WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hollywood studios won regulatory approval on Friday for the limited use of anti-piracy technology that will allow the showing of first-run theatrical movies on television.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved a 2008 petition from the Motion Picture Association of America seeking to disable the out-put functions on TV sets and copying capabilities of video recorders linked to on demand premier films.
Essentially, consumers will be able to watch first-run feature films before the DVD release, but will not be able to record them. Companies can use the blocking technology for 90 days once the on-demand movie is offered or until the release of the DVD, whichever comes first.
The approval applies to high definition movies transmitted in digital signal from satellite and cable providers to set-top boxes already capable of using the technology.
MPAA filed the petition on behalf of Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures Corp, Sony Corp's Sony Pictures EntertainmentInc, News Corp's Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp, General Electric Co unit Universal City Studios, Walt Disney Co's Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Warner Bros Entertainment Inc, a Time Warner Inc unit.
Consumers would not have to attach any additional hardware to their television sets or video recording devices.
Independent studios and others seeking to do the same can file a letter of notification with the FCC.
Public Knowledge, a public interest group, criticized the approval, saying it would allow the big companies to take control for the first time of a consumer's TV set or set-top box, blocking viewing of a TV program or motion picture.
The biggest cable providers are Comcast Corp, Time Warner Cable Inc, Cablevision Systems Corp Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.
DirecTV is the leading satellite television provider, which competes with DISH Network Corp
Reporting by John Poirier; editing by Andre Grenon