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Television Media

Networks and Studios Against PVRs 616

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the ongoing-saga-continues dept.
HiredMan sent in an LA Times story talking about more suits against PVR makers like Replay and Tivo. The most bizarre quote to me is that the suit argues that "it's illegal to let consumers record and store shows based on the genre, actors or other words in the program description." Huh?
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Networks and Studios Against PVRs

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  • Silliness (Score:4, Funny)

    by Cirrocco (466158) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:43PM (#2989042) Homepage
    Next thing you know they won't allow people to take snapshots in Vegas because they're afraid people will be seeing all there is to see.
  • A Wrench. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Renraku (518261) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:46PM (#2989060) Homepage
    PVR's throw a wrench into the finely tuned machine that is mainstream television. They make their money from ads, and the more people sitting through those ads, the more money they make. Well, what happens when advertising firms start paying channels less because there are less people actually viewing the show than recording it? You can guess that the channels will be pretty pissed off. They're just trying to protect a source of money there, really.
    • Re:A Wrench. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by axlrosen (88070)
      That's right. Do you see this as just the network's problem because they're greedy corporations, or do you see the downside for the consumers too?
      • Re:A Wrench. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon@@@gmail...com> on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:04PM (#2989226)
        Do you see this as just the network's problem because they're greedy corporations

        I'm not sure I would define this as a consequence of being greedy (although I'm sure they are). Their problem is that the primary source of revenue is being threatened. It's not just a matter of making a little less money. It's more like making a whole lot less money if PVRs become as popular as VCRs.

        I think somebody mentioned down below that these corporations need to evolve. It's time to find other sources of revenue. If their only salable "product" is airtime for advertisements, they're in real trouble. Every business that I know that stuck with a single product has gone down the tubes.

        I think you would see a lot less concern over this kind of thing if someone could come up with a really good suggestion on how they can stay in business. As you might guess, charging the cable/sat providers isn't going to cut it. That cost will only be passed to consumers who are not willing to pay.

        • Re:A Wrench. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ncc74656 (45571)
          I'm not sure I would define this as a consequence of being greedy (although I'm sure they are). Their problem is that the primary source of revenue is being threatened. It's not just a matter of making a little less money. It's more like making a whole lot less money if PVRs become as popular as VCRs.

          To what extent, though, has this ever been a problem? I used a pair of VCRs for timeshifting long before I bought my TiVo (still use one along with the TiVo because Enterprise and That 80s Show are on at the same time). Do the mental midgets in Hollywood actually think people haven't been skipping commercials on taped content ever since wireless remotes became common in the mid-80s? Do you know anyone who rewinds last night's episode of $TV_SHOW, hits Play, and lets it run through to the end with no interruptions, no fast-forwarding, etc.?

          (TiVos are much faster at skipping forward than any VCR I've run across...but that doesn't negate the fact that you can buzz right past the ads with a VCR.)

        • by sallen (143567) on Monday February 11, 2002 @06:01PM (#2989918)
          I'm not sure I would define this as a consequence of being greedy (although I'm sure they are). Their problem is that the primary source of revenue is being threatened. It's not just a matter of making a little less money. It's more like making a whole lot less money if PVRs become as popular as VCRs.

          I think somebody mentioned down below that these corporations need to evolve. It's time to find other sources of revenue. If their only salable "product" is airtime for advertisements, they're in real trouble. Every business that I know that stuck with a single product has gone down the tubes.


          These are the same folks who anticipate using the free digital channels they were given to provide revenue by forgoing HDTV in many cases, and using the additional space for revenue data type services.

          But the 'illegal' to copy using keywords like titles, authors... it sound more like a slap suit than copyright suit, and someone should slap back. I'd love to see them site case law on that one. It'd be like the publishers going back to the Supremes and asking to revisit the Xerox case because instead of copying a page at a copier, one can now use search engines by keyword to get that page you want for your book report or thesis and then print it on the printer. That's an exact analogy to the theory they're using.

          I'd say if we ever go back to the stone age, it won't be through nuclear war as was once thought, but it'll be due to the RIAA, MPAA, Valenti (who's from that age anyway). This is all about control, and trying to get back what they lost in the Betamax case. They should get censured for filing a frivilous suit on that keyword thing, and then go from there. (standard IANAL disclaimer. I actually was prelaw, but decided early after meeting some real jerks, it wasn't for me. I see many are still practicing.)

    • Re:A Wrench. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by scoove (71173) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:54PM (#2989118)
      what happens when advertising firms start paying channels less because there are less people actually viewing the show than recording it?

      TV remote control has already eroded ad viewing already. Where's the suit to ban remotes?

      And while we're on the topic, we need toilets that have lids that lock during commercials and refridgerators with auto-locking doors. Better yet, let's install seat belts on couches and lazboys and require all viewers be belted in before viewing. Belts will automatically lock during commercial breaks for optimum viewing convenience.

      The reality of it all is that it's time for the advertiser to evolve. Rather than fighting intuitive behavior, those that want to survive will focus on better product integration in the programs and blur the advertising boundries from where we're at today. Heck, we might even Wouldn't a Whopper be good right now? see comperable use on /.!

      *scoove*
      • I think you just found the first good use for an internet equipped appliance. (or at least in the eyes of hollywood)
    • Re:A Wrench. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Splork (13498) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:55PM (#2989135) Homepage
      they have no right to that source of money. just because it worked in the past does not mean the government should guarantee it for them in the future. if that were the case the government would be subsidizing all of the now failed dot-coms that depended on once lucrative internet advertising revenue.

      let the corporations earn their living, not have it fed to them on a plate.
      • Re:A Wrench. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Erasmus Darwin (183180) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:18PM (#2989360)
        "they have no right to that source of money."

        And we, the viewers, have no right to free television. If the business model breaks down, the corporations aren't the only ones who take a hit. If ad revenue decays, networks will have to cut expenses, and the first thing to go will be some of the non-mainstream (including sci-fi and geeky markets) and expensive-to-produce (SFX, CGI, and quality production values) shows. Instead, you'll see cheap reality TV crap and other things that can be done on a shoe-string budget.

        • Re:A Wrench. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mshomphe (106567) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:31PM (#2989469) Homepage Journal
          Wrong. We have every right to free television. The airwaves are public property. Networks license the use of those airwaves (for free, or next to nothing at most).
      • Re:A Wrench. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bnenning (58349) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:27PM (#2989438)
        Exactly. I keep pulling out this Heinlein quote, because it keeps being applicable so often:

        "There has grown in the minds of certain groups in this country the idea that just because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with guaranteeing such a profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is supported by neither statute or common law. Neither corporations or individuals have the right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back." - Robert A. Heinlein, "Life Line"
    • Re:A Wrench. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Archie Steel (539670) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:58PM (#2989157)
      Exactly. In the broadcast entertainment industry, the product is not the actual content, it's us, the "audience". TV networks sells viewing audiences, the product, to advertisers, the clients. The actual shows are there only to attract the audiences and sell them the product. PVRs such as TiVO break this careful balance.

      Note that it's different for pay-per-view and other subscription-based channels, where the viewer is actually the customer. However, I hardly see how networks could successfully sue the TiVO while they have allowed people to use their VCRs all this time. Also, someone could conceivably use their TiVO to store video data they have themselves produced (with a camcorder), something the networks would not (and should not) be able to prevent.

