Tivo 0wns j00

Cory writes:
Hey, TiVo: since 1984's Betamax decision, Americans have had the right to record TV shows even if the rightsholder doesn't like the idea. That's straight from the Supreme Court's mouth. I don't know what kind of special privilege the enteraintment industry has offered you in exchange for this spectacular display of wanton shark-jumping, but it wasn't enough.

The Tivo Fanboys are quick to point out that this particular instance is probably a mistake -- chances are they didn't really mean to put a 7-day expiration on a two-year-old syndicated re-run -- but that's really missing the point. After your appliance auto-upgrades to the 7.2 release, it will be less powerful than it was when you bought it.

Wired interviewed a Tivo weasel about this last year:

TiVo has always been about empowering the viewer. Why change now?
Macrovision changed its policy. So the question was, Do we want to have a Macrovision license with certain restrictions, or none at all?

You're not legally required to have copy protection. Why not tell Macrovision to stuff it?
That was an option. But if there was no Macrovision license, we would run into a lot of copyright problems with things like remote access and "TiVo to Go" functionality.

brad cancelled his Tivo and notes that that's a good way to get a discount:

Finally got off hold and got a confirmation number. But they gave me "one last offer before we make this official" (after a dozen other offers), which is a permanent monthly price of $6.95 instead of $12.95. So if you still like Tivo and want a discount..... there's your opportunity.

I have DirecTivo, and instead of just buying a new one when the drive died, I replaced the drive. But, in order to do that, you have no choice but to hack it and run a copy of the OS that has questionable legality; there's no other way to replace a dead drive and have the device still work. Because of this, my machine is permanently stuck at version 4 of the OS, so I don't have this new Macrovision "feature". But I know that someday, for some reason, I'm going to have to upgrade it (I expect that the hardware will fail and I will fall into a cascading upgrade dance that requires a version of the OS with these new misfeatures). I don't look forward to that day.

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46 Responses:

  1. supersat says:

    Why couldn't they just tell Macrovision to stuff it and implement their own DRM for TiVo-To-Go, etc? The last time I checked, copyright law didn't require you to use one vendor for Your DRM Solutionsâ„¢.

    Sounds like a sorry excuse to me.

    • zonereyrie says:

      MacroVision support is basically a business requirement. Try to find a commercial recording device without it - VCRs, DVD recorders, DVRs, etc. They usually don't tout it, but it is in there. The threat of legal trouble for 'allowing or enabling piracy' is enough to get all the vendors to sign the license.

      A couple of years ago MacroVision updated the license to require support for the broadcast recording restrictions. If you wanted to renew your license, you had to accept the new conditions. ReplayTV accepted them, and TiVo held out for about another year. But you must have MacroVision to legally support DVDs - and TiVo is producing software for TiVo/DVD units. They also got pressure from the content providers which amounted to 'sign the license or we'll sue you to prevent TiVoToGo, sharing, etc.' And without the license, kiss any chance for broadband content from the major providers goodbye.

      Not having the license would be business suicide for TiVo. They'd lose a LOT more by not having it than they will from anyone bothered by it.

      As for TiVoToGo, they did develop their own DRM to protect the files when transferred. The MacroVision doesn't have anything to do that that part, but controls if it is allowed to be transferred or not. It isn't just for TiVo, any device that allows transfer of recordings and supports MacroVision is supposed to honor it - networked DVRs, DVD recorders, etc.

  2. netik says:

    The first time I see this message on my TiVo, I'm cancelling my 'Lifetime' subscription and buying a PC for use as a MythTv system.

    • mattstratton says:

      You can't "cancel" the lifetime. You can only sell your Tivo to someone else and the lifetime goes with it.

      • netik says:

        By "cancel" I mean "Disconnect the device and never use it again."

        • zonereyrie says:

          Shooting yourself in the foot is a useful thing to do.

          They have your money. They couldn't care less if you stop using it now - one less box to server data to and support.

