Tivo and Replay sell out their customers again

The makers of TiVo and ReplayTV digital video recorders have agreed to limit how long consumers can keep pay-for-view movies stored on future versions of the VCR-like devices.

The new technology also will allow Hollywood movie studios and broadcasters to regulate how often movies purchased through pay-for-view services can be watched. Digital video recorders that recognize these new copy restrictions will begin appearing in the spring of 2005.

Fred von Lohmann, senior attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, described the technology as anti-consumer. "Consumers are not the ones who are asking for this so-called feature. And I hope that the marketplace will respond by punishing TiVo and Replay and others that do this."

One control would limit recording to 90 minutes -- essentially enough time for a viewer to watch an on-demand movie. Another would allow a movie to be stored for up to seven days but once the film was started it must be viewed within 24 hours. Another would allow unlimited viewing within a seven-day period.

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37 Responses:

  1. jabber says:

    Sell out customers? Hardly.

    If someone doesn't like their new terms of service, they don't have to use a Tivo to steal "watch once" video streams.

    • thealien says:

      What if they just use their VCR to steal it? Where steal, of course, means 'do something legal that doesn't cause any property to change hands'.

      • jabber says:

        Exactly. There are other means to get around restrictions on "fair use".

        Tivo is a business, they provide a service, not a Right.

        • jwz says:

          Nice strawman you're flagellating there.

          • jabber says:

            As opposed to what? "Information wants to be free"? It's a great rallying cry, if you're not the one sweating to assemble the content.

            Keep in mind, I'm in Devil's Advocate mode. The RIAA and MPAA are zombies, with enough money to bribe the medical examiner, at least for a while.

            Mine is the counter-argument. All I hear is "no fair! I get less, now that 'they' realized they can make more money!". There has to be a more sophisticated position than that.

            • jwz says:

              I said "Tivo is fucking over their customers." I did not say anything about "rights" or "information wants to be free."

              "The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position."

            • mcfnord says:

              And it is: the DMCA empowers media providers to re-write court guidelines on copyright law. copyright law protects the producer's right to exclusive publication, and also protects the purchaser's right to use. The Constitution defines this as promoting the useful arts. But the DMCA proceeds to empower media providers with legal force to defend arbitrary revision of media property rights, even illegalizing reverse-engineering, when in fact such an act could be defending the natural rights of media owners, in full compliance with the the Constitution's intent. When i purchase the media, I then own it for whatever personal purpose, limited historically by what I may not do, not by what the producer decides I may. It is not clear to me why content producers should have the right to redefine my property rights. Save Betamax.

    • mendel says:

      What is selling out customers, if adding features which make the box do less isn't?

    • spike says:

      ...unless, of course, these "watch once" video streams can only be decrypted by devices that have have been issued "TOS compliance certificates" by the cable companies. And yes, there's always 'the analog hole', even for video, but I don't think the direction this is heading in.

      Anyone feel like porting MythTV to run on my old Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (which has a built-in TV tuner and an infrared remote control) ?

      • jabber says:

        Eventually, people will get off their asses and vote, no?

        • spike says:

          Not if past experience is any indicator, no.

          Never underestimate the power of the CAM (Couch Ass Magnet) that keeps people's butts firmly affixed to their sofas.

          • baconmonkey says:

            Recall the Divx machines?
            And no, I don't mean the mpeg4 codec.
            I mean the quasi-DVD machines where you bought the discs for cheap, then had to pay every time you watch them.

            They tanked amid a mass of protest and anger.

            • guyver3 says:

              I retired mine over a year ago. It was an RCA xmas return for $100 off sticker "open box" even though it wasn't opened. I didn't care so much about the soon failed Divx project, so much as it made what was a $300 player, $200, and with lots of nice features. I never thought Divx would work. $5 for a disc, and $15 to make it work 3 more times, or $25 to make it work forever. Compared to $20-30 for a dvd right off the bat. Totally doomed to fail. Of course I hated DVD when it came out since I was on LD, and didnt have this region crap...stupid dvd....

            • nothings says:

              They tanked amid a mass of people not paying money for some newfangled thing that wasn't as good as the alternatives.

              I don't see many options for people to vote on this, either with their wallet or with their paper-trail-free-touchscreen. (Yes, they can give up on these devices entirely and just stop watching TV, but that's different.)

    • crasch says:

      Thus far, timeshifting is considered legal:

      "...Handing down its decision in October 1979, the U.S. District Court ruled in favor of Sony, stating that taping off air for entertainment or time shifting constituted fair use; that copying an entire program also qualified as fair use; that set manufacturers could profit from the sale of VCRs; and that the plaintiffs did not prove that any of the above practices constituted economic harm to the motion picture industry..."

      Of course, it's still within TiVo's and RePlay's rights to impose such restrictions, even if they're not legally required to do so. But I hope they get punished by the market for trying it.

      • jkonrath says:

        I would expect them to get out of the betamax ruling by saying these are not TV programs being sent over the air at a regular schedule, but rather proprietary products that you are "borrowing", therefore making them different somehow.