      I know it sucks for the entire entertainment industry, but the digital revolution is here, and they're going to have to revise their business models. It's no longer feasible to keep copyright laws as we know them - that would require a severe curtailment of basic civil rights. Between my freedom and the industry giants' profit margins, I'll choose the former...
      • "Also, someone could conceivably use their TiVO to store video data they have themselves produced (with a camcorder)"

        Well.. kinda.. You would have to set up your stand alone TiVo to act as one being used with a normal sat reciver. TiVo itself doesn't really have the function to do what you're explaining without setting it up in a wacky way. The TiVo Series 2 might, but the normal ones don't.
    • Re:A Wrench. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, they are, but they're going about it all the wrong way. Make the commercial entertaining and I'm more likely to watch it. Maybe even more than once. Also, instead of more commercials, less. With scarcity comes value. If I know I'll be at what I wanted (the program) in 30 seconds, then I stay and watch. If I know I have 2 or 3 minutes to burn, I go burn them elsewhere... and this is just a person actually 'live watching', though the same applies to recorded (any method) TV - if the commercial is sufficeinetly interesting, maybe I'll slow down and watch the thing.

      Ooh, here's an idea: targetted recording of the commercials. Suppose I decide I want to see what's out there for, say, washing machines... what is stopping me from telling my TiVo to record all commercials about washing machines as well as any shows about them? Well, besides lack of a TiVo? The lack of the advertisers telling the machine. Now this is minor, from the advertisers point of view, but to the potential buyer it's a big deal. And it's -- get this -- OPT IN. Real opt in, not DMA fake opt-in.

      Now I've done the work for them by targetting their ads towards me, but on my terms. Maybe the next week I'll want to know about fridges. And the week after that watch beer commercials (gotta stock the fridge, after all).
    • by Monte (48723) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:08PM (#2989261)
      PVR's throw a wrench into the finely tuned machine that is mainstream television.

      Gee, you make that sound like a bad thing. Yes (to paraphrase the article) technology is disrupting existing business models. And it will continue to do so. Fighting the battle in court will not work, the genie is out of the bottle.

      They make their money from ads, and the more people sitting through those ads, the more money they make. Well, what happens when advertising firms start paying channels less because there are less people actually viewing the show than recording it?

      Obviously, the business model changes. Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a sponsor (let's say "Geritol") would pay for the entire show (let's say a game show), and theirs would be the only ads you'd see - some done by the show's host him/herself. In fact they might have a great big "Geritol" sign right on the set!

      When the number of commercial skippers hits critical you can expect to see lots more product placement as part of the show's content rather than as a stand-alone commercial - say, the Friends folks go to Hooters for a bite, and listen patiently while the buxom hostess describes the latest specials.

      I don't know how that's going to work for something like Star Trek (maybe the captain insists that only genuine Mopar parts be used in the warp engines, I'm sure more creative people than I can come up with better ides)...

      More likely it'll be something like TNN is doing now: dedicate screen space to ads. Still part of the "content", but doesn't interact with the story. Scroll away!
    • Re:A Wrench. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by frunch (513023)
      Is it me, or wasn't there an article under a week ago about how more people replayed superbowl ADS through tivo than the actual game.

      If companies make quality ads, people will watch them, and watch them MORE with tivo. If people don't like the ads they see, they'll automatically filter them out anyway, either with their brain, or a remote, or their tivo. Tivo's just another more advanced tool for the filtering we automatically do anyway
  • OK... take the PVR away. We will still do what we are doing now - taping and blowing by the commercials. We watch a few programs eah week, have the VCR programed to nab them, then we watch them COMMERCIAL FREE on the weekend WHEN WE WANT TO WATCH THEM. The only nice thing about PVR is the quality and the ability to pause real-time.

    I guess the networks are pissed more that they didn't come up with it first.
    • by RagManX (258563)
      OK... take the PVR away. We will still do what we are doing now - taping and blowing by the commercials. We watch a few programs eah week, have the VCR programed to nab them, then we watch them COMMERCIAL FREE on the weekend WHEN WE WANT TO WATCH THEM. The only nice thing about PVR is the quality and the ability to pause real-time.

      Believe it or not, the ads we view in fast forward mode are still effective, according to some studies. I can't recall the details, as it has been 10+ years since I read about this (back in college), but we actually studied some research about "compressed-time" commercials, as they were called. In the compressed-time commercial studies, the researchers analyzed name brand recall and preference after allowing subjects to view TV shows at normal speed and fast-forward through the commercials. Many modern commercials are made based on the results of these studies. Things like long-exposure product placement (to make the name brand stay on long enough to read when you fast-forward), frequent product pop-up (to reinforce a memory imprint of the product), flash/swift change display (to focus your eyes on certain parts of the screen, where the product name or packaging will be placed), and similar things. With PVRs, you can actually completely skip commercials, just like you can with VCRs that have blue-screen commercial skip features. The suits don't like this, because while a time-compressed commercial can still be effective in placing a product name in your brain, a totally skipped commercial cannot.

      And before you slam me for being a marketing dweeb - we studied this in my second semester of statistics. I was a computer geek then, just like now. :)

      RagManX
    • by crow (16139)
      I take it you don't have a PVR.

      Using something like my ReplayTV has totally revolutionized how I watch TV. I've heard owners of other PVRs say the same thing.

      Before I had a PVR, I would make an effort to watch my favorite shows live. If I wasn't going to be home, I would tape them, but that only applied to a very few shows--most I wouldn't bother with the hassle.

      Now that I have a PVR, I tell it exactly what I want to watch, and I never worry about when it is showing. I never make an effort to watch something live. In fact, I make a point of not watching live television, as I can watch something previously recorded without commercials at the same time as my show is recording.

      And don't compare fast forwarding with a VCR to skipping over the commercials with ReplayTV. The new ReplayTV 4000 series skips over commercials automatically and instantly. With my older model, I use the 30-second skip button to instantly jump past each commercial. While I didn't think it would be a big deal before I bought it, I can't imagine living without my Quick Skip and Instant Replay buttons. (I've even upgraded my remote with a JP1 cable so that I have a 2-minute skip button and a 1-minute instant replay button, as well.)

      While you can make an analogy to VCRs when discussing PVRs, they are in practice a totally new technology. The networks understand this, and they have good reason to be scared.
  • by juggler314 (556575)
    Why is it that every large corporation or entrenched business needs to be so afraid of change. Did 8-track kill music revenues? How about tape? MD? CD? MP3? Nope nope nope nope. It simply amazes me how afraid most folks are of change. Don't they realize that without change things don't get better? I see this time and again in all facets of life.
    • Actually, the PVR's do have the capability of killing advertising revenues. If the advertisers figure out that _everyone_ is fast-forwarding through the commercials, then why will they pay the million$$$ that support TV networks.

      OTOH, it may turn out that people are fast-forwarding through the lousy shows to watch the commercials. At least, Tivo's feedback from their machines on the Superbowl showed that the Pepsi commercial with Britney Spears got more playbacks than the football.

      What would really suck is if they canceled Buffy because it's more interesting than the commercials....
  • Coming next (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phil reed (626) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:48PM (#2989071) Homepage
    A lawsuit by the Buggy Whip Manufacturers Association against the automobile industry, because the change from carriages to automobiles has decimated their markets. The Horse Manure Shoveler's Association is expected to sign on as co-plaintiff.
    • by Tackhead (54550)
      >: A lawsuit by the Buggy Whip Manufacturers Association against the automobile industry, because the change from carriages to automobiles has decimated their markets. The Horse Manure Shoveler's Association is expected to sign on as co-plaintiff.

      Editorial nitpick: An analogy typically involves a comparison between two different things. For instance, "the automobile replacing the horse-drawn carriage" can be half of the analogy, with "the PVR versus Television industry" battle being the other half. The "Buggy Whip Manufacturers' Association" part of your analogy, for instance, made sense.

      But then you went and included the "Horse Manure Shoveler's Association".

      I don't mean to nitpick, but, if both halves of your analogy talk about the entertainment industry, it's not really an analogy, is it? ;-)

  • Seems like an industry that hasn't heard of the term: "value-added".
    • > Seems like an industry that hasn't heard of the term: "value-added".

