Yet Another Company Rigs Up A Silly Technical Setup To Let You Watch Broadcast TV On Your Mobile Device

from the legality's-a-mess dept

And here we go again. Peter Kafka has the details of a new company, called Bamboom, which will let people stream broadcast TV to their iPads, and which must be waiting for the inevitable lawsuit. The idea appears to be a mix of ivi and Zediva.

If you remember, ivi is the company that wants to stream broadcast television, and is claiming it's legal based on a questionable interpretation of current copyright laws -- an interpretation that (so far) the courts aren't buying. Zediva, on the other hand, is offering streaming DVDs by literally placing DVDs in DVD players and streaming just that one copy to users, relying on the Second Circuit court's ruling in the Cablevision case to suggest that if you can do something legally in your living room, it should also be legal to be done at a hosting center. In other words, it's arguing that the length of the cord shouldn't matter. If a DVD player is in your home or in a data center a few miles away, does it matter if the process (put DVD in player, watch on screen) is the same? The MPAA has sued and Zediva is currently fighting that lawsuit (with some impressive legal horsepower).

Bamboom basically appears to be using both of these arguments. It's streaming broadcast TV only, and is also assigning a single antenna to each user who is streaming.

The company is still going to get sued, of course. The TV companies wouldn't have it any other way. But, really, all it demonstrates is how ridiculous the laws are here. This company has to set up a ridiculously convoluted technical system that is not at all efficient and is downright wasteful, just to provide a simple service that is technically easy to provide if legal complications didn't get in the way. I don't think the service is particularly useful (do people still watch broadcast TV?), but that doesn't mean it should be illegal.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Casey Bouch (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 10:04pm

    Excellent

    I'm going to assume they set up this intricate system just to make a point. For that I thank you Bamboom.

     

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    Jacob Cooper (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 10:57pm

    Well, yeah...

    People do still watch broadcast TV. It might be an unthinkable concept in the tech community, but I'd be willing to bet that there are more people watching broadcast TV than there are streaming to high bandwidth internet devices.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 4:32am

      Re: Well, yeah...

      Lots of techies watch broadcast too.

      It's a giant waste of money to pay large fees every month to watch broadcast over cable. And everything is online. If a show doesn't make it easy for me to watch online, I just won't watch it.

      Just check TV ratings, the best performing cable shows do about half of what the big networks get.

       

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        abc gum, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 5:14am

        Re: Re: Well, yeah...

        The internet is not a broadcast medium. Multicast addresses some of the issues, but it is still inefficient compared to the existing infrastructure of broadcast cable, sat & ota. Not sure why people like to watch shows on a small hand held screen.

         

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          aldestrawk (profile), Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 12:35pm

          Re: Re: Re: Well, yeah...

          I must disagree. Multicast is more efficient than broadcast as it uses only the bandwidth needed to get to just the current set of active destinations and not all destinations. This is why the internet was not set up to allow broadcast. LANs allow broadcast in the MAC layer but this was later seen as a mistake. Sat and ota technologies are not amenable to multicast but cable is. As the internet, cable, and phone systems merge, multicast will replace any broadcast technology in use within a copper or fiber pipe.
          As far as watching video on a tiny screen, I don't get it either.

           

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        McBeese, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 3:35pm

        Re: Re: Well, yeah...

        Yes, broadcast is being used by a growing number of techies for two reasons:

        1) It's a far better HD stream than cable or satellite;

        2) It provides local TV and live mainstream sports for the cable-cutters.

         

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      ComputerAddict (profile), Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 5:54am

      Re: Well, yeah...

      Hi, I am a Techie, and I want OTA broadcast TV.

      I also supplement with Netflix, and thanks to my new TV going to try Amazon On-Demand since it's built in.

       

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      pixelpusher220 (profile), Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 8:31am

      Re: Well, yeah...

      I thought that 'broadcast' material was considered public domain? Can someone point to info regarding this concept?

      Just saying because many people now confuse 'cable' with 'broadcast'.

       

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    Jesse (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 11:01pm

    This actually relates to a question I had regarding those performance royalties collection agencies. What if a business simply had one radio per customer (or horse in some cased) in the store, all set to the same channel? Is it still a public performance?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 12:12am

      Re:

      Well ... since it might help radio manufacturers sell more radios, it just might be legal.

      It could depend on how much radio manufacturers contribute to political campaigns and how many dinners they have taken various judges to.

       

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      DogBreath, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 9:47am

      Re:

      If your suggested fix isn't considered a public performance, I'm sure a law will be passed to make it one.

      On the horse situation, you might need to get all of them their own headphones too. Never know when some horse off the street might walk in and overhear their personal radio.