          • sc00ter says:

            Yah, it would actually be better to setup some script to keep calling for updates rather then not use it again.

            • zonereyrie says:

              There's no need to be a jerk (to TiVo) about it either.

              If the box has lifetime you can sell it. If you're not going to use it and someone else does, that's one less potential sale for TiVo. If you really want to be altruistic you can sell it and donate the money to charity, or Katrina victims, etc. Or you can always jsut give it away.

              Just unplugging it and letting it collect dust is a hollow protest, put it to use, do something good with it.

              • sc00ter says:

                well I wasn't saying he should.. just saying that if he wanted to "stick it to TiVo" then that would be a much more effective way then to not use it at all.

              • mrfy says:

                I own a DirecTiVo, and when I moved I tried to get my lifetime license transferred. (Since I left the dish and DirecTiVo unit with my friend) . DirecTV wouldn't do it, for any sum of money. They consider the lifetime TiVo license to apply to only you and the one device. So for now, I continue to pay for the DirecTV service and my friend sends me a check every month.

                So selling the device doesn't ensure that the lifetime license also gets transferred, at least as far as DirecTV is concerned.

                • zonereyrie says:

                  Right - the DirecTV units are different. The agreement is with DirecTV, they consider it to be the lifetime of the *account*. DTV hasn't offered lifetime for a few years now.

                  Standalone units it is the lifetime of the unit.

  3. feren says:

    And so it begins, unless you opt to go back even further and blame Macrovision as the major beginning of all this. Seeing <lj user=brad>'s post about this less than a week after I placed my Tivo order makes me so very glad I just shelled out $499 for an HD Tivo/DirecTV tuner (the HR10-250). By "Very glad" what I really mean is "considering returning it to the store and cancelling my DirecTV install date while I still can."

    • otterley says:

      You should send it back anyway; your unit will be useless in a year or two. When DirecTV begins its nationwide rollout of local broadcast HD feeds, the stream format will be MPEG-4 and you will need a new IRD.

      • feren says:

        [You should send it back anyway; your unit will be useless in a year or two.]

        While I'm in the process of eternally fence-sitting and avoiding a purchase because something new is "just over the horizon," why don't I send back the laptop I bought last month? I mean, there's no point in keeping it -- in another 18 to 24 months Intel will release a newer, faster chip and then Dell will put it in a newer, faster laptop with more features.

        You have to adopt technology at some point and acknowledge that in markets like Home Theater your chance of achieving ROI is minimal. By getting in on the trailing end of this technology my up-front costs are far less ($499 versus $699+ people were paying even four months ago) and when it's outdated or breaks I'll upgrade. Besides, I want DirecTV and HD and Tivo now. I'm not going wait "one to two years" for some fabled upgrade (because we all know that the big boys always meet their promised target dates for rollouts, right? Right?) before I start enjoying what I can get right now.

        • otterley says:

          Your Dell laptop analogy is inapposite: it will still be capable in the future of performing whatever tasks it can perform today, until the laws of physics deem otherwise.

          On the other hand, the odds are likely that any DirecTiVo/HD box you purchase today will be a brick - that's right, a brick - in two years. It's very probable that the old HD feeds will simply be terminated.

          Finally, if you're that adamant about having instant gratification, then a little Macrovision content protection on the PPV channels shouldn't discourage you.

          • feren says:

            Tell me, would this be as much an issue to you if we were having this conversation when the HR10-250 launched 14 months ago at over $1,000 and DirecTV hadn't even breathed a word of MPEG-4? Then I would have paid more than double the amount but hey, it'd be obsolete in a rumored three to four years instead of the rumored one to two! The cost would be exponentially higher but I'd have a greater longevity! Or would you still recommend I still wait somewhere from "three to four" years? But how long will MPEG-4 last before something comes along and turns all the MPEG-4 gear into bricks? Maybe I should wait until that gear is outdated before I make a purchase...