      I dunno, I think the Horse Manure Shoveler^W^W^Wentertainment industry has heard of value-add.

      Doesn't mean they have to like it...

    • by Saturn49 (536831)
      The content industries (Movies, Music, and TV) are being turned upside down right now by technology. Instead of changing their business models to correspond and innovate with Value-added products and services, they have chosen to try to keep their old business models by suing the pants off anything that has the potential to hurt their current standings. That's how hollywood works - it is a Big Boys club turning into the Big Babies club as they go whining to the courts about copyright infringement and how such-and-such device is going to hurt their bottom line. They need to start innovating - think, TV stations could setup large storage devices of their of their own so consumers could download programs not otherwise available via cable directly to their PVR for a small fee (pay for what you watch, not for everything on every channel). Eventually, DirectTV and cable companies won't even be in the picture - just a big fat pipe to the Internet in every home. I don't know exactly how it is going to turn out, but I know that the content companies business models are going to have to change, eventually. You can't just make everything illegal. Start dealing with the future and stop whining about the present.
  • by Seth Finkelstein (90154) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:50PM (#2989086) Homepage Journal
    The "rationale" for "it's illegal to let consumers record and store shows based on the genre, actors or other words in the program description." is "explained" further down:

    "If a ReplayTV customer can simply type 'The X-Files' or 'James Bond' and have every episode of 'The X-Files' and every James Bond film recorded in perfect digital form and organized, compiled and stored on the hard drive of his or her ReplayTV 4000 device, it will cause substantial harm to the market for prerecorded DVD, videocassette and other copies of those episodes and films," the lawsuit states.
    IANAL, but I think the idea is reaching to come up with a negative effect on the copyrighted work itself, so as to undermine the longstanding law that personal use of VCRs is fair use.

    Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com]

    • by mcelrath (8027) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:58PM (#2989163) Homepage
      it will cause substantial harm to the market for prerecorded DVD, videocassette and other copies of those episodes and films

      Correct me if I'm wong, but last time I checked, "markets" were not constitutionally protected, and neither were coporate profits or business models. (unless, of course, the business model is patented)

      They're trying to protect their business model through litigation, because embracing new technology is more expensive than lawyers.

      Maybe they'll all be hit with frivolous lawsuit countersuits. Here's hoping, anyway.

      --Bob

    • Okay, I can kind of see their problem with the Replay 4000s, because they share data with others and automatically take out the commercials. But the others (TiVo and older ReplayTVs) should be safe.. You can't just get everything every made ever, it would have to be something that you could actually watch on your TV normally.. And in the case of TiVo, they don't get rid of commercials. And because of TiVo's data that they store TiVo can show people what commercials the viewer is actually watching. I own a TiVo, yet I still watch some commercials (those that are entertaining, or something that I find interesting). I think this data is even better.
    • by ceswiedler (165311) <chris@swiedler.org> on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:01PM (#2989195)
      The funny thing is that they're implying that the ReplayTV customer can "steal" or "magically acquire" those X-Files episodes or James Bond movies...the very same episodes and movies which the networks are broadcasting via very powerful transmitters. Gee, if they were so worried about people stealing their content, you think they wouldn't give it away...

      Fox can easily prevent X-Files watchers from acquiring copies of the episodes. Just don't broadcast them.

      The good thing is that in courts, the argument of "if they do this it will hurt our business" doesn't hold up, even for baseball and it's strange exemption from antitrust laws.

    • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:07PM (#2989257)
      "If a ReplayTV customer can simply type 'The X-Files' or 'James Bond' and have every episode of 'The X-Files' and every James Bond film recorded in perfect digital form and organized, compiled and stored on the hard drive of his or her ReplayTV 4000 device, it will cause substantial harm to the market for prerecorded DVD, videocassette and other copies of those episodes and films," the lawsuit states.

      If the entertainment industry would just sell me copies of every X-Files or Babylon 5 episode on DVD, rather than making me wait 5 years after the end of the series...

      If they'd offer me all the episodes at once, rather than 2 episodes per disc, with me having to "hope they keep producing 2-episode disks, once every month, for the next 8 years, so I can get the complete series rather than just having half the series until they stopped producing 'em"... then maybe I'd buy.

      Until they offer me the product I want, I'll continue to get that product the only way I can. The fact that it's free-as-in-beer is only a bonus.

      Anyone for South Park episodes? If quality doesn't matter, you can fit an entire season on a CD-R. (And if you want good quality, an entire season on a DVD-ROM.) Or you can go to the store and see a DVD with two episodes on it. 44 whole minutes of video. Whoop-de-fsck.

      • Now a weird thing is that some of this stuff is already available.

        I'm an American living in Spain and I recently bought box sets of the first four "Friends" seasons on DVD to watch with my wife. They were just sitting there in the DVD section of a big department store here. (Subtitles and various soundtracks make DVDs perfect viewing for bilingual couples like us... and hell, let's watch tonight's episode in Polish!)

        It seems that you can't get these box sets in the U.S., only here in Europe. You can, however, go to Amazon.co.uk and see that all of the seasons up to #8 are available (a little net research and I found out that season #9 is being aired now in the U.S. and that Rachael is pregnant. Oh no! I've been out of the country too long!).

        Who knows if they'll ever sell these DVDs in the U.S. It basically seems that Warner Bros. is relying on country codes to keep U.S. viewers from getting all of the shows on DVD, thus forcing you to watch the repeats at 7 p.m. on channel 25 or whatever your local UHF/Cable licensee is... I guess they don't do that sort of thing here (cable not existing here in Spain) so they just sell the DVDs.

        Random info: The weird thing about these box-set DVDs is that they are double-sided and only contain 3 episodes per side except for the last which contains 4 episodes on one side (for a total of 25 episodes per season). My best guess is that all the soundtracks and subtitles bloat the shows so they have to do this to fit it all in.

        -Russ

    • How much HD space does a recorded show take? I very much doubt that it's going to be possible to store an entire season of any one show "recorded in perfect digital form and organized" on the moderate sized HD's of these devices. And that's assuming you only watch _one_ series. It would cost about $150 to buy one year of a TV series on VHS tapes (2 hours per tape, 10-15 tapes), and I think a PVR costs more than this. So this cause of action is based on alleged harm that is obviously just imaginary (so far).

      OTOH, I'm sure there are people who have the entire X-Files or Buffy series recorded on a shelf full of VHS tapes. (I don't want to meet the X-people, but if you've got the Buffy episodes I missed...) That's more work than just asking your ReplayTV to record "Buffy", but it's possible and apparently legal.

      However, they might have a point for the future. Add a DVD recorder or a RAID array to ReplayTV, and you've got a machine that might well cut into the studios ability to stick a paltry two hours of Buffy onto a tape and sell it. But it doesn't cut into the value of the broadcast show -- so I don't know if it's valid under the law or not. Maybe they will be able to legally limit the storage capacity of PVR's, so only hackers who can expand it themselves can get a whole year of TV onto one machine... ;-)
    • One of the elements of a "fair use" analysis is "the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work." 17 USC 107(4). The device at issue in the Universal Pictures Studios/Sony case (betamax) could not complete a compendium of the X-files as easily. If you think that the Universal Pictures Studios case was well reasoned, then the difference probably doesn't have much weight. However, the decision (to the extent it relied upon fair use) has been roundly criticized over time. (Not as much as Roe v. Wade, but what is?) A revisiting of the issue by a Supreme Court that is more likely to protect business and property rights than the Burger Court could come out differently.
    • Then how is showing a movie on TV any safer? According to this rationale, the movie's DVD has lost value. And yet, last time I checked, they're still showing movies on TV.

