Does Microsoft's Media Center Let TV Producers Block Shows From Being Recorded?

from the sleazy-if-true dept

And here we go again with rumors about questionable DRM tactics involving Microsoft and NBC Universal. Just days after a (later denied, after first being confirmed) report that Microsoft was going to put a “copyright cop” into Zune devices, users of Microsoft’s Vista Media Center were upset to find that they were unable to record certain NBC Universal television shows earlier this week. Instead, they received error messages reading: “Restrictions set by the broadcaster and/or originator prohibit recording of this program.” That would suggest, at the very least, that Microsoft’s Media Center does allow content broadcasters to block shows from being recorded — even if it turns out that they didn’t block these particular shows on purpose. My guess is that this was an accident in this case, because it would be quite surprising to find out that NBC Universal and Microsoft would do this officially without any kind of announcement. However, given that other DVR systems out there do not have any such restrictions, this should serve as yet another reason not to trust Microsoft and its DRM efforts. Update: Some folks in the comments reminded us that TiVo had a similar problem a year and a half ago, which was equally problematic. There are still other DVR offerings out there that do not include these “features.”

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: microsoft, nbc universal

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Does Microsoft's Media Center Let TV Producers Block Shows From Being Recorded?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Another wrong "fact" by Mike

“..given that other DVR systems out there do not have any such restrictions”.

Another incorrect “fact” by Mike – Tivo had a very similiar “accident” about 1.5 years ago in which a similiar message was displayed when some users tried to record what I believe was a “Simpsons” episode.

zcat says:


It might be a pain in the ass to set up (or not; there are prebuilt distributions for it now) but mythtv certainly doesn’t have these ‘features’. You can even check the code if you don’t believe me..

Or you can buy an asian-import generic pvr, which is likely to be much cheaper anyhow and very unlikely to have copy-control or copy-prevention features.

Funny thing; I bought a cheap Asian 1G mp3 player. It acts like a simple USB hard-drive as far as getting files on and off it. I LMAO every time I see people struggle with their expensive iPod or other ‘brand name’ players. Players that won’t let you copy files back off them; players that use MTP and just won’t work on a vanilla XP/SP2 install (not everybody updates windows religiously; a fair number I know aren’t even on the internet). Sucks to be them, mine works just about everywhere. Sometimes less is more!

Griffon (profile) says:

others? Sorta

It’s easy to say that their are other systems without these features but that is not a good apple to apple comparison.
There are not other cable card solutions out there that don’t use DRM, so your kind of SOL as far as direct competition goes. All cable lab certified devices require this DRM crap flags (as if all the content is not out there allready). Mayb3e dish or direct tv support in the next vist MCE reiteration will add some competition and they will be better about not having these types of screw ups (or deliberate testing acts depending on your tin foil hat layer), but only time will tell.

Draxis says:

Shame, really.

DRM is a headache. My love of Microsoft is going out the window. First Vista, now this crap? Make my Zune useless. Give me an excuse to buy an iPhone, please. Right now I love the hell out of my Zune compared to the iPods, but if they do something this monumentally stupid the device can eat it, as far as I’m concerned. I *buy* my music online, DRM is only a headache and a fundamental problem for those of us that acquire the music legally to begin with.

If I downloaded my music, it wouldn’t have DRM would it? Seriously, I think they’re all idiots. I question why I pay for inferior products. I feel like I’m funding the effort to make it hard to listen to my own damn music.

cvman (user link) says:

Re: Re: Shame, really.

One guy bought two million Zunes? Impressive! LOL

Now, compared to iPod, sure, selling 2 million devices by MS is small potatoes.

But, back on topic, yes, I had an NBC show on Monday night (Medium finale) not record due to broadcaster flag. Seems like this is an NBC issue and MS is just respecting the broadcaster. Am I wrong?

Rekrul says:


No, not the article, the fact that ANYONE is surprised by this. Have you people not been paying attention?

How many times have the MPAA and the networks tried to slip a broadcast flag provision into various TV related bills? Do you not remember a few years ago when the content industry was trying to get a law passed that would have required all electronic devices to contain mandatory copy protection?

Why do you think there’s been such a big push to phase out “dumb” VCRs in favor of “smart” DVRs, especially ones that require some kind of subscription? A decade from now, you’ll only be able to record certain shows and you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for the priviledge.

I’d be very surprised if this was a mistake. I think it’s more likely that it was a test to make sure that the restrictions would work. Think about it; Why would such a capability be there unless they intend to use it at some point?

Rekrul says:

But, back on topic, yes, I had an NBC show on Monday night (Medium finale) not record due to broadcaster flag. Seems like this is an NBC issue and MS is just respecting the broadcaster. Am I wrong?

Yes, you are. MS was under no legal obligation to add broadcast flag provisions to its software. I don’t know what kind of deal they got in return, but they intentionally provided a way for broadcasters to prevent the software from doing exactly what it was designed to do.

Think about it, nobody puts these kind of restrictions in unless they intend to use them. Therefore, it can be reasonably assumed that MS knew that by including broadcast flag provisions in its software, that they would one day be used to prevent people from doing what they bought the system for.

This time may have been an accident, or it may have been a test. The fact is that MS handed the remote to your system’s DVR functions over to the TV networks, who are free to use it anytime they want.

Kind of makes you wonder what else they can do by remote control, doesn’t it?

mythman says:


Everyone looked at me crazy when I said I wanted to set up MythTV, but this is just a small reason why I did it. It is nice to know that I won’t ever have to worry about this sort of thing happening to me.

I remember my co-worker telling me his troubles of transfering the movie files from his Tivo to his computer and watch them. Hours he spent. For me it is just downloading a codec.

And two more. I can stream my shows from my computer to anywhere in the world and that is directly built into MythTV easy to setup.

Finally with the same web feature I can schedule recordings from a web browser anywhere in the world. Just the other day I was with someone and we were out. He suddenly remembered that he wanted to record the Office, but it wasn’t set. He had to make a special trip home to make this happen.

Also with the distros like mythbuntu setup is very easy. You can also buy mythtv boxes already setup for you as well. Sorry this does sound like a commercial, but there really is little reason not use this instead.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ยป

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...