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Analog Hole Plugged to Reduce Piracy?

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"The first, and best way to view movies will always be in movie theaters — and nothing can replace the pleasure this brings to millions and millions of people all across our country and the globe," Pisano said. "But for those people unable to make it to the theater and interested in viewing a recently released movie, thanks to the FCC, they will now have a new option. For other consumers who prefer standard, linear, on-demand or DVD or Blu-ray options, these services will be unchanged."Forget all the technical mumbo-jumbo and concentrate on the following: The MPAA asked the FCC to allow them to disable the analog outputs on your set-top box during the playback of certain types of HD video content, like movies. These are the Yellow, Red and White RCA jacks on the back of your set-top box. They are commonly called the "analog" outputs. They are technically known as the composite video output (yellow) and the line level stereo audio outputs (red and white).

Why? The stated reason is that, using the analog outputs (AKA the analog hole) you may want to make a standard definition (SD) recording of an HD movie, convert or transcode the recorded video into to a suitable file format for sharing, and then, illegally share or pirate this SD version of the HD movie. Or, you might just keep it for your use and not pay for it again when it comes out on DVD or becomes available in other form factors.

Wow! This is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Here's the reality. No self-respecting pirate or file sharer is going to bother making an SD recording of an HD movie, they are going to spend 10 seconds online and grab the HD file from someone who has actually pirated the HD version. Honesty, this is taking more time to explain then it takes to do.

What will this particular act of stupidity actually accomplish? Well, everyone who is using their analog outputs for audio will have to deal with the fact that they can't hear certain HD movies unless they rewire their systems (assuming that's possible) or, they buy new gear. Nice.

HDMI Cable

Worse yet, a huge number of people with older systems are going to find they can't access the content at all. Not everyone ponied up for an HDMI cable, especially with systems that really would not benefit from installing a $100 cable that in many cases would have only replaced three component video cables (Red, Blue, Green) and two analog audio (yes, the red and white cables are analog audio) cables. Oops … no content. (There are reasons to use HDMI cables, but not on most straight cable or satellite installations.)

Here we have an anti-piracy hallucination that will simply piss off anyone who's system installer decided to take advantage of the fact that the analog audio outputs are controlled by the cable remote and the digital audio outputs are not. Everyone who fully understands how most HDTV sets are wired in the USA is just shaking their heads.

There is absolutely no version of the world where plugging the analog hole is going to stop anyone from pirating or illegally downloading even one file. It's 2010, every major movie is available online for free within hours of its first full screening.

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The only thing this is going to accomplish the creation of a huge body of extremely confused, non-technical consumers who are going to contact their cable and satellite companies for service calls. This will also require several hundreds of thousands of consumers to rewire their systems: a lovely windfall for installers, hell on the consumer's checkbooks. (I did notice some of the sales people at my local Radio Shack doing the Snoopy Dance! HDMI cables are really expensive at Radio Shack.)

Congrats to the MPAA … your solution will create a set of problems that will cost cable and satellite companies, and consumers a fortune and it will not reduce piracy by even one download. Well done.

About the Author: Shelly Palmer is the host of "Digital Life with Shelly Palmer," a weekly half-hour television show about living and working in a digital world which can be seen on WNBC-TV's NY Nonstop Tuesdays at 10p Eastern and online, and the host of "MediaBytes," a daily news show that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment. He is Managing Director of Advanced Media Ventures Group, LLC an industry-leading advisory and business development firm and the President of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, NY (the organization that bestows the coveted Emmy® Awards). Mr. Palmer is the author of Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV (2008, York House Press) and the upcoming, Get Digital: Reinventing Yourself and Your Career for the 21st Century Economy (2009, Lake House Press). You can join the MediaBytes mailing list here. Shelly can be reached at shelly@palmer.net For information visit www.shellypalmer.com

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