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Judge Says Sonicblue Doesn't Have to Monitor 295

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the step-in-the-right-direction dept.
MoD writes "From CNet: District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper on Friday overturned a late April ruling that required the maker of ReplayTV set-top box technology to write and install software to monitor what its customers were watching."
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Judge Says Sonicblue Doesn't Have to Monitor

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  • by Nobody's Hero (552712) on Monday June 03, 2002 @11:56AM (#3631900) Homepage
    YAH!

    the last place I need more spyware is on my television. No one needs to know how many episodes of Star Trek I've been watching.

    • No one needs to know how many episodes of Star Trek I've been watching.

      I'd be more concerned about Teletubby viewing habits getting out. Not that I do that sort of thing, no sir.
    • No one needs to know how many episodes of Star Trek I've been watching/

      *waits patiently for the Bab5/Star Trek flamewar*

  • 1984 (Score:2, Interesting)

    I assume everyone remembers the television "screens" in 1984 which allowed the state to view exactly what its denizens were doing? It came *this* close to realization before this thankfully clued-in judge overturned it.

    We're not there yet.
    • How does tracking what you watch equate to knowing what you're doing (other than knowing that you're flipping through the channels?). I am as pissed as anyone about the original decision, but let's not make too much of a leap here.
  • Music to my ears... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NanoGator (522640) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:02PM (#3631949) Homepage Journal
    "If the networks and studios focused on the inevitable evolution of their business instead of attempts to stifle technology, we believe everyone involved would benefit, consumers most of all," the CEO added. "

    I'm starting to hear this more and more. I hope that this was an influence in the judge's decision. The simple fact of the matter is that markets change. You can't legally force them to stay put. Doing so will ruin this economy. There is a lot more at stake here than just ad revenue.
    • by tdrury (49462) on Monday June 03, 2002 @01:31PM (#3632728) Homepage
      This is interesting because of (oddly enough) a statement I read in this month's Kiplinger magazine. In a sidebar, it was noted the that US Treasury dept. was looking at adding some color tones to the background of US notes to foil counterfeiters. The interesting quote was to the effect, "these modifications are part of the Treasury's plan to modify US bank notes every 7 years in an effort to make counterfeiting harder." My immediate thought was "wow! here is a US goverment department that sees how they have to change their business practices to compete with constantly changing technology" such as hi-res color laser printers and such. So why the hell can't the RIAA and MPAA do the same?

      The US currently has laws against counterfeiting. Creating new laws to, for example, require all scanners to detect image signatures within US bank notes, would be completely possible yet plain silly since it could probably be easily defeated and would raise the cost of scanners. Yet this is exactly what the RIAA/MPAA wants with respect to copyrighted audio and video.

      The parallels between the two situations were interesting to me. The irony that the government is more competitive than a private industry is not lost on me.

      -tim
      • by cduffy (652)
        The US currently has laws against counterfeiting. Creating new laws to, for example, require all scanners to detect image signatures within US bank notes, would be completely possible yet plain silly since it could probably be easily defeated and would raise the cost of scanners. Yet this is exactly what the RIAA/MPAA wants with respect to copyrighted audio and video.

        You know, there are laws requiring color copiers to detect US banknotes.

        Just because the US Govt' does some smart things doesn't mean it doesn't do stupid things as well.
    • ObHeinlein (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sconeu (64226)
      There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or a corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years , the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped ,or turned back, for their private benefit.
      -- The Judge in "Life-Line"
  • by Cmdr Taco (luser) (578089) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:02PM (#3631950)
    then they should design and market their own Tivo/ReplayTV, etc device. I'm sure that they would know how to market it and I bet they could sell to countless Joe Schmedley's who wouldn't care if their viewing practices were monitored. Especially if they were given some kind of incentive like a chance to win some prize by actively participating in info gathering.

    OTOH, the enterainment industry might wreck that product by not providing a commercial skip/fast forward feature. They're still deathly afraid that they'll piss of they're advertisers.
    • OTOH, the enterainment industry might wreck that product by not providing a commercial skip/fast forward feature.

      They might have the courage to add some features the others wouldn't, though. For instance, whenever you pause the unit, instead of showing the same screen forever, they could automatically replay recent commercials! They could also autosave commercials you might be interested in based on their similarity to other commercials that you enjoyed (i.e. watched). Then there would be the "Content Advance" feature (only works for channels that preserve the commercial marking signals) which would let you skip the tedious filler that is crammed between our beloved commercials. Just be careful! That content is there for a reason... if you only see the commercials you might start taking them for granted and getting tired of them! I think I read a science fiction story that had a scenario like that, but I can't recall the name...

