The movie industry wants to create a new category of cable-TV and satellite-TV and broadcast-TV content that would lock out DVR recording in the U.S. It's a bad idea. (See MPAA wants to stop DVRs from recording some movies on the Ars Technica site.)
It's bad for the consumer, and it's bad for the manufacturers and designers of consumer video equipment. It would lead to confusion, and ultimately, fewer sales of home video recording equipment as it becomes less functional.
The "Selectable Output Control" (SOC) that the MPAA wants the FCC to activate would prevent Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) from recording recently released films. Of course, that's just what they're saying they want to use it for now. In the future, who knows how much additional content will become off-limits to home recording.
In essence, this is an attempt to overturn the landmark U.S. Supreme Court "Betamax Decision" back in the 1984, which asserted the consumer's "right" (in quotes here because it appears to be up for grabs) to record video material that can be received on a TV set at home, for playback in the home.
Sony is arguably in the most conflicted situation here. As a consumer electronics giant, Sony has long been a dominant force behind the faux grass roots-named "Home Recording Rights Coalition", whose information desk has been a staple of the Consumer Electronics Show for decades. It was Sony, after all, who fought Hollywood in that landmark Supreme Court ruling -- in fact, Sony's legal troubles back in the 70s may have ultimately contributed to the eventual dominance of the competing VHS format.
Flash forward to 2008 and now Sony also owns one of the big Hollywood movie studios -- the very force that's behind this effort to clamp down on home recording. (The FCC petition was signed by Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Disney, and Warner Brothers.)
Much has changed in the intervening years too though, including the widespread consumer acceptance of an outrageously restrictive DRM system for music in the popular iTunes platform and iPod hardware (to its credit, the European Community is currently fighting that battle almost single-handedly, but that's another story.) It will be interesting to see which side of this new DRM battle Sony ultimately comes down on.
(Note: The FCC is accepting comments until July 7th on this issue. If you'd like to add your thoughts -- or your company's position on this critical issue for consumer electronics -- click here. The docket number for field #1 "proceeding" is 08-82.)