Studios against plug-and-play

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WASHINGTON -- The motion picture studios are attempting to persuade the government to reject a proposal by some consumer electronics makers over two-way plug-and-play technology contending that it fails to protect their copyrights.

MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman and former National Association of Broadcasters chief Edward O. Fritts met on Tuesday with FCC chairman Kevin Martin to express the studios' concerns on the issue. The MPAA recently contracted with The Fritts Group to help out on the plug-and-play and other issues.

MPAA officials said that the association hires consultants on a range of issues, and that tapping Fritts makes sense since he is an expert on issues like those the studios face at the commssion.

It also doesn't hurt that Fritts, who left the NAB in 2003, is a Republican, while Glickman is a former Democratic lawmaker and Agriculture Departement secretary. Martin and a majority of the FCC's five commissioners are Republicans.

"Plug and play is important to us, beause, whatever the results are, will decide how viewers will see our content," the MPAA offical said.

Sources say the FCC's media bureau is circulating a proposal to resolve the two-way, plug-and-play issue, and that the commission could take a vote on the issue as early as November.

Both the cable industry and consumer electronics makers hope to have the issue resolved in the next couple of months in order to get products in the marketplace by the 2008 holiday shopping season. The two-way plug-and-play issue is important because it can determine how people will use DVRs, video on demand and other technologies one the switch to digital TV is made in 2009.

"The MPAA wants to push as much content as possible, but they want to do that in a reasonable manner," Fritts told The Hollywood Reporter. "They want to make sure they have as much copy protection as reasonable possible."

It is not unusual for the studios and the consumer electronics companies to be at loggerheads, and this issue is no different.

The Conusmer Electronics Association is pushing a plan called "digital ready plus" or DCR+while the National Cable and Telecommunications Association is pushing a plan called Open Cable Application Platform or OCAP.

Both sides contend that their technology can serve consumers better, but the studios have more confidence that the high-value content they produce can be better protected under OCAP.

"While it's not perfect, the open cable platform is a lot better," Fritts said. "It's like the difference between daylight and dark."
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