The FCC has given Hollywood permission to activate the "Selective Output Control" technologies in your set-top box. These are hidden flags that allow the MPAA to deactivate parts of your home theater depending on what you're watching. And it sucks. As Dan Gillmor notes, "Fans of old TV science fiction will remember the Outer Limits. Given Hollywood's victory today at the FCC -- they'll be able to reach over the lines and disable functions on your TV -- the intro to the show takes on modern relevance."
The FCC says that they're doing this because they believe that if they do so, the MPAA will start releasing first-run movies (the ones that are still in theaters) for TV. They say that Hollywood won't make these movies available unless they get Selectable Output Control because SOC will stop piracy.
This is ridiculous.
First, it's ridiculous because this can't ever stop piracy or get first-run movies into your living room. Even with SOC, the studios are not going to release high-value movies that are still in theatrical distribution for viewing in your house, where you could set up a tripod and high-quality camera (along with ideal lighting) in order to make your own camcordered copy and put it online.
Now, the FCC could have solved this by saying that only movies that are in their first theatrical release run can have SOC turned on, but they didn't, because they knew that the MPAA was lying through its teeth about using SOC to enable the "new business model" of showing you first run movies in your home.
Second, it's ridiculous because it's possible in the first place. The FCC (and the candy-ass consumer electronics companies) allowed for Selectable Output Control to be inserted into your devices even though they claimed all along that they would never allow it to be used. Read your Chekhov, people: the gun on the mantelpiece in act one will go off in act three. Allowing the MPAA to get SOC in your set-top box but "never planning on using it" is like buying a freezer full of chocolate ice-cream and never planning on eating it.
If the CE companies and FCC wanted to prevent SOC from being used, the best way of doing that would be to not include it in devices in the first place.