AfterDawn: Glossary

Selectable Output Control

Selectable Output Control, or SOC, is the practice given to the modification of a broadcast signal in order to disable the analog or digital signal to consumers' home theater equipment, such as a HDTV. Technically, its use in the United States is banned because it can negatively affect customers. For example, there are an estimated eleven million HDTVs in the United States, in the homes of consumers, that can only receive analog signals. The use of SOC to disrupt an analog signal going to one of these televisions would effectively make it impossible to view the content

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) banned its use in its 2003 "plug and play" order, but since mid-2008, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has been lobbying the FCC on behalf of some of its members (Paramount, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Disney, and Warner Brothers) seeking a waiver on this order. The MPAA maintains that in order to offer certain broadcasts, such as the broadcasting of pre-release DVDs by partner networks, it should be possible to use this tactic as a means to prevent piracy (or at least make it harder)

Consumer Groups generally do not agree with the MPAA's claims, and estimate that many millions of homes could have their equipment deemed useless when trying to view the content. Public Knowledge, for example, claims that the number inflated far beyond eleven million when you include DVRs and other devices that rely on analog inputs in order to work The MPAA has kept on the attack however, and has brought the issue back up following the transition to the Obama Administration.

The former FCC Chair Kevin Martin was totally against the idea, but on Presidential Inauguration day (January 20th, 2009), FCC Commissioner Michael Copps took on the role of acting chairman. It is unclear what his stance is on the issue, but the MPAA will have to fight through the flurry of consumer groups who are completely against the idea, as well as the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which also estimates that many millions of people would be affected by the use of SOC as a means of copy protection.


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