      Or, if you don't want to get the headphones, your best bet is to buy radios at a 2-to-1 ratio. That way if you have 50 horses in the stable, you can have up to 50 more show up and still be covered from lawsuits by any performance collection society/organization.

      Math solves almost everything, that which it can't solve can be taken care of by a suitable application of high explosives.

       

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    Chargone (profile), Jun 1st, 2011 @ 11:04pm

    ya know, i'd figure the best way to let you watch broadcast tv on these fancy 'smart' phones would just be to build the damn tv tuner hardware into the phone.

    i mean, my tv and phone both already have the capacity to receive and play broadcast radio, so why not? the hardware manufacturers can use it and the selling point and it doesn't cost the Networks a damn thing.

    in some places it may incur some sort of television lisence fee or something on the phone, but beyond that...

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 12:14am

      Re:

      "ya know, i'd figure the best way to let you watch broadcast tv on these fancy 'smart' phones would just be to build the damn tv tuner hardware into the phone."

      I think the point here is that what's broadcasted on T.V. may vary from location to location.

       

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        DannyB (profile), Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 6:23am

        Eventually, we'll get there (TV receiver on cell phone)

        Eventually cell phones may have SDR's. (Software Defined Radios.)

        Hypothetical example: Suppose there are four SDR's on the device. Software can configure one SDR to transmit/receive WiFi, and another for BlueTooth, and another for TV. Or later, reconfigure one SDR for police scanner, and another for walkie-talkie (aka, CB). But later, you use an app that configures one of the SDR's for baby monitor, and another for cordless house phone. Then later you fire up a shortwave app that reconfigures one of the SDR's to receive shortwave radio. Later a remote control app reconfigures an SDR to transmit remote commands to my DVR that uses radio based remote instead of IR. Another app lets me transmit Insteon commands to turn down the living room lights. Another app is the remote control for children's RC race cars. And on and on.

        The cellphone and GPS may still require specialized hardware and not use the SDR.

        Next thing you know, some evil hacker will put out an app that lets you listen to the cordless mic of some nearby performer. (Gasp!) Recording executives will have a heart attack.

         

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          el_segfaulto (profile), Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 8:20am

          Re: Eventually, we'll get there (TV receiver on cell phone)

          My Android device (Cyanogen 7.1) can reconfigure my bluetooth radio to pick up FM stations, if teh ev1l h@x0rs want to do something, it will be done.

           

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      Already Done, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 12:25am

      Re:

      This has already been done. I have seen plenty of mobiles manufactured by obscure Chinese companies that had tuners built in to receive terrestrial television. So, I am assuming it's nothing to do with technology but just pure intention.

       

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    taoareyou, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 6:21am

    I had an LG Vue years ago that could pick up digital television signals. It even had a retractable TV antenna. You paid $15 a month and had access to a decent number of channels. Here is a video from 2008 demonstrating it.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPiYcqBf-f4

     

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    ts, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 8:02am

    I just don't get it... you can watch it for free in this location with this device, but you can't watch it over there using that device. It's insanity!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 8:14am

    Here is a relevant link that Jay posted in a previous thread.

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/web/12/16/live.tv.online/index.html?iref=allsearch

    "What' s the difference between the big screen in your living room, the smaller screen on your laptop or the tiny one in your pocket?

    Size aside, there's quite a difference, media executives say."

    Why is everything about what media executives want? Why should FCC laws revolve around the opinions of media executives?

    "To many, it's a mystery why we can't easily watch online broadcasts of the TV signals that are transmitted by networks over the air, on cable or via satellite.

    Even Bryan Perez, the senior vice president for NBA Digital, admits, "It's a challenge to explain.""

    Exactly, because the answer makes no sense. The answer is sinister in nature. It's difficult to explain why we can't watch such broadcasts how we like because there is no good reason.

    "The simplified answer is that various media companies have a financial stake in where and how an episode of "Mad Men" can be aired."

    So the answer is because it's not in the interests of corporate profits.

    So we have an FCC that's supposed to regulate public airwaves in the public interest, and here they are actively regulating public airwaves exclusively in the interests of private corporations. Not only am I wrongfully being denied my inherit right to broadcast what I please when I please where I please over public airwaves, I'm being denied my inherit right to freely copy and distribute (derivative or original) content that is broadcasted over public airwaves. All for the sake of corporate profits. They practically admit to this. The government is denying me my rights and regulating public airwaves solely in the interests of corporate entities.