            At some point you have to shit or get off the pot and this price point makes it a reasonable gamble. Hell, even if it only lasts a paltry 16 months before bricking it still comes in at less than I spend on soda for the same duration. In my book that's the best ROI I can hope for.

            [On the other hand, the odds are likely that any DirecTiVo/HD box you purchase today will be a brick - that's right, a brick - in two years.]

            Or it will not at all be a brick in two years, since DirecTV has already pushed parts of the MPEG-4 initiative back 8 months since announcing it. I see a lot of panic and hand-waving over this number, but I'm not seeing any movement out of DirecTV that says they're anything approaching "on schedule."

            [It's very probable that the old HD feeds will simply be terminated.]

            This is FUD, pure and simple. There is no way that the second all the birds are in orbit the non-mpeg4 equipment will suddenly cease to function. A transition period is going to be necessary. I'll concede that new HD feeds will probably be turned on via MPEG-4 and thus wouldn't be available until I upgraded, but to say that the old feeds will just blink off at that very moment? No.

            In the interim, since you opine that the box is a poor bet against something that may or may not happen "anytime from 12 to 24 months" or longer from now (I love how specific that timeline is), I am open to any recommendation you may have to a device or provider that is future-proof, carries the same features and can be had now for under half a grand.

            [Finally, if you're that adamant about having instant gratification, then a little Macrovision content protection on the PPV channels shouldn't discourage you.]

            Acceptance of inevitable obsolescence != acceptance of corporations flagrantly bending me over the barrel because they're greedy and frightened.

  4. sjn says:

    We have two tivo dvd recorders, and to this day, I have only seen one show that has the red circle/ thingy telling me I could not record it. Strangely, I have seen that same show come up again and it was not dis-allowed. Even if tivo is getting more restrictive, I have not seen it, and my wife has recorded over 300 dvd's full of movies at this point.

    • grahams says:

      The Tivo Fanboys are quick to point out that this particular instance is probably a mistake -- chances are they didn't really mean to put a 7-day expiration on a two-year-old syndicated re-run -- but that's really missing the point. After your appliance auto-upgrades to the 7.2 release, it will be less powerful than it was when you bought it.

      • zonereyrie says:

        Except that's bad data. This is not new in 7.2, it has been in the code for a while. This isn't the first time this has cropped up. I don't recall exact releases, but this was definitely in the code pre-7.2, and I think back at least to 5.x. Just because this happened to someone who had received 7.2, people jumped to the conclusion this was a new thing in 7.2.

        • grahams says:

          You're picking nits... It doesn't change the fact that copyright holders can effectively revoke content from your pvr.

          And before you blather on about how all PVR's have this "feature", that doesn't make it a good feature...

          • zonereyrie says:

            I agree it is a lousy feature, but I don't blame TiVo for signing the license. MacroVision is basically a protection racket - if you pay your dues then the entertainment industry doesn't rough you up. If you don't, then you pay more to fend of the land sharks. It hurts less to sign the license.

            I don't like the pervasiveness of DRM and fair use restrictions either. I've stripped DRM off my TiVoToGo recordings, and I use JHymn on my iTunes purchases - even though I really only use them on iTunes and my iPod, so I don't need to. I just like knowing I have the flexibility if I want it.

    • asan102 says:

      I think you're missing the point. Why would you want to support a company that even allows this to be done?? The network has no right to tell you wether or not you can record a show on TV.

  5. legolas says:

    Does tivo not have any competitors (if so, any specific reason for that)? There's nothing like that here, although there may soon be. It's coming form the cable company itself though, so no choice (either) here...

    • zonereyrie says:

      Sure, TiVo has competitors. What everyone is missing is that the competitors ALSO support these same flags! ReplayTV signed the MacroVision license a year before TiVo did. Support for these flags is part of the updated MacroVision license, *any* recording device with a MacroVision license - which means MOST of them (it is mandatory to legally support DVDs, for example - part of the licensing from the DVD Forum) - will need to follow the updated license.

