by Mike Masnick
Mon, Dec 6th 2010 10:35pm
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 8th 2010 9:05pm
TiVo's 'Big Win' Over Dish On Patents Looking Less And Less Solid, As Patent Office Rejects Patent Claims
from the oops dept
Last month, the appeals court vacated the earlier decision, and agreed to rehear the case. And, now, it turns out that the USPTO has rejected two patent claims that were a key part of this fight. Of course, as TiVo is quick to point out, this isn't the end of the review process, but it certainly raises serious questions about the validity of the patents TiVo is basing its whole strategy on.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, May 18th 2010 9:04am
Remember How Hollywood Promised Lots Of New Content If It Could Break Your TV/DVR? Yeah, That's Not Happening...
from the well-that-was-useful dept
But, uh, the whole argument that supposedly convinced the FCC to give the Hollywood studios this waiver was that they would make use of it to give consumers more access. Quoting from the FCC's decision:
This offering will allow the homebound, parents with young children, and others who simply want to stay in for the night to choose a new entertainment option that they may value highly....So, a large part of the basis of the FCC approval was that it would increase content availability to homes. But that's not happening. Does that mean the FCC will admit that the entire basis for the approval was wrong?
[On] balance, grant of MPAA's waiver request will provide a benefit to those who have the appropriate equipment and would like to view movies in their homes in an early release window that outweighs the limited impact on consumers with legacy devices....
Oh, and my favorite part is how the MPAA is playing this. Acting MPAA boss Bob Pisano put out the following statement when the FCC's announcement was made on May 17th:
"This action is an important victory for consumers who will now have far greater access to see recent high definition movies in their homes. And it is a major step forward in the development of new business models by the motion picture industry to respond to growing consumer demand..." (emphasis added)So, gee, what does Pisano have to say, just a few days later when it turns out that none of that is true?
When asked about the studios' plans late last week, Bob Pisano, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, said, "I can't tell you that, because I don't know." To comply with antitrust law, he added, "we stay out of business-model decisions."Uh huh. So, let me get this straight. He argued -- successfully -- to the FCC, that granting this waiver to break people's TVs and DVRs would certainly create new business models and allow much more content to be available earlier. But, when it comes to actually supporting that, he claims that the MPAA "stays out" of business model decisions? So, how could he possibly have promised such "new business models" to the FCC in the first place?
Tue, Apr 13th 2010 10:01pm
from the cord-cutting dept
Cable companies, for one, recognize this to a certain extent, so they've responded with TV Everywhere, a plan to offer programming online. But that plan is doomed to failure because it's being implemented in the hamfisted way you might expect from cable companies, and is set up simply to force people to keep paying for cable if they want to watch shows online. If the plan to capitalize on online viewers is first to force them to keep paying for something they don't want, then by further embracing the "features" of current systems that drive users away, it's hard to see TV companies having a whole lot of success. The key is not to shoehorn the cable model onto the web, but to embrace the positive features enabled by the web and apply them to the rest of their business.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 4th 2010 8:10am
Singapore Court Rules That Online DVR Is Infringing... While Noting How Copyright Law Isn't Really Set Up For This
from the it-sure-is-confusing dept
The appeals court sided with Cablevision, saying that such a service doesn't infringe, and the Supreme Court chose not to hear the appeal, so this ruling stands, at least in the Second Circuit, for the time being. But what was most telling about the actual appeals court ruling was how the judges had to contort themselves into all sorts of odd ways to make such a ruling make sense under the law. The conclusion clearly made sense. Copyright law wouldn't make any sense at all if the length of a wire could change something from infringing to non-infringing. And yet, there were ways to read copyright law that would have found in favor of the networks. The issue is really twofold. First, technology advances faster than copyright law, and the conditions that were in place when the law was written aren't the same as what happens later. Second, to deal with this our esteemed elected officials simply apply duct tape-like patches to copyright law, adding new definitions and categories, that didn't exist before. But, then when new technologies come along, the question is what categories do the resulting outputs fall into, and the arguments are often about who gets to categorize the output to their benefit.
It appears that the US is not the only country going through this sort of debate. I've been alerted to a recent ruling in Singapore that actually comes to a different conclusion and finds infringing behavior on the part of the service provider. The story here is slightly different. In this case, the company is RecordTV -- a separate service, rather than provided by the cable company itself. Also, it's a web-based service, rather than a TV-based one. Users log in and can designate which shows (only from Singaporean channels that broadcast over-the-air) they want to record, and the service will record those shows and make them accessible to that user only for a limited amount of time. There is one other complicating factor, in that the way RecordTV works has shifted over time. Initially it would record a show once and allow anyone who requested that recording to access the single file. But later it switched to keeping a separate recording of each show that someone requested, which seems massively inefficient in terms of storage.