    At one time the FCC didn't exist. When they came to be, they slowly started regulating public airwaves into the hands of private interests. At first the restrictions were limited, and the government claimed that it would regulate to serve the public interest by requiring a minimal amount of competition. Over time those requirements went away. Now we've reached a point where the sole purpose of the government is to deny me my rights for the sole purpose of serving private interests. The above quote practically admits this. This is unacceptable.

    "Most cable executives minimize any trend toward "cord cutting" -- that is, people canceling cable or satellite subscriptions in favor of Web-only entertainment. "

    and why should the government facilitate the process of encouraging people to subscribe to overly priced cable services plagued with commercials by passing laws that deny us our inherit right to copy that which is broadcasted over public airwaves? If it's broadcasted over public airwaves, it should be freely copyable.

    "Regardless, some TV providers -- including Time Warner and Comcast -- are reporting declines in subscribers."

    and why is that the governments problem? Why should the government be given the task to artificially minimize competition?

    "For sure, the economics of cable is certainly a financially viable one"

    Not financially viable for consumers. Sure, financially desired for monopolists, but I'm sick and tired of the government seeking to only serve the interests of monopolists. Other models are also financially viable for content providers, if that weren't so, the government would need to put so much darn effort into restricting competition by granting so many government imposed monopolies on everything imaginable (ie: so many of the content/information distribution systems, like cableco monopolies and broadcasting monopolies, not to mention sinister laws designed to make it more difficult for restaurants and other venues to host independent performers). The government restricts competition because they know that competition will emerge without these restrictions, because competing models are also financially viable.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 8:18am

      Re:

      "the government wouldn't need to put so much darn effort into restricting competition by granting so many government imposed monopolies on everything imaginable"

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 8:19am

        Re: Re:

        Err... sorry

        The sentence

        "the government would need to put so much darn effort into restricting competition by granting so many government imposed monopolies on everything imaginable"

        Should read

        "the government wouldn't need to put so much darn effort into restricting competition by granting so many government imposed monopolies on everything imaginable"

         

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      McBeese, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 3:46pm

      Re:

      "If it's broadcasted over public airwaves, it should be freely copyable."

      This is a very important point and I agree with it 100%. I STRONGLY believe that content owners have the right to distribute their content however they wish and use whatever business model they choose, whether good or bad. A bad business model does not entitle someone to 'take' what they have no right to take.

      Having said that, broadcasting content on public airwaves is a CLEAR choice of a free content business model. It's no different than a content owner putting their content on The Pirate Bay or MySpace for free distribution. It's a clear choice they've made so copying should not be an issue.

       

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    dano (profile), Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 8:56am

    It's government...

    of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 11:27am

    I never understood why OTA networks got so worked up about people making their shows available online. I mean, all I need is an antenna and I can watch your show; what's the difference if I use an antenna on my TV or rely on the antenna on someone else's TV and use my computer instead. Seemed pretty natural to me.

    This is an interesting take on that idea. It would be really cool if each user just got a webcam pointed at a live TV and was able to control what channel was being watched by flipping channels and such. If it's limited to just OTA channels, I don't see how anyone could seriously believe there was a problem there. Place-shifting shouldn't be a crime.

     

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      McBeese, Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 3:51pm

      Re:

      The issue is that they haven't figured out a way to track the number of viewers, so they have a hard time negotiating ad rates with sponsors.

      It isn't a hard problem to solve unless you don't understand the Internet, which is the case with these clowns.

       

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    aldestrawk (profile), Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 1:03pm

    tiny antennas

    According to Bamboom's video they have arrays of tiny antennas connected to tuners in a rack of equipment that is inside some room in a building. I am rather skeptical that this odd technology setup will give users a decent and reliable signal. This is particularly true when you consider that ota television in any community often comes from several, separately located, broadcast antennas. There is also the consideration that antenna element length has to match the transmission wavelength, either half-wave or quarter-wave. Cell phone antennas can be tiny because the wavelength is shorter than that used for ota television. So, apart from any discussion of legality of such a system as presented by Bamboom, I am wondering if there is some hoodwinking going on.

     

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      aldestrawk (profile), Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 1:10pm

      Re: tiny antennas

      On further thought, the only way I can see this work is if Bamboom receives a signal from one or more rooftop antennas and then inside a faraday caged room re-broadcasts the signal to all it's tiny antennas. What is the legal twist on that, I wonder?

       

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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Jun 2nd, 2011 @ 10:27pm

    Do people still watch broadcast TV?

    I have my TV set up for Comcast and for antenna. Lately we have been watching almost exclusively antenna.

    Since Comcast started dropping pixels to gain bandwidth for more channels, OTA looks better, and has better content (but only 87 channels - however, we normally watch only 5-6 over a period of time, and the 5-6 we like are OTA (some are not available on ANY Comcast plan!

     

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