      If you want to build a MythTV or FreeVo box, that's fine. But in the commercial DVR sector, this is status quo. I don't understand why people think this is something unique to TiVo.

  6. It's only so long with these stupid acts until someone ports mythtv to the tivo platform in an easy-to-upgrade iso and then boy are they fucked.

    It's just a linux box and an mpeg encoder / decoder right?

    • zonereyrie says:

      Wrong. It is very much unlike a PC - the S2 boxes run 200MHz MIPS CPUs and have 32MB RAM (IIRC). The S1s had some custom silicon, I don't recall if the S2s do.

      Porting MythTV to a TiVo would be a huge pain in the ass, even with the kernel modifications available from TiVo.

      • transiit says:

        My S1 stopped getting software updates a long time ago, so I've gotten to enjoy not having most of the new features. I vowed never to do business with the company again the first time I saw an ad on my main menu, and the only thing stopping me from building a mythtv box to replace it is that it still works.

        As for custom silicon, I don't think the S1's really had that much. IIRC, ATI did the hardware encoder/decoder, and the box is based on a 603 (601? I don't recall) PPC.

        -transiit

        • zonereyrie says:

          Not sure who did the encoder on the S1, but it is a 66MHz PPC CPU. I don't remember off-hand what the custom silicon was used for - there is a chip on the board with a TiVo logo on it, that's the one.

  7. bifrosty2k says:

    I have shunned Tivo because I think they use bad technology in the device, this doesn't improve my outlook.
    I was about to break down and get one, but now I think I'll just do the MythTV thing instead.

  8. zonereyrie says:

    Jamie,

    I wouldn't worry about it. This has been in the code for a while. I don't believe it goes back to 4.x, but pretty sure it was in 5.x. And it hasn't been all over the net because of the simple fact that it is pretty much never used. This is part of the standard MacroVision license, the new requirements came in a year or two back, so as devices get updated this rolls in. ReplayTV got them, then TiVo, and other VCRs, DVRs, DVD recorders, etc. But the broadcasters almost never use it - when it has shown up it has been, as in this case, a glitch.

    As for needing a hacked image to re-image a DirecTiVo. You could use a non-hacked image to do the same thing, but, ironically, those are harder to get than the hacked ones. Mainly because DirecTV has sucked hard on adding the features any standalone S2 has, so more people would rather have the hacked version with networking, sharing, etc. PTVUpgrade.com makes InstantCake CDs for standalones and DirecTiVos. I know the SA CD has the normal image on it, not sure what they put on the DTV CDs.

    • mattyj2001 says:

      The images for changing a hard drive are not that hard to come across. I don't know where you're looking, but you can get them from the Tivo site. (You may have to fill out a form, but at least they are official images/source.) My original DirecTivo manual has a copy of the GPL in it for Christ's sake. It really isn't brain surgery. Search for the source on freshmeat.

      ---

      Does anyone here own a copyright on anything that's been stolen? And I don't mean some lame desktop switcher or xbill icon. I mean does anyone here make a living, feed their families, with revenue from a copyrighted piece of media? I'm not saying all studios etc. are saints, but people legitimately need to make money off of their work to live. The reality is that it *is* their stuff and they can choose to distribute it however they want. It's not Tivo's fault so boycotting them is idiotic. Boycott the source of the media you want to distribute to your friends. With gas prices so high, do you boycott ford? No, you just get your product (gas) from somewhere else.

      ---

      I don't think anyone has addressed the fact that copying a videotape is way different than copying digital media. You can't compare the two. Digital media proliferates at a much faster rate, with minimal effort, with no degradation. Think about it.

      ---

      I'm not all cuddly with Hollywood, but as a consumer, I don't mind paying for things that I like, even entertainment. Boycotting Tivo and putting them out of business won't help anything. If anything, you should be promoting Tivo so they get more revenue and can work aganist this kind of BS instead of being forced to succomb to it. This is backward thinking.

