Tivo DRM gets an accidental workout

Written by Brett Thomas

September 14, 2005 | 21:56

Tags: #accident #drm #flag #mpaa #record #tivo

Companies: #riaa

A slightly unnerving report has surfaced recently. According to TiVo's Forums, in the past few days there have been some issues with copyright protection. Apparently, quite a few normal TV shows were flagged with a copy-protection from Macrovision, preventing you from being able to record the show for any real length of time, or ever burn it to DVD.

The protection was meant to prevent recording of VOD (Video-on-Demand) and PPV (Pay-Per-View) at the moment, giving content providers (read: the MPAA) the comforts of knowing that a TiVo user could not record and then subsequently burn a full-length movie or special event. For a low-down on the basic protection and an interview with TiVo's Matthew Zinn, check out this article from Wired Magazine in November, 2004.

This week, however, the technology did not just apply to VOD or PPV. Regular TV shows were listed with the little red flags, preventing users from recording shows like "The Simpsons." At first, the company said that the content restriction must have been turned on inadvertently at the program provider, in this case Fox Television. Now, according to an update from Tivo's director of marketing, Jim Denney, it was likely a fluke dealing with noise in the line that was interpreted as copy protection. However, if one thinks about that statement, it means that any time the TiVo's lines get the slightest bit crossed, the consumer loses out.

The issue has raised many questions regarding TiVo's DRM and the future of your rights as a TV viewer. For instance, if this protection was meant for VOD and PPV, why can it even be applied to normal stations? Was this agreement with Macrovision the first step in a slippery slope? Will television stations begin to force viewers to watch their shows without TiVo again simply by flagging the show "inadvertently" when they have hot content with lots of advertising? Or, since shows are now coming out on DVD, are the studios going to start protecting them like they do movies?

Each of these questions makes the future of TiVo that much more of a mystery, and makes me thankful for my HTPC, which does not have DRM restrictions. What do you think about TiVo's present and future? Tune in and tell us in our forums.
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