        With as many Tivo-like devices coming out, all with different ideas on how to take over the ppv model, I think the biggest problem to the consumer is choosing a machine that doesn't quickly become as useless as a PCjr. I like the Pioneer model that has a Tivo and a DVD-R burner, but I'd hate to drop five bills on it and then find out I'm stuck without the ability to do on-demand programming with it or something.

  2. treptoplax says:

    I've resigned myself to the fact that when my Replay 4508 dies I'll have to replace it with a box that does less. I may find that annoying enough to punt TV altogether.

    • jwz says:

      The thing that pisses me off is that in order to end up with a box that doesn't "do less", eventually I'm going to have to replace the appliance with software, and then I'm going to have to fucking sysadmin my fucking TV. And that like, totally sucks ass.

      • spike says:

        N.B. that the TV turns on and off, but that the ReplayTV sometimes has to be rebooted. We're already there, and it already partially sucks ass.

        • jwz says:

          I've had hardware failures with Tivos, but aside from that, I've never seen one crash.

          • fantasygoat says:

            When you muck around with the innards (ie. shell session) like I have so I can get Canadian guide data into a US-only product, it increases the number of crashes.

            My tivo crashes about once every 3 months, but I only know that because I can read the logs, and also, it screws up the program sorting because it defaults back to By Date instead of Alphabetically when it reboots.

            The point (since I know that I void my argument by fucking with the OS) is that your tivo might reboot and you'd never know.

            • jwz says:

              You know, as that tree falls in the forest, it can go ahead and make all the noise it likes.

              • fantasygoat says:

                Sure - mine reboots and the only pain is pressing Select-0-Record-Thumbs Up again in the program listing. I'm cool with that. But really, a toaster shouldn't "reboot", even if you're not in the kitchen to watch it.

                On the actual topic, however, I should probably pick up a couple of extra Series 1 boxes so that I'll never have to endure this bullshit.

                The movie industry can suck my cock.

                • jwz says:

                  I imagine that eventually they'll end-of-life any existing Series 1 boxes by changing the program data format and not bothering to patch the old software.

                  (I think that having your toaster auto-reboot periodically is a perfectly sensible thing to do, to avoid fragmentation-related crustiness, assuming it keeps all its settings afterward -- which clearly it's not, for you.)

                  • fantasygoat says:

                    The joy of being Canadian is that I never talk to the mothership anyway, since I scrape my TV guide data off Zap2it.com, so unless TV radically changes in the next few years, I'm set.

                    If the toaster reset and defaulted to dark, that would suck almost as much cock as the movie industry.

                • baconmonkey says:

                  but you do have to reboot your toaster, in a sense anyways.

                  open bottom pannel
                  dump crumbs
                  close pannel
                  plug in

        • treptoplax says:

          I've seen a couple of hangs on mine, but less than one a year. That's not real sysadminage. I could build a more functional replacement, but it would cost close to $1K, and require getting video playback and import working under linux, not to mention an IR transmitter, an IR receiver, codes for my cable box... I'm just not up for that these days. I want to pay someone money, and get a box that deals with all that crap, and skips commercials, just like I did years ago.

  3. cabrius says:

    One control would limit recording to 90 minutes -- essentially enough time for a viewer to watch an on-demand movie.

    Sure...if you like direct-to-video sequels or low-budget comedies.

    It's also notable that the article doesn't say anything about how this would affect pricing. Part of the whole campaign behind limited-life formats like DivX was that it would be cheaper for the consumer, but if they're not even going to give you that here...

  4. pfrank says:

    And so MythTV and FreeVo and other free-as-in-free Tivo alternatives look better and better.

  5. baconmonkey says:

    "why do none of these hammers have claws anymore"
    -"well, the nail industry has started issuing separate licenses on the use of their nails"
    -"These hammers are licensed to pound the top side of the nail. Over here, we have our DRM-enabled mini-crowbars which are each licensed to pull 200 nails"
    "that's crazy, why is there a difference?"
    -"Well, the NIAA got tired of people stealing an extra use from their nails. Nails are intended to be be used once, but some people were pulling nails, and using them again. this cost the industry millions. Some people were even pulling, and reusing nails that they never bought in the first place"

    • pvck says:

      That's good. Is that original, and if not, what's the source?

      (And I hope you paid for it, you MOOCHER!)

      • baconmonkey says:

        hang on, let me take a quarter from my desk and put it in my pocket. crap, does this mean I have to pay the govt a currency licensing fee for paying myself with my money?

  6. pdx6 says:

    TiVo and Replay have the potential to be next-gen VCRs with ondemand services -- a service that is well past due to arrive. Ma and pa only know to press the record button, and sometimes set the time on their existing VCR. They want it to "record" and then at some point later "play." Adding all these extra restrictions will leave confused, frightened, and upset customers rioting at the return line in Best Buy.

    As Mr. Bacon Monkey brought up, we've been behind this Circuit City/Divx road before, and we know where that heads.