      The argument they give here has absolutely no merit, as it is still possible, without a PVR, to look at the local listings and program your VCR to tape all of them for you. Better still, you can just make sure you're home to watch them live. There's nothing stopping you from doing that...in fact, maybe they shouldn't show anything on TV, because if you see it for free on TV, you won't buy it when it comes out on video. What will they argue next? TV Guide shouldn't be published, because then you'll know the shows are on, then you'll watch them, which will "cause substantial harm to the market" for the DVDs.

      I'm interested to see what happens, but I have a hard time believing that the case won't be thrown out almost immediately.

    • Jack Valenti Quote (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hieronymus Howard (215725) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:44PM (#2990859)
      Courtesy of the New York Times:

      'The growing and dangerous intrusion of this new technology,' Jack Valenti said, threatens an entire industry's 'economic vitality and future security.'
      Mr. Valenti, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, was testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, and he was ready for a rhetorical rumble. The new technology, he said, 'is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman alone.'

      It was 1982, and he was talking about videocassette recorders.


      And they're still as paranoid and as utterly wrong now as they were 20 years ago.

      HH
    • by w3woody (44457) on Monday February 11, 2002 @09:10PM (#2991422) Homepage
      "If a ReplayTV customer can simply type 'The X-Files' or 'James Bond' and have every episode of 'The X-Files' and every James Bond film recorded in perfect digital form and organized, compiled and stored on the hard drive of his or her ReplayTV 4000 device, it will cause substantial harm to the market for prerecorded DVD, videocassette and other copies of those episodes and films," the lawsuit states.

      It's a stupid argument, anyways. I've got a ReplayTV 4000 which stores 80 hours at "standard"--which is good enough for time shifting, but the image is pretty grainy and not at all the quality of a DVD recording. If I wanted to store every episode of the X-Files on my ReplayTV, I could only store 20 episodes at high (near DVD) quality.

      Which means for just $1,000 I have a piece of hardware which stores what I could buy for $99 at Amazon.com--rendering my ReplayTV unusable (as I'm using all my disk space to store 20 X-File episodes) in the process. How stupid is that?

      Furthermore, the argument is incredibly dumb, given the fact that the studios refuse to sell me the damned DVDs of my favorite programs anyways! I love Stargate SG1--but can't they be bothered to release anything but the first season on disk (which I bought, dispite owning a ReplayTV)? Noooo....

      Come on! I've got $400 burning a hole in my pocket, and the studios can't be bothered to put down the episodes to DVD for Region 1 (though the episodes for Seasons 2 through 4 are available for Region 2)...

      The whole management process at these various entertainment companies stinks to high heaven. Using a lawsuit to protect a market they don't even want to sell into in the first place by making life more inconvenient for me is rediculous.
  • by Lothar+0 (444996) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:50PM (#2989087) Homepage
    Users don't need to know when "Friends" is on.

    Neither do I, but the rest of America makes sure I do. =P

  • the real fear (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gehenna_Gehenna (207096) <cavanetten@nOspAm.gmail.com> on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:50PM (#2989088) Homepage
    isn't loss of revinue. The entertainment moguls are afraid that they may have to change the way they do business. It will NEVER be "illegal to let consumers record and store shows based on the genre, actors or other words in the program description." Might as well say they can't record shows by title, or by the network they are on.

    The REAL fear is that they failed to forsee where the future was (obviously) heading, and are now suing to stall and slow down developing tech in order to figure out how they can take control of it. Heaven forbid consumers have control over their own entertainment. Just another ploy of the Man to conrol that which shouldn't have been theirs to begin with.

    Just my two cents.

  • by PowerTroll 5000 (524563) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:52PM (#2989103)
    Nobody's suing people who actually infringe copyrights anymore. Everyone is suing people who make devices...

    True. They aren't going after all those who actually infringe copyrights, since that would number in the millions. Instead, they are going after the makers, for contributory copyright infringement, much like the way Napster was sued. Napster itself did not violate copyright, but its users did, and Napster provided a convenient way to do it.

    In the case of PVR's, its a little different, since fair-use does allow for time shifting, IIRC. It's the sharing of the "perfect digital copies" that the industry fears.

    They are suing device-makers as a preventive measure. Without these devices, many will go back to using VCR's to make imperfect copies.
    • Without these devices, many will go back to using VCR's to make imperfect copies.


      And others will go, in ever increasing amounts, to online forums such as Usenet or peer to peer filesharing to download their perfect digital copies.
    • It's the sharing of the "perfect digital copies" that the industry fears.

      Err, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't these PVRs use MPEG-2 compression? And isn't that a 'lossy' format? So, maybe you can't see any quality difference while viewing, you might still argue that the copy is not 'perfect'.

      Then again, MP3s aren't 'perfect' copies either. Maybe it's the fact that the copies, once created, can be distributed infinitely without quality loss.
    • It's the sharing of the "perfect digital copies" that the industry fears.
      Television incurs a substantial amount of degradation and interference in being transmitted. (even cable) Especially the crappy NTSC standard. "perfect digital copies" is a joke since the transmission medium is analog, and they're converted back to digital. (more degradation) Digital TV is degraded by the MPEG encoding process. The bandwidth required for a "perfect digital copy" would be enormous, assuming you had access to a perfect digital source...

      But let's face it, how much longer are people going to be willing to watch low quality, signal degraded crap? (oh yeah...Betamax died...maybe forever then...but I digress.) People want high quality video. Recording is irrelevant to the point that people want to watch higher quality stuff. The home audio recording act (time-shifting) doesn't say that you can only time-shift your stuff if the quality is crap. Your right to time-shift applies equally well to high-quality video.

      Why don't they just send us one pixel and one bit audio? Nobody will want to record it, and nobody will want to watch it...

      --Bob

  • by cat_jesus (525334) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:53PM (#2989110)

    A spokeswoman for the studios involved in the MGM suit said that although the studios favor new technological advances, "new technology must go hand in hand with copyright protection." She declined to comment on the claim that keyword-based recording violates copyrights, focusing instead on ReplayTV 4000's ability to send shows over the Internet and delete commercials automatically.


    What does editing commercials out have to do with copyright protection? I can understand having a problem with sharing movies but sharing TV shows that broadcast for free seems just a tad over the top.

    Here, you can have this free product but you may not give it to others.

    Cat

    • watch your mouth!

      Before long, TV's will start coming with EULA's that govern what, how, when, where we watch TV and what devices we can hook up to them...

      "Free" TV will become "licensed" and protected under the DMCA.

      Sad sad day. I'm glad I don't watch TV anymore

  • by Bonker (243350) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:53PM (#2989111)
    Just like the movie studios going after file sharing technology, this boils down to comfortable middlemen tying to protect their rapidly obsolescing place in the heirarchy.

    While some shows are network produced, a lot of the really good ones... and the ones I figure most frequently subjected to PVR treatment are syndicated.

    Why try to figure out which channell Buffy is on if you can get a copy from your friend who Tivo'd it the night before?

    The problem with PVR's and the technology they represent is the same problem the RIAA had with napster... In the long run, it eliminates the need for television networks and their web of promotion and advertising deals.

    Show producers are already finding this out with DVD box sets. Hercules on DVD, anyone? I know that I'd rather pay a small fee (I think 29.95 is a bit much for most shows) and watch a good show without the commercials, ads, and random network noise like weather bulletins, scrollers, etc...

    PVR's are going to make this happen, and are thusly under attack by the aging dinosaurs who are fighting for their survival.
  • People don't watch commercials now. At least I don't. I don't TiVo them, or even use a VCR. I'll 1) leaf through a catalouge or book 2) converse with a family member 3) flip to another channel, news or music videos for a couple seconds. A lot of people I know do the same thing. They don't have an inherant right to force me to watch the commercials.

    If I recieve a magazine, I don't have to read it, I don't have to look at the ads. THey are there and I can look at them if I choose.