      ---

      Go ahead and build a Myth box. It's not a one hour project, it's not cheap, since you glue it together with your own lack of knowledge, it won't work all the time. And the first time you miss recording Oprah because you forgot to re-start a cron job, your wife will kill you. Tivo works. It's a rock solid technology with a remote control (no really) that belongs in the Smithsonian. To me, the cost (monetary and philosophically) are more than worth it.

      -mattyj

      • jwz says:
          My original DirecTivo manual has a copy of the GPL in it for Christ's sake. It really isn't brain surgery. Search for the source on freshmeat.

        Yeah, let me know when you've gotten that compiled. The GPL and source patches only apply to their modifications to the kernel, which is a trivially small part. The Tivo application itself is not available. And I'm reasonably sure that you're mistaken, and there is no legal source of drive images, but I really can't be bothed to go search for one.

          Does anyone here own a copyright on anything that's been stolen? And I don't mean some lame desktop switcher or xbill icon. I mean does anyone here make a living, feed their families, with revenue from a copyrighted piece of media?

        Well, for the record, I'll wager that I've made more money on "intellectual property" than anyone else who's reading this, and I think it's bullshit.

          It's not Tivo's fault so boycotting them is idiotic.

        I don't care who's fault it is, but if Tivo keeps making their product less useful than it was before they will lose customers. Look, that's what you see happening here.

          I don't think anyone has addressed the fact that copying a videotape is way different than copying digital media. You can't compare the two. Digital media proliferates at a much faster rate, with minimal effort, with no degradation. Think about it.

        No shit, Sherlock. Nobody here was talking about their god-given right to post sitcoms on Bitorrent. I sometimes take way more than seven days between when I record something and when I actually get around to watching it. That's one of the nice things about Tivo. They've decided (or the companies on whose cock they choke have decided) that I can't be trusted to make that decision on my own. That makes me less inclined to give them my money, because now the product is less useful. We call these "market forces".

          Boycotting Tivo and putting them out of business won't help anything. If anything, you should be promoting Tivo so they get more revenue and can work aganist this kind of BS instead of being forced to succomb to it. This is backward thinking.

        You seem to live in some upsidedownland where people ought to pay more money for products they don't like as much in the hope that this will magically reverse the trend instead of amplifying it.

          Go ahead and build a Myth box. It's not a one hour project, it's not cheap, since you glue it together with your own lack of knowledge, it won't work all the time.

        Which is why I have a Tivo: it's still easier than the alternative. But every step they take in the direction of treating their customers like criminals reduces that gap.

      • zonereyrie says:

        Have you actually looked for the images from TiVo? No, they're not available. The kernel modifications TiVo has made are available on their site: http://www.tivo.com/linux

        But those are only the alterations to the GPL kernel code - which they MUST release, because it is GPL code. That doesn't cover ANY of the DVR application software, that's TiVo proprietary and NOT GPL'd. There used to be a number of websites out there openly distributing drive images for the different TiVo boxes, and TiVo cease-and-desisted them, so it is harder to find the images now - and when sites pop up TiVo plays whack-a-mole on them.

        It isn't impossible, but it isn't as easy as it used to be. The best way to get a full bootable image is probably to hit the forums at DealDatabase.com, where a lot of TiVo hacking discussions happen. People trade images there.

        As for IP and things being stolen, I don't think that's what the discussion is about. This isn't "I don't like DRM because it stops be from sharing my content with others", this is "I just want to record a program for myself, to watch later, and they're telling me I have to do it within a week or else." Basically rolling back abilities users have had for decades.

        With a VCR you can record something and watch it any time, as many times as you want. Nothing to do with making copies. DVD Recorders have, to date, been the same way, so you can't even say it is an analog-digital thing. Until recently DVRs were the same way.

        Now they're saying you can record this, but you can only keep it for a set period of time, then it self-destructs. And the reason for this is PayPerView and OnDemand programming. Content providers want to get you to pay for something over and over again. Or to sell DVDs - sure you can record the latest episode of Lost, but you can't archive it. If you want to see it again, or show it to friends after a week, you'll have to go buy the DVDs.

