The long and short of this story is that the assh*les at the FCC gave the go-ahead to the assh*les at the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) to get all up in your cable box’s guts. They’ll be able to disable the outputs to keep you from pirating movies, and this in turn would allow them to stream new movies, which will in turn bring about THE BIBLICAL ALPACA LIPS! (*puts on tin foil hat*)
Temporarily disabling the outputs will “enable a new business model” that wouldn’t develop in the absence of such anti-piracy protection, the Federal Communications Commission said today in an order.
Home viewing of recently released movies over cable and satellite systems would provide revenue for studios such as Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures and Sony Corp.’s film division, which have seen DVD sales drop as more people get films through Internet, mail-order and kiosk rental services. The advocacy group Public Knowledge is among opponents who say the plan interferes with viewer choice.
The FCC order “‘will allow the big firms for the first time to take control of a consumer’s TV set or set-top box, blocking viewing of a TV program or motion picture,” Gigi Sohn, president of Washington-based Public Knowledge, said in a statement.
“This action is an important victory for consumers who will now have far greater access to see recent high-definition movies in their homes,” Bob Pisano, president and interim chief executive officer of the MPAA, said today in a statement. “It is a major step forward in the development of new business models by the motion picture industry to respond to growing [that is to say "imaginary"] consumer demand.” [BusinessWeek - another account from THR]
Okay, so let me break this down for you (*DJ fires up a funky beat*).
IS IT BAD? SHOULD WE FREAK OUT?
In and of itself, I see nothing wrong with them making it harder to upload pirated movies to torrent sites. That said…
…it’s hard to like the idea of this cabal of corrupt A-holes who, much like the FCC, are given the authority of a government agency that’s supposed to serve the people, yet represent the interests of the big studios, being allowed to remotely control your cable box. I like nudity and violence and things offensive to “families.” Who’s representing my interests? Why do my people always have to take a back seat to yours? I’m tired of hearing about your stupid kids. I don’t even believe in the concept of “dirty” words. Who gets to decide that? Certainly not me. Yet still I have to type things like “f*ck” and “sh*t”, because people design software in order to police what naughty words grown adults are allowed to look at. God forbid they read a coarse word, society would probably break down.
But if the measure is only doing what it says it is, fine. Pirating movies is illegal, and there’s nothing wrong with enforcing an existing law. My reasons for being wary are that, for instance, when I try to order UFC pay-per-views on cable, half the time the cable box screws it up somehow and it doesn’t record or play. Then I call Time Warner to get my money back, and someone will invariably tell me that I’m not allowed to record a live pay-per-view event, even though the option on the remote clearly says “BUY AND RECORD.” I’ll spend the next 25 minutes on the phone with five different people before someone realizes that, yes, you actually ARE allowed to buy and record UFC pay per views, and that’s when a separate negotiation to get my money back for something I paid for that wasn’t delivered begins. If I ordered a steak at a restaurant and they brought me a shoe instead, I wouldn’t need to talk to six waiters in order to have to not pay for it. My point is, in creating another entity with access to your cable box, this ruling can only create more issues like this. Is that the fault of the new measure itself? No. The problem is that cable companies are for some reason granted legal monopolies, which allows them to be understaffed with idiots who don’t really know their jobs, and generally treat customers like sh*t. Have you ever met someone who didn’t frequently wish bodily harm on their cable company? Not unless you’ve been to the underground unicorn cave inside chupacabra mountain. They have perfect service, 24-7.
WHY ARE THEY DOING IT?
When the studios make a movie, they have to give a cut of it to the theater owners or Netflix or Blockbuster or whoever gets that movie to you the viewer. If the studios could just make the movie and sell it directly to you, they’d cut out the middle man. Would that mean you the consumer would pay less for the product? Haha, what are you, an idiot? Of course not. It might mean you’d get to see more first-run movies at home, but theater owners still have the collective power to fight back against unpopular moves by the studios, so there will always be that give and take.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MOVIES?
Every few months, someone predicts the demise of the movie theater, and why would people go out when they could watch the movie at home, and blah blah blah. Look, it’s not going to happen. First of all, I still believe in the value of movies as a communal experience. The energy of the crowd colors your experience of the material and all that. But secondly, more importantly, and on a less artsy-fartsy, airy-fairy, zibbety-zoobedy note, this ignores a central fact about going to the theater. More than half the people in any given movie theater aren’t seeing a movie necessarily because they love movies; it’s an excuse to get out of the house. It’s where teenagers who don’t have basements or pool houses go to get away from their parents, and where guys take girls on dates when they need to make their courtship to be a little less obvious than “Hey, how ’bout you come over to my house so we can f*ck.” None of that is going to change. Half the point of a movie is to do the same sh*t you already do at home most of the time, while being able to feel like it’s some kind of event.
SO IS THIS BAD? SHOULD I BURN MY IPOD AS A SACRIFICE TO THE NORSE GOD OF PASSIVE STIMULATION?
It’s kind of bad. But not really that bad. Keep your iPod, but use it to play the sacred hymns of Gorlok while you poop in the front yard and helicopter your wiener. I do it twice a week, and almost nothing bad has ever happened to me.