    Commercials insult my intelligence every time I look at them. I do accidentally catch a couple, and maybe I wouldn't be so quick to flip away if the world's largest PC manufacturer could come up with something less irritating than "Yer gettin a Dell, dude."
    • They don't have an inherant right to force me to watch the commercials.

      Just like they are under no obligation to broadcast decent shows for you. Make it your life's work to avoid commercials at all costs if you want, but please don't bitch if the quality of programming drops even more.
  • TIVO, etc., makes sponsors nervous I think. This gets transferred to the TV folks, who need that ad revenue, and they get nervous about losing that money from ads.

    Here's what I think would make everyone of the large companies happy:

    Tivo that won't let you skip the commercials. The problem is, I doubt many would go for it.

    TV is gonna have to suck it up, and find a different way for the ads to come in, or a different way to make money.
  • by Wind_Walker (83965) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:54PM (#2989119) Homepage Journal
    Look, the PVR market is doing really well, as more and more people realize that it lets them skip annoying commercials, it lets them record whatever they want whenever they want it, and it's not for techies (i.e., you don't need a geek to come over and program it for you). And so, because of this, other people want money.

    It's a fundamental precept of Capitalism. Party A has money, Party B wants money. Thus, Party B gets Party A's money in any way possible.

    I really think that this belongs in the "It's Funny, Laugh" category, because a lot of those quotes truly are funny. Expect 95% of these to be thrown out of court, with the other 5% being dismissed later. This is really a non-event.

    • >>Look, the PVR market is doing really well,

      Please tell us what alternate universe you're observing this behaviour.

      The PVR market is NOT doing well.

      Microsoft has bailed.
      TIVO is struggling.
      ReplayTV has already been bought out once, and only just returned to the market.

      Now don't get me wrong... i have a TIVO and I love it. You couldn't get me to part with it. But the PVR market is not 'doing well'. It's 'losing money and hoping things improve'.

      Yup - it's a kickass technology, but if nobody buys it it really doesn't matter.....
  • by jsimon12 (207119)
    The networks are scared more then likely. Speaking as a VERY HAPPY TiVo owner I can say that my viewing habits have changed dramitically. I only really watch what I want to when I want to and I don't EVER watch commercials (fast forward is great) and I sometimes don't even know what station the program is from.

    So the problem the networks have is they end up basically showing programs for free, so advertisers are probably applying pressure (ie threatening to pull sponsership) unless the networks fix the situation (ie sue PVR companies into the ground).

    Personally, if it becomes illegal to use a TiVo or TiVo gets shutdown, I will stop watching TV, heck I have already stopped going to the movies (boycotting the MPAA) and I don't buy any music (boycotting the RIAA) might as well stop watching TV and just read.
  • DEAR GOD! (Score:5, Funny)

    by fluxrad (125130) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:56PM (#2989140) Homepage
    I agree this PVR trend has gone quite far enough! If we continue to let people use these "magic boxes" to record TV shows, pause them, skip the commercials, or pretty much view the shows as they want to view them, then its only a matter of time before we slip into total anarchy!

    It's a snowball effect....even today, I've been hearing rumors of people that buy blank reels of magnetic tape and put them in short, wide, black boxes to record shows when they're not home! They even use other buttons on their new-fangled "remote controls" other than Play, Pause, and Stop."

    Someone stop this insanity before the child-actors from "Different Strokes" become destitute and are forced to rob convenience stores!
  • ...it'd be illegal to watch shows based on the genre, actors or other words in the program description. There would be only one channel. Advertisements 24 hours a day, except, if we're all good little sheep, we might get a half hour of news & traffic reports at 6:00 am and 6:00 pm.
  • by ghostlibrary (450718) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:57PM (#2989150) Homepage Journal
    Actually, meta-information is all the rage, in science and in consumer data. So, if they establish that precedent...

    "It's illegal to let companies record and store people's profiles based on the location, income or other words in their profile."

    My goodness, we could eliminate demographics entirely!
  • Commercials (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cheezehead (167366) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:57PM (#2989151)
    The most disturbing part of the story is that they claim deleting commercials is violating the copyright.

    So, here's my prediction (guess I shouldn't be handing them ideas, but someone's bound to come up with it someday anyway, or probably someone has already):

    In the future, we will have TV shows where you are forced to watch commercials. Something like: to view the second segment of "Friends", you have to enter the code flashing on the screen during the Pepsi ad that was aired after segment 1.
    This should be perfectly feasible (technically), especially once everyone has a PVR.

    I guess I should patent this idea...
    • Re:Commercials (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ghostlibrary (450718) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:20PM (#2989372) Homepage Journal
      " The most disturbing part of the story is that they claim deleting commercials is violating the copyright."

      Well, doesn't the fact that they cut portions of the show to add room for new commercials mean they have already violated the copyright of the original show producers/owners, then...

    • Re:Commercials (Score:3, Informative)

      by swb (14022)
      The most disturbing part of the story is that they claim deleting commercials is violating the copyright.

      It kind of is breaking the deal, isn't it? I mean, "We agree to broadcast this program, you agree to watch the commercials." I know, its not entirely enforceable -- you can run to the fridge, hit mute, hit FF or hit "Skip:30" (or whatever the Tivo button is), but for the vast majority of people watching realtime or on VCRs it is enforceable -- they watch most commercials or at least see them briefly as they zip past*.

      A "paradigm shift" of everyone watching all their shows on PVR would kind of be a something for nothing deal, eliminating the financial value of the commercials and the production revenue stream.

      I think its total paranoia to think that this paradigm shift will happen. Most people are two fsck'n stupid to run anything more complicated than a microwave, and even most of them can't set the clock on them.

      *Offtopic UL:
      In the late 80s major advertisers began to test their commercials for effectiveness at VCR "scan" speeds in addition to the usual testing done at realtime speeds. Commercials with too many jump cuts or too few still shots were required to be recut to make sense at high speed.
  • "it's illegal to let consumers record and store shows based on the genre, actors or other words in the program desc" Huh?

    You see, the genre is copyrighted by Miriam-Webster and the network executives are fighting for them out of good faith, becuase they understand that unless Websters protects their copyright, they will lose their trademarks on the English language. The actors/actresses' names are copyrighted by their parents, unless, of course, the parents picked the name from a name book, or in the event that they named the child after somebody else, in which case the copyright would be for that person's parents. However, copyrights only last for 70 years, so if your name is John XXIVth, then you're probably alright, and can use the name without violating any copyrights. And the words in the program description below to TV Guide, of course.

    Now the questions remains, why would NETWORKS fight to protect somebody else's rights?

    And here's my theory: banning these aren't that big of a deal, because only geeks use PVRs and geeks are hackers, and therefore anarchist terrorists and against the glorious US government, and they shouldn't have any laws anyways. So of course, this would go through the courts relatively easily.

    However, they need to protect their ingenious lines in movies, like "Dude where's by car?" or "Alrighty then" which have been relatively common phrases for pubescent teens and dumbshit americans. However, they know that there are far too many average Joes that they could not win that kind of court case right now, so they are slowly leading up to it.

    Be cautious, be very very cautious. Bad vibes are in the air.

