that’s not the sight/ sound that I’d get with a DVD (can’t affor blu- ray yet) then I may as well download a handycam version the day after it hits theatres.

  14. posted by CraigGNoble:

    “There will always be a way around these stoopid things. ALWAYS.”

    That’s what I was thinking, too. There’s always a blessed hacker type that figures out a work-around. Love it!

  15. It’s such a simple fix: stop watching movies in *any* format. No big screen. No DVDs/Blu-ray. No downloads.

    Until people start turning their backs on entities such as the MPAA, this is how we can expect to be treated.

  16. Well… I can understand the MPAA (and even RIAA) view. Doesn’t mean I like it, but then, I’m not that fond of paying for groceries either.

    But I don’t see this as anything but a disaster in the making. Anyone who uses the ‘net to buy music (or video) knows about little things like driver problems. And downward compatibility. Turn off selected components? Hah! And how do we get them turned back on? I wouldn’t trust Apple or MSoft with this, never mind the lawyers of the entertainment industry – who have done so well with “So you bought it, doesn’t mean you can use it” crap before: most recently Yahoo music, which will soon not let you play the music you bought (but gaives you a [expensive] how-to to re-record [!!!] it before time runs out, which is how people have been doing it all along) rather than letting users download software to handle the DRM license software.

    And hey, how about time-shifting? If I want to record something, that does not automatically I am going to supply it to all comers via ‘net! And time-shifting was pretty settled (yes, we are allowed to do it) some time ago – search “BetaMax+Vallenti” again.

    Does anyone else remember the “V Chip”
    which as far as I know is still required? Do you know anyone who uses it? Know that we all pay/paid for it?

  17. @17: that’s a pretty good idea, but it’s just as practical as the MPAAs idea of full restriction.

    surely there must be some middle ground between these extremes…

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