        This isn't about protecting copyright. It isn't about piracy at all really. It is about enabling new business models for the content providers.

  9. otterley says:

    This conversation makes me wonder how far the fair use exception to copyright goes. Sure, the Supreme Court acknowledged that time-shifting is OK in the Sony decision. But it's not clear to me that time-shifting extends to perpetual storage. Interesting paper topic, perhaps.

    But I do sense an implication in the discussion that the peanut gallery thinks such storage is a right and that the content belongs, in some sense, to the viewer as opposed to the owner of the copyright.

    • transiit says:

      The SCOTUS ruling is irrelevant. This feature is governed by a contract between companies, and not the law of the land.

      -transiit

      • vinz_klortho says:

        The conflict is that when companies become big and pervasive enough, what they say may not be the technical law of the land, but it becomes the de facto law of the land. It is useful to compare any ambiguities between the two.

        • transiit says:

          From an academic sense, it might be interesting to make such a comparison, but my point still stands: SCOTUS has no jurisdiction over the de facto law.

          -transiit

    • thedward says:

      And some folks think the idea that a particular way of arranging bits can be owned is nonsensical.

      There is something to be said for granting limited monopolies to producers of information, but treating data like it is physical property is just silly. Well, actually, it isn't just silly, it is also down right harmful.

      • otterley says:

        It makes sense if you consider the idea-expression dichotomy in copyright law. The latter is protected; the former is not. Copyright law does not protect facts--only expressions original to the author.

  10. fantasygoat says:

    It's funny. I have an old S1 Tivo that I've had for years and years, with the 3.0 software on it that will never get upgraded ever. However, there's nothing in the new software that would actually improve my TV watching experience. The S2s aren't any "better" in my opinion. It's not like broadcast TV has changed in the past 40 years.

    In addition, being in Canada means I had to hack the guide, so I don't even pay the monthly fee. So I get to sit back and laugh as they keep adding these "features" and making Tivo worse than this original unit.

    Change isn't always better!

    • jwz says:

      There's certainly not much of a difference, unless you care about sharing MP3s and photos from your Windows PC to your Tivo, which I don't. The S2 hardware is a lot faster than the S1 hardware (you notice it for things like reordering season passes) and the "categories" thing is nice (where multiple shows from the same series go in a sub-folder in the "now playing" list). But yeah, the software hasn't advanced much. Which is in its favor, really: it means they got it right the first time.

      • zonereyrie says:

        Yeah, the core functionality has only had minor changes since I first started using it - at 2.0. I know, from research, that there were a lot of changes from the 1.x to 2.0, but that's fairly common in new products. Go out the door with the minimal set of features for launch, then point release rapidly to build the product up.

        By 2.0 the Season Pass and Wishlist features were pretty much as they are now. There have been minor changes - allowing padding in 1,2,3,4,5 minute incriments (used to be 1,2,5), Keep At Most 10 episodes, etc. But that's really minor stuff. Most of the changes have been outside the 'core' of recording TV - networking for multi-room viewing, music and photos, web scheduling, and TiVoToGo. Now Home Media Engine and publishing MPEG2 back to the TiVo, and broadband content delivery. Next year we should see the Motorola/Comcast platform and standalone HDTV systems. And HME will continue to be expanded, exposing more of the system's features to 3rd party developers. The idea is to eventually allow network access to the core DVR functionality.

        I'm openly a TiVo fanboy - I run <lj comm="tivolovers"> - and I've lost count of the number of NDAs I've signed with them. I've met a number of the folks who work for TiVo and been through their offices, none of them want to do anything that restricts end users, quite the opposite. They get just as frustrated as the end users do when they have to kneecap their own work. They always try to 'do the right thing', but they have to deal with all the business realities too. Which I'm sure anyone who's worked for a large company has had to deal with as well. I'm not happy with everything they've done or plan, but I trust the folks I know there.