    Oh, and IANAL, DTWISS, BBB, YYY, L8R
  • Actually, I think that PVRs are less of a threat to purchase of TV shows than VHS would be. It's a lot easier (and cheaper) to archive programs long-term on VHS tapes than to store them on a hard drive. Most PVRs are used for time-shifting and viewing once or twice, not long-term storage. I suppose folks could start burning CDs or DVDs with content from their PVRs, but that's likely to be a pretty small minority. I think the bigger concern here is the commercial skipping aspect. Notice that the Tivo boxes that get sold through AT&T Broadband don't have the "commercial skip" button on the remote? If I were a network, I'd be worried too. If there are fewer eyeballs watching the ads, then eventually revenue's going to drop, but the costs of production stay the same or increase. Not an easy problem to solve. As clumsy as the broadcasting industry can be, in fairness, they have a real problem on their hands. The business model that's worked for 50 years (programming's free, you just have to sit through the ads) is starting to break down, and it's unclear what will replace it. Remember, there's no divine right that obliges the networks to create and broadcast The West Wing, or whatever - if we can't find a way to ensure that doing so is profitable, then it ain't gonna happen.
  • Nuisance suit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by walt-sjc (145127) on Monday February 11, 2002 @04:59PM (#2989172)
    This is BS as "Fair Use" is well established. It's an obvious extension of technology to use hard drives instead of video tape, and computer searchable guides instead of paper guides. If anything, you would think that studios would WANT people to watch their bad movies / shows. What they are REALLY pissed about is the ability of people to fast-forward through commercials.

    Frankly, if there is a show I want to watch, I let tivo record it and watch it later as commercials are just too annoying (one of the worst offenders is TNN which turns a 1:45 movie into 3 hours. Who the hell is willing to put up with that?)

    Tivo and friends are are pure time-shifting devices. The don't have the ability to save off to an archive except by playing the movie and recording it with a VCR. If you are going to do that, you might as well just have recorded the damn thing with a VCR to begin with.

    If they really don't want people to record by name, actor, director, they also need to sue TV Guide, all the newspapers in the US, movie trivia sites, book authors and publishers, film / entertainment magazines, etc. who also publish this info.
    • If they really don't want people to record by name, actor, director, they also need to sue TV Guide, all the newspapers in the US, movie trivia sites, book authors and publishers, film / entertainment magazines, etc. who also publish this info.

      Didn't TV Guide use to have Idiot Codes in their listings? (VCR Plus or something like that?) You know, they somehow encode the channel and time of the show you want to record so that when you want to program your VCR, all you had to do was enter the code? That seems an awful like what ReplayTV is doing, except that ReplayTV is taking it to another level. How come the idiot codes were OK, but ReplayTV isn't?

  • I can go out and get a card for $40 that I can drop in my computer. Most of them supply software to drive those cards and there are also nice drivers for the Linux kernel. Hacking together your own PVR software isn't that much work, Hannabal project delays notwithstanding (the delays in the Hannabal project illustrate just how badly piss poor management can bog down a project, but that's another story for another day...)

    The upshot of all this is that the functionality is readily available and easily implemented and consumers overwhelmingly love it when they try it out. The network execs can kick and scream and throw their little tantrums all day long, but they will have to adapt to times or go out of business. This has always been the case and it will always be the case.

    • Re:Lump It (Score:3, Insightful)

      by krow (129804)
      Sure, you can build a custom PVR system, but where are you going to get the data from to run it?
      My Tivo's value is in the service, not in the device.
  • by Jucius Maximus (229128) <zyrbmf5j4x@@@snkmail...com> on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:00PM (#2989187) Homepage Journal
    Quoth the article: "The lawsuits, which were brought by the largest TV networks and all seven major Hollywood movie companies, say the ReplayTV recorders violate copyrights by enabling users to send videos to other ReplayTV boxes over the Internet and skip commercials automatically."

    I think that a lot of the value on TV for advertisers is created by people just turning on the tube when they have no specific plans of what to do. They channel surf here and there, sometimes never pick a show, and as a result, manage to see plenty of ads on plenty of channels.

    (And have you ever noticed that when one channel goes to ads, all the other major networks seem to do so as well? I suspect they designed it that way so even though you may switch away, someone else on another channel will switch and see the ad that you missed.)

    The ability to pick out what is wanted by category and then circulate such things between friends obsoletes the practice of channel surfing, since the machines do the harvesting of choice shows for you. Since this can already be combined with the ability to strip the ads from the content, the PVR technology could bring channel surfing into obsolescence.

    This would be good for us because we spend less time wasted with ads, TV guides and watching things we don't want to see, and more time watching the shows we like (probably saving some time every day to do other things.)

    This would be bad from the TV Network and Hollywood's point of view because it devalues regular TV airtime and ad-time, thus earning the networks less ad-revenue. It would also be bad because people would be less likely to get hooked into new shows (thus, Hollywood shudders) since they would not be surfing or seeing the ads.

    No wonder the networks are fighting this tooth and nail. They (very rightly) see it as a threat to their survival. Heaven forbid that they be forced to design a new business model. (Hmm ... now what other industry is waking up to the necessity of this kind of change?...)

  • I think the tivo is cool, but I really dilike devices which require subscription services... seems like we should demand simplicity and independence.

    As long as these companies continue to make devices that connect to central servers and require the company to be involved in my life beyond the purchase, then the devices will continue to be fundamentally flawed in my view and I will have trouble defending them against even these frivilous law suites.

    Computers should empower people not subjugate them.
  • by RollingThunder (88952) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:03PM (#2989218)
    She declined to comment on the claim that keyword-based recording violates copyrights, focusing instead on ReplayTV 4000's ability to send shows over the Internet and delete commercials automatically.


    Interesting phrasing here. It seems to imply that recording the entire thing with commercials is OK, but skipping commercials violates copyright.

    That in turn would mean that it's not just the show - it's the entire presentation of the show, with each specific commercial at that point, that is the entire "show". I think Domino's would be rather surprised, though, to find their copyright was swallowed up by Ally McBeal's production company.

    One also has to wonder if this means that when a local tv station (Hi, Global!) replaces the national ads with their own, are they committing copyright infringement by making a derivative work? :)

    (yes, I know it's taking it to an absurd conclusion)
  • Good. Kill it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chrisgon (101310) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:03PM (#2989219) Journal
    You know, the death of television has been direly predicted each time one of these "TV enhancers" has debuted.

    Betamax will kill TV
    Cable service will kill (network) TV
    Videogames will kill TV
    VHS will kill TV
    Rentals will kill TV (and movies)
    Internet will kill TV (and movies and music and the American way blah blah blah)
    Now PVR's will kill TV

    OK. So why hasn't TV died yet? We've been TRYING to kill it, but it just won't die. Maybe we're not trying hard enough. Lord knows that if Network TV died, I certainly wouldn't miss it, and I doubt the rest of the world would miss it either.

    Just let the model die and a newer more better model will emerge. Guaranteed.

  • Scares me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CMiYC (6473) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:04PM (#2989236) Homepage
    Stuff like this really scares me. I have had my TiVO for a couple of months and I have to say it was truely the BEST $200 I have ever spent. I never watch Live TV anymore, nor do I worry about missing my favorite shows. I watch Enterprise friday nights when I come home from the bars, and ER saturday morning while I eat pancakes. What really scares me is if the studios win, I lose big time. In college I use to stay up late studying because I didn't want to miss a show (ER for example). You might argue that is a stupid reason, but screw that. I worked damn hard and if I wanted to enjoy 1 hour of TV so be it. The problem was, I hated having to enjoy it whenever the TV Guide said so. Now that I have an extremely active lifestyle, I still watch the same amount of TV, just when I want to.

    Not to mention I don't even know where the heck my VCR is. I'm pretty sure it moved across the country with me, but I'm not certain.

    BTW, I think its funny that Studios are getting upset about this. How many times have you heard "TiVO" in a show this programming season? I know Fox and NBC have plugged it a couple of times. I know Friends, Will & Grace, and Undeclared have plugged it. AND if you look in the girl's apartment on Friends, you'll see a Silver TiVO sitting next to their TV. Huh.
  • From the article:
    "What difference does it make how I do it?" Wood said. "The dilemma is, the technology is turning the business model upside down. But that doesn't mean it's copyright infringement."

