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."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2008 @ 11:58am

    I recall an article a couple years back where a similar mistake in Tivo cause all simpsons episodes that were more than 2 weeks old to be deleted. Tivo claimed it was a mistake, but it showed that the functionality was present.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2008 @ 12:01pm

    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.

     

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      Mike (profile), May 14th, 2008 @ 12:07pm

      Re: Another wrong "fact" by Mike

      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.

      Yikes. My statement was that there are other DVRs out there that do not have this, not that *EVERY* DVR out there doesn't have this. The fact that TiVo also has this feature is a good point to know, but doesn't make the original statement false.

       

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        SomeGuy, May 14th, 2008 @ 12:14pm

        Re: Re: Another wrong "fact" by Mike

        Well, other DVRs out there don't have confirmed 'features'... I'm now a bit skeptical that the other devices are clean...

         

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        Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2008 @ 12:24pm

        Re: Re: Another wrong "fact" by Mike

        Even if I ignored your lame back-step - It was one of your OWN articles that commented on the original Tivo thing! I guess your research doesn't include your own articles ;)

         

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          Jason Still, May 14th, 2008 @ 1:21pm

          Re: Re: Re: Another wrong

          Even if I ignored your lame back-step - It was one of your OWN articles that commented on the original Tivo thing! I guess your research doesn't include your own articles ;)

          Even if we ignore your lame attempt at unwarranted Mike-bashing, it was your OWN quotation of Mike's words that clearly shows he didn't say "every other DVR system", "all other DVR systems", or anything similar. I guess your weak attempt at a "gotcha" on Mike doesn't include reading comprehension ;)

           

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        Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2008 @ 3:22am

        Re: Re: Another wrong

        Yikes. My statement was that there are other DVRs out there that do not have this, not that *EVERY* DVR out there doesn't have this. The fact that TiVo also has this feature is a good point to know, but doesn't make the original statement false.
        Well, you didn't say "some other DVRs", you just said "other DVRs", without qualification. In English, that means "all other DVRs" whether you include the word "all" for emphasis or not. And since TiVo is an "other DVR", it includes TiVo.

         

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          nipseyrussell, May 15th, 2008 @ 7:57am

          Re: Re: Re: Another wrong

          "Well, you didn't say "some other DVRs", you just said "other DVRs", without qualification. In English, that means "all other DVRs" whether you include the word "all" for emphasis or not. And since TiVo is an "other DVR", it includes TiVo"

          you just might be dumber then dirt, had you considered that? In which English does the word "all" become auto inserted into sentences?
          "other DVR systems out there do not have any such restrictions" means exactly what it says and not what you made up - as long as there is one DVR without such restrictions, Mike is right and you are moron.

          carry on

           

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            Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2008 @ 12:46pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Another wrong

            In which English does the word "all" become auto inserted into sentences?
            You tell me. I never said it did.

            "other DVR systems out there do not have any such restrictions" means exactly what it says and not what you made up - as long as there is one DVR without such restrictions, Mike is right and you are moron.
            The statement "dogs have three legs", is a false statement even without the word "all" because not all dogs have three legs. On the other hand, the statement "some dogs have three legs" is true because it is qualified by the word "some". Similarly, the statement "I will pay you $100 on Monday" does not mean the same thing as "I will pay you some of $100 on Monday".

             

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              Mike (profile), May 15th, 2008 @ 4:49pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Another wrong

              The statement "dogs have three legs", is a false statement even without the word "all" because not all dogs have three legs. On the other hand, the statement "some dogs have three legs" is true because it is qualified by the word "some". Similarly, the statement "I will pay you $100 on Monday" does not mean the same thing as "I will pay you some of $100 on Monday".

              Um. No. If I say "This deli is out of roast beef, but others have it" that implies that *some* other delis are likely to have roast beef. It's implying that not all delis are out of roast beef.

              Same thing as saying "other DVRs do not have this feature." It simply means that not all DVRs have it. That TiVo has it does not make the statement false.