What's stunning again, however, as you read through the ruling is how conflicted the judge appears to be. There's a ridiculous amount of "on the one hand, on the other hand, but on the other other hand"-type reasoning found throughout the ruling, which you can see below:
So, why does the judge come to a different conclusion? Well, it almost feels like it depended on which eventual flip of the coin came up which way. The judge agrees with the basic ruling in Cablevision that it is not the service provider who is liable for direct infringement. As in the Cablevision case, it's the end users who "pushes the button" and thus is actually responsible for the action. All good. But, the lawsuit also focused on a secondary level of infringement, and here the court found that RecordTV, while not liable for the actual recording, could be found liable of secondary infringement in the later transmission of the content.
This seems like a total headscratcher. So a user is responsible for recording the file, but not responsible for then accessing it (recognize that the user accessing the file is the same as the service provider transmitting it)? How does that make sense?
There is a second issue also, which is that the court had trouble with the fact that RecordTV meant to be a commercial enterprise in which it would make money by having ads. It used this issue as one of a few factors that removed a "fair dealing/fair use" defense by the company. Again, though, there's a lot of "on the one hand, on the other hand" type debates in the ruling until the judge basically says that under the law, as it stands, the site is guilty of infringement. But even it seems really troubled by what this means from a practical perspective:
I leave open the possibility that such a DVR or VCR product or service, operating remotely or locally, digitally or via analog means, could amount to fair dealing under our Copyright Act only for the non-commercial facilitation of end-users' time shifting. As we have seen earlier... it is inconsistent that the VCR is permitted to be sold at a price (in stores) but the [remote] DVR (through advertising revenue) is not, but until the occasion requires, I shall not make any pronouncements on this anomaly.And there you are. Even the judge seems to recognize that it's silly to find one service infringing and the other not, but basically says that with the way copyright law is set up, that's the ruling that makes sense.
Finally, this should be worrisome on all sorts of levels for a variety of online services that seek to replicate perfectly legal analog equivalents. The fact that where a storage device is stored or how long a wire is could totally change the legality of a product should suggest that something is seriously wrong with copyright law.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 30th 2009 3:57am
from the more-focus-on-executing,-less-on-suing dept
from the think-this-through-a-bit dept
The article doesn't even mention the biggest benefit to DVRs -- even beyond the fact that people watching them still watch commercials: that it allows people to become more connected to certain shows, since they're less likely to ever miss an episode. That makes them more likely to watch those shows regularly (with or without the commercials). If someone can't keep up otherwise, they'll just let the show go entirely.
The other amusing finding in the article is that NBC's attempt to "DVR-proof" itself by moving Jay Leno to 10pm (on the theory that more people would watch it live when they couldn't fast forward through the ads) has totally backfired. That's because it also means that if people miss the show, they don't go back and watch it days later (who wants to watch stale jokes?) -- so fewer ads get watched in the long run (compared to a show that would be recorded and watched later). Oops. In the meantime, can we go back to those TV execs who were threatening to sue TiVo just a few years ago, and ask for an apology for wasting everyone's time?
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 16th 2009 1:58pm
from the nice-work dept
Consumer rights group Public Knowledge, thankfully, has now sent a letterexplaining all of this to the FCC:
"The MPAA has submitted no proof that grant of the waiver will serve the public interest at all. To the contrary, what proof exists in the record shows that the 'problem' of a longer window for release of movies to MVPDs than for release on DVDs is a business decision made by MPAA's members. Rather than shed crocodile tears for the poor shut-ins and busy parents who must either subscribe to NETFLIX to get the earlier window or wait a whole thirty days, MPAA's members could simply negotiate a shorter release window."Hopefully the FCC listens.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Sep 18th 2009 3:01pm
from the not-really-a-surprise dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 3rd 2009 11:21am
from the because-pissing-off-consumers-is-always-a-good-strategy dept
In the MPAA's most recent attempt, it's back to begging the FCC, but Matthew Lasar notes that the MPAA is finally admitting that if it gets its way, it may actually require some people to buy new equipment. So, not only will the plan functionally break lots of DVRs by not letting them do the one thing they're designed to do (record what's on TV), but they may break other parts of the process as well, such that people will need to buy new equipment.
And all for what? It won't stop or even slow down file sharing. But it will piss off a lot of people. The MPAA insists that it physically cannot release movies on TV prior to its DVD release unless it gets this DRM enabled. But that's ridiculous. If the studios wanted to they could absolutely release the movies for TV viewing prior to the DVD release. It won't change a thing. But they really, really, really want to believe the myth that somehow file sharing magically goes away, and no legitimate customers get annoyed, when they try to lock up their content.