    The media companies only care about forcing you to watch what they want, when they want, how they want. Just as with aural media companies and MP3s, the visual media companies are missing the boat. They're too locked into the current business model to want to change.

    The record companies blew it with MP3s. Most people I know used Napster/Morpheus/Bear Share to find music that they either couldn't get in their own contry, or were previously unaware of (found through a keyword search). This, in turn, would lead to more music sales. The record companies panicked. They got scared and attempted to close off what could have been a promising new business channel.

    Now it's the turn of the tv/film studios to resist change. I have a TiVo. I love my TiVo. When a friend sees a cool show, he tells me about it, and I tell my TiVo to look for the repeat. This is convenient for me, and what the studios are missing is that I JUST WATCHED MORE TV THAN I NORMALLY WOULD HAVE. Isn't that what they want as an end result? You'd think so.

    There is no such thing as new media, only new ways to consume it. Apparently, we're not allowed to choose how we do it...

  • by JordoCrouse (178999) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:09PM (#2989268) Homepage Journal
    Look, the article only mentioned commercials once, and in passing. Thats not the issue here. I mean, what the hell does Universal care which commercials you are watching? They want the revenue from the movies and shows - that includes VCR, DVD and royalties from pay networks.

    What they're more worried about is the fact that you can record and store digital quality shows and movies. That means, that they think they will lose revenue from all the folks who would normally buy the Simpson's DVD, but instead catalog all the episodes on a hard drive somewhere.

    What they don't realize is that people are not likely to do this nearly as much as they think. Movies often come out on DVD before they come out on pay TV, I believe that the benefits of the DVD far outweight the value of taking the movie from HBO and storing it somwhere on a disk. I also believe that most people who would buy a Simpsons DVD set would still buy one, owing to the fact that syndicated episodes are cut for time. In short, people who normally would buy these DVDs would still do so, regardless of TiVo.

    Yes, these lawsuits are useless, and generally a waste of time. But ever since the beginning of time, the industry has been unable to keep up with technology - and running to the courts has always been the great equalizer.

  • "The dilemma is, the technology is turning the business model upside down. But that doesn't mean it's copyright infringement."

    That about sums it up for Napster as well as TiVo. New technology has basically made the old product no longer tenable. The only real complication is that since it removes the potential for the studios to make money at it, then no one will make any new content at all.

    END COMMUNICATION
  • -- PVRs are out there. People are used to them. If you manage to legally get them broken via an "upgrade" (q.v. TiVo) or technical countermeasure, you're going to piss off your loyal viewers.

    -- A video capture card + a PC + software = a PVR. This has already been done, though primitively. You can outlaw anything you want, but you can't stop everyone (and it only takes one) from capturing NTSC/PAL content.

    -- PVR users aren't generally intellectual property Robin Hoods intent on stealing from you. They just want to watch TV, and help build mindshare for your programs. If you push them underground, though, expect to see commercial free versions of your programs on P2P networks.

    -- Your copy protected HDTV, D-VHS, "rights managed" media, etc. will fail in the marketplace. Should you purchase legislation to mandate them, people will simply turn elsewhere for entertainment.

  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:20PM (#2989374) Homepage Journal
    Detroit, MI - Nations Bank, Wachovia, and Citibank have brought a lawsuit naming Ford, Chrysler, and GM as defendants. According to the lawsuit, the auto manufacturers produce powerful cars that make it easier for consumers, using the vehicles as "getaway cars", to rob banks.

    A spokeswoman for the banks involved in the suit said that although the banks favor automotive advances, "new automobile technology must go hand in hand with financial institution protection" and that "the consumer should bear the full cost and inconvenience of protecting the financial interests of huge, multi-billion dollar banking empires."
  • by Krelnik (69751) <timfarleyNO@SPAMmindspring.com> on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:24PM (#2989406) Homepage Journal
    It's been reported in several of these stories that the Replay 4000 limits internet sends of recorded shows to a total of 15, and they have to be people you have previously agreed to exchange shows with. This is very different than Napster, where a total stranger could grab a song off my disk without my knowledge.

    And there are other Digital Rights Management features in Replay 4000 [sonicblue.com] that have NOT yet been reported upon. I'm a Replay 4000 owner, and I can comment on some of these.

    SonicBlue licenses Macrovision's technology [yahoo.com], which is the same signal-munging technology that keeps VCR's from recording the output of your DVD player.

    The interesting part is that a Replay 4000 will let you record a Macrovision-encoded program. I personally tested this by feeding the output of my DVD player into the secondary input on my Replay 4160 as a test. The Replay reproduces the Macrovision signal when outputting the program. This means you can time-shift copy-protected shows, but you cannot dub them out of the Replay onto a VCR!

    Also, according to this press release [yahoo.com], when a Replay 4000 sees that a show is Macrovision-encoded, it will not allow the user to share this program over the internet.

    I think this is a pretty decent compromise between preserving the customer's ability to time-shift programs, and the program-owner's right to control copying of that program on permanent media.

    And vis-a-vis the big conglomerates, this is a big change from the early Replay units. I've owned a Replay 2004 for over two years, and those early units would strip the Macrovision encoding from shows you passed through it. Thus they could be used as an intermediary for dubbing DVD's and other protected content to tape.

    For this and other reasons I really think the media giants are going to fall on their face in this lawsuit. No judge is going to side with them when its so obvious that SonicBlue has made these efforts to accomodate their interests.

  • by oGMo (379) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:34PM (#2989499)

    It's called Prime Time. It's what advertisers pay them bigtime for, and when all the most popular shows get scheduled. After all, this is the time the largest target audience is going to be watching.

    Now, VCRs aren't such a big deal, because they're clunky and inconvenient. Programming them is a pain. Manually recording defeats most of the point, since you still have to be there.

    Throw into the mix PVRs, though, and Prime Time becomes any time. If everyone has a PVR (and they could eventually... they're cheap, and so convenient), there's no reason to schedule a show during any particular hour, since that's probably not when it'll get watched. There will be no time-based competition. Advertisers won't see the point in paying extra for any particular timeslot. By controlling the horizontal and vertical, they're getting more money, and now they see PVRs taking that away.

    So everyone go get/build a PVR if you want to stick it to them.

    On a somewhat on-topic note, it's really easy to build one of these things, too. The software is already there in parts, it just needs a little glue. Check out mp1e [sourceforge.net] for encoding, or anything else you like such as low-bitrate DivX. Combine this with mplayer [mplayerhq.hu] or something and a little at, cron, or various web-based TV recording stuff on freshmeat and there you've got it. I already do this all manually and it works better than TV (skipping ads is really worth it, not to mention not missing shows), and I'm planning on putting together a box with 3-4 TV cards to do this in a dedicated manner. Go PVRs.

  • by cryptochrome (303529) on Monday February 11, 2002 @05:43PM (#2989634) Journal
    The only time that really matters when you watch a show is the first time, yet the Industry expects to profit off repeat viewership anyway. This is seriously impacting the assimilation of these new technologies. If they were to move to a purchase-once, watch as many times as you like model things would go much smoother for everyone involved, but the industry is too dependent to put the crack pipe of repeat-viewer-profits down voluntarily.

    It started with TV. Shows were limited, and viewers often missed them at their first showing. So they started rerunning them so they could catch them later and to fill up time. And that's when they figured out that people would watch these shows more than once, sometimes even over and over. Advertising became deliberately more ambiguous, so people would start watching just to make sure it wasn't a new episode. Pretty soon the whole TV model depended on it. The same happened with the birth of VHS for movies, and with the soaring cost of "blockbuster" movies some first-run releases actually NEEDED people to watch more than once just to turn a profit.
  • by shatfield (199969) on Monday February 11, 2002 @06:10PM (#2990016)
    "If a ReplayTV customer can simply type 'The X-Files' or 'James Bond' and have every episode of 'The X-Files' and every James Bond film ... it will cause substantial harm to the market for prerecorded DVD, videocassette and other copies of those episodes and films," the lawsuit states."