              In no way did my original sentence mean that no other DVR products had such a feature. Considering the fact that we've written about other DVRs that *do* have it, I never would have said that *all* other DVRs don't have that. If I'd meant to say ALL, I would have written "all."

              I understand that you desperately want to prove me wrong, but on this one I was not wrong. I am wrong on many things, but you're much better off focusing on those.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2008 @ 2:05pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Another wrong

                Ok then, dogs have three legs. (Note that I didn't say all dogs). And people named Mike are pedos.

                 

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                Ken, May 18th, 2008 @ 12:50am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Another wrong

                Considering the fact that we've written about other DVRs that *do* have it, I never would have said that *all* other DVRs don't have that.

                Looks like you should have known better then.

                If I'd meant to say ALL, I would have written "all."

                If you meant to say SOME, you should have written "some."

                 

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                  Mike (profile), May 19th, 2008 @ 12:06am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Another wrong

                  If you meant to say SOME, you should have written "some."

                  I still stand by my original sentence. It is correct: "given that other DVR systems out there do not have any such restrictions"

                  Nothing in that statement is false. Other DVR systems do not have that restriction. I see nothing incorrect in that statement.

                   

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            JR, May 15th, 2008 @ 4:05pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Another wrong

            you just might be dumber then dirt, had you considered that?

            What kind of ignorant hick uses "then" in place of "than"?

             

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    John, May 14th, 2008 @ 12:52pm

    Myth TV

    I use Vista now for my media center pc, but if it starts giving me problems I'm rebuilding it to a Linux box with Myth. http://mythtv.org/

     

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    zcat, May 14th, 2008 @ 12:52pm

    mythtv

    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!

     

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    jhunter, May 14th, 2008 @ 12:55pm

    Tivo

    I love Tivo more than anything in the world. Really it's all I have... but if they were to do stuff like this regularly I would drop my subscription so fast.

     

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    Griffon, May 14th, 2008 @ 1:33pm

    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.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2008 @ 1:33pm

    I've had enough of your crap, Mike!

     

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    JB, May 14th, 2008 @ 1:40pm

    You could probably record the shows using the new realplayer. It has a function that rips audio and video that are playing on your system. I've used it to rip video off of youtube before.

     

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    Draxis, May 14th, 2008 @ 2:05pm

    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.

     

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    Alan, May 14th, 2008 @ 3:15pm

    Media Centre DRM: not just a "mistake"

    Media Centre blocks all sorts of stuff.... for a VERY long discussion, see: http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/thread/176914.aspx

     

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    Vincent Clement, May 14th, 2008 @ 5:33pm

    Is there anyone with half a brain at NBC Universal? Having the ability to record a show and watch it later is the only way I can watch your shows. If you take that ability away, you will lose me as a consumer. How stupid can they be? And why does Microsoft agree to this?

     

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    Rekrul, May 14th, 2008 @ 7:44pm

    Unbelievable!

    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?

     

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    Z, May 15th, 2008 @ 3:42am

    Useless

    It seems to me that this would make DVRs kind of useless. Since you would never know in advance which TV shows would be flagged as not recordable, you would never know if any particular TV show would be recorded or not, making the DVR totally unreliable. Even a VCR does better than that.

     

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    Charles, May 15th, 2008 @ 8:51am

    If there was one good thing I could say about Vista it was the Media center. Now I can't even trust it to recored broad casted network tv? I know there is way to much DRM in Vista but it really is becoming a pain. I was shocked when i saw this pop up on my screen.

     

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    Freedom, May 15th, 2008 @ 9:41am

    Futile...

    So much energy is wasted trying to control actions of others. Find a way to profit off the herd and it's natural path.

    In the end, you can't stop the herd and while you may be able to temporarily redirect it, in the end, you'll lose.

    Freedom

     

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    Rekrul, May 15th, 2008 @ 4:38pm

    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?

     

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    mythman, May 16th, 2008 @ 6:13am

    MythTV

    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.

     

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