    Ok, so I'm supposed to care about harm to their markets? What's better.. the government is supposed to care?! This seems like a whine to me, rather than a legitimate grievance.

    As Ian Clarke once said [paraphrasing].. "If you make money by selling water in the dessert, and it starts to rain... it's time to find some other way to make money."

    Well folks.. it's started to rain, and the studios are turning to the government to supply the umbrellas.

    Let them get wet, I say!
  • by nhavar (115351) on Monday February 11, 2002 @06:52PM (#2990458) Homepage
    So by the quote does that make VCRplus equiped in most VCR's illegal because it allows you to easily setup recording of your favorite show by punching in a simple code. Why, I could look up shows by genre on my cable box and program my VCR to record those shows, the horror, oh my God I'm stealing TV programming. Next they'll be banning TV guide for facilitating customers avoidance of bad programming and over abundant commercials.
  • by Mahrin Skel (543633) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:04PM (#2990569)
    This is probably the 300th comment, so I doubt anyone is still reading, but something struck me:

    Looked at a certain way, the whole edifice of network television along with "branding" is a device for delivering entertainment, and it's a remarkably inefficient device. You buy products, for which a sizable chunk of the price is advertising, which is allocated by highly paid marketing drones to highly paid advertising agencies, who buy airtime from TV networks, who buy programming from producers, who pay cast and crew to make the show.

    Doesn't this strike anyone else as incredibly wasteful? How much inefficiency and featherbedding are we supporting by buying products we see advertised on TV?

    I mean, come on, the shows I like to watch mostly cost less than $200,000 an episode, and have an audience of around half a million weekly. I'd pay dime, or even a quarter, per episode of Farscape, which would be far cheaper for me than paying $2 more for a box of Tide, *and* would be more lucrative for the producers.

    The reason why the networks are scared is because this whole house of cards is built on their being the only conduit between the talent (the production companies) and the money (the advertisers).

    Okay, let's get off our "Content control is evil" mindset, and imagine a world where strict copyright controls apply. Someone can charge you money, and send you via broadband a TV program you can only watch *once*. Why do you need anyone between you and the creators of the show taking a cut? Where does the existing (incredibly inefficient) business model fit?

    These poor bastards are doomed, they just don't know it. With shows amounting to only 44 minutes of a TV hour (including credits) when it isn't worse (taking 4 hours to play a one hour football game), they are killing the geese that lays the golden eggs. Even if they win, they lose. Strict content controls could be the worst thing to ever happen to them.

    --Dave

  • by sjvanwo (53286) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:12PM (#2990635)
    It's sad that the networks don't realize the power of the PVR, it is right under their nose. Do you think the communication between your PVR and Tivo or ReplayTV is only 1 way? After the Superbowl, Tivo mined the data they received from their subscribers to discover that the Britney Spears commercial was the most re-watch commercial from the Superbowl.

    Starting to get the picture? The PVR and thus ReplayTV and Tivo know what you watch, when you watch it, whether you skip commercials, what commercials you do in fact watch, etc., etc., etc. How is that information not a boon to advertisers?

    If the networks and advertisers would pull their heads out of their hottubs, they'd realize that there is a huge potential for targetting ads. They could partner with the PVR companies (or buy them outright) and build an ad system that is based on actual viewer data. Instead of having to sit through 30% worth of commercials per network show, you could watch your favorite half-hour show along with 1 ad that is targeted specifically to you. I'd wager most people would actually watch this commercial, too, if only to see what the advertisers think they want!

    I realize it isn't an easy or overnight process, but it seems to me to be a worthwhile endeavour, especially considering the pitiful ROI of today's ad-blast paradigm.

    My $0.02.

    -Scott

    (Yes, I have read "Next" by Michael Lewis)
  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Monday February 11, 2002 @07:47PM (#2990879)
    Consumers blame the corps. The corps blame the recorders. The recorders blame the advertisers. It goes around and around and around. I think things would be just a bit simpler if everybody involved accepted one simple truth:

    NOBODY LIKES ADVERTISEMENTS!

    It doesn't matter whether they put the ads in between scenes in the show or the use glaringly obvious product placement or anything of the sort. Time and time again the consumers have said "We don't like advertising." Hell, 99% of the advertising industry is trying to find new ways of advertising that the consumer literally cannot avoid, because even they know...

    NOBODY LIKES AdVERTISEMENTS!

    Do you think the anti-spam group would be so vocal if the content of these bulk e-mails wasn't advertising? Would various groups be unhappy with the way they're portrayed in commercials if their portrayals weren't used in order to sell something?

    Now I admit that there's always a time and a place to inform potential customers about a product. But we have systems that allow business to do this that nobody minds. The phone book. Signs near the point-of-sale (soda fountains with "Coca-Cola" written on them). Hell, even QVC can be considered in this light.

    If you're going to insist on putting advertising into a medium where the consumer does not want to see it, they will always find a way to avoid it, even if it means simply not paying attention to them. And frankly I don't understand how such advertisers are able to say that they earn their customers a profit with this.

    If the broadcast networks insist on using intrusive advertising like this as their only means of income, then they deserve exactly what they get when, lo and behold, people avoid those advertisements. Hell, I wonder how many network execs own a PVR, because (lest we forget)...

    NOBODY LIKES ADVERTISEMENTS!
  • by btempleton (149110) on Monday February 11, 2002 @09:15PM (#2991467) Homepage
    The law around these cases mostly derives from the famous Sony vs. Universal supreme court case, known as the "Betamax decision." It declared time-shifting a fair use, and that recorders which had a substantial non-infringing use (such as so noted time shifting) were legal.

    But that is all it said. Most notably, the court ruled that based on the time of the suit, studies showed that few people were fast forwarding over commercials when they time-shifted, because it was a pain to do. (Back then all you could do was go into FF with big mechanical buttons) and try to aim for the end of commercial. There was no on-screen scan, no commercial skip, no 30 second advance button.

    The court used this to conclude that the time-shifters weren't taking money from the studios pockets, in fact they were giving them more because more people could watch a show thanks to their betamax.

    Unfortunately, this logic is all but gone. Everbody commercial skips now because it's easy, and on a PVR it's really, really easy, and so you always do it. I see 1 commercial out of 100, if that, thanks to my Tivo. The court, looking at that, could rule quite differently.

    This wasn't all the ruling, however. One other important part was that because there were free programs on TV like PBS shows (today they would also talk about C-SPAN) that clearly vcrs should be legal for people who want to tape those and do whatever they want (including make libraries.)

    But that doesn't bear on commercial elimination, just on the recoder's right to exist as a linear recorder.

    The studios will argue that the 1982 Betamax court did not know about 2002 technology, and would not have come to the same conclusion about how today's recorders are not hurting the commercial prospects of studios.

    It was a 5-4 decision, and the chief justice was on the minority side, by the way.

    It's important as well to understand what the time-shifting ruling meant.

    Copying a tv show off the air is copying in the sense that copyright law defines it. It is an infringement under normal analysis of the studio's exclusive right to make such copies.

    What the court did was say that "If the reason you're making the copy is just to watch it later -- including probably watching the commercials too -- then this copy is a fair use, not an infringement.

    If, for example, you were taping off the air to sell the copies, that would not be a fair use, it would be a very clear infringement.

    And if you tape off the air to build a library -- well, the court never said that was OK. People just took the time-shifting logic to imply this. We don't really know what the court felt about that.

    So this is a complex issue with much left to resolve.

If a 6600 used paper tape instead of core memory, it would use up tape at about 30 miles/second. -- Grishman, Assembly Language Programming

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