    • Uhm, the entertainment industry basically did just that: TiVo equity investors [tivo.com]
    • AOL/TW set top boxes won't allow ad-skipping.
  • by FuddChuckles (581257) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:12PM (#3632019)
    Unfortunately, I think the victory will be shortlived. Replay TV users can basically ftp television shows to each other's consoles. Neat feature, but it probably makes the entertainment powers-that-be soil themselves with fear ("Holy Cow! That's file swapping! Quick, get me Legal on the phone").

    Rather than work with Replay TV or TiVo, it will only be a matter of time before the TV industry reps files for litigation that will require Replay TV to monitor their users for uncopyrighted or illegally disseminated materials, and prevent their transmission.

    After all, it worked to get rid of Napster, didn't it?

    Sigh.

    -FC

    • You're right. However, that's why I think an open source effort will rule the pvr market for technically aware users.

      An open source project wouldn't concern themselves with the DCMA or network partnerships. They don't need advertisers and they don't need to make money. They just build functionality that they want.

      Anyway, it's just a thought.
  • by Asikaa (207070) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:14PM (#3632039) Homepage
    In response to the ruling, the major TV networks released the following statement:

    "Ok that's it. We've had enough with the public. Who do they think they are? Well, we have a plan.

    All network TV will now be encrypted in a similar fashion to satellite TV. In order to be issued a decryption smartcard, customers will be forced to sit through 120 hours of non-stop commercials followed by back-to-back reruns of My Two Dads and Hart to Hart."

    • by curunir (98273) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:33PM (#3632194) Homepage Journal
      5 minutes later...

      The hacker community releases instructions for constructing an antenna capable of decrypting the new broadcasts using only spare AOL CDs, 4 paperclips and a rubber band.
    • customers will be forced to sit through 120 hours of non-stop commercials followed by back-to-back reruns of My Two Dads and Hart to Hart.
      It's kind of sad, but I think it's things like this that are going to be TVs own undoing. Kind of remoinds me of a Star Trek episode [crosswinds.net] I saw. Here's an excerpt from the script.

      SONNY: Yeah, boob-tube... you know. I'd like to find out how the Braves are doin' after all this time. Probably still finding ways to lose.
      DATA: (to Riker) Oh -- I think he means television, sir.
      SONNY: Or maybe catch up on the soaps.
      DATA: (to Sonny) That particular form of entertainment did not last much beyond the year Two Thousand Forty.

      I'd say we might even be a bit ahead of the 2040 schedule.

    • There's actually a very good reason why this hasn't happened yet -- the US airwaves are public property, administered by the FCC, who decided, in a somewhat wiser era, that all broadcasts must be sent in a format that anyone could decode.

      I'm not exactly sure how satellite broadcasters get around this, but I think it has something to do with the fact that for someone to tune in they must buy the dish and receiver from the satellite company.

  • by binaryDigit (557647) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:16PM (#3632063)
    So this is getting interesting. More and more companies are coming up with technologies to zap commercials. If the technology is robust and usage widespread, will we see a fundamental shift in how we "pay" for tv content? After all, much of the cost of over the air tv is subsidized by commercials, so what if (in a web crash way) advertisers say, hey, if people are zapping the commercials, we are not going to run them/pay a heck of a lot less for them. Say that this is widespread (again, like the rollercoaster that web advertising has gone through), will the networks then be forced to shift their business models? What would they shift them to? Would this be the begining of the end of "free" over the air tv? I personally know of only a couple of people who do not have cable/satellite, is OTATV a dinosaur anyway? Is the price we'll pay for being able to zap commericials be that we'll have to pay more for content?
    • Or maybe more of the advertising becomes within-show and sponsorship-related. No ad-zappers will zap out the logo on the can of pop the actor is drinking. Or the title of the show.

      [TMB]
    • by PhxBlue (562201) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:30PM (#3632173) Homepage Journal

      Would this be the begining of the end of "free" over the air tv? I personally know of only a couple of people who do not have cable/satellite, is OTATV a dinosaur anyway?

      Good point--cable television is widespread and fairly affordable; and it offers high signal quality even if the content does suck.

      I really hope the TV broadcasters don't take a cue from web advertising. I can imagine it now:

      Joe SixPack hits "power" button on remote to turn off his TV, only to get bombarded with six pop-up advertisements. He hits the power button to get rid of the pop-ups, and gets two more for every one he "turns off." The whole TV display goes blue and dumps a whole bunch of technical gibbersh, then goes black as a wisp of smoke escapes from the back of the set.

    • two words:

      product placement

      it's already used all over the place...i imagine if commericials go the way of the dodo, we'll see the t.v. shows become more of a commericial then they are.
      • I can see the future with respect to daytime soap operas:

        Before every bedroom scene, there is a brief 30 second speech from the woman and another 30 sec speech from the man about which contraceptive is preferred by 4 out of 5 adulterers.
      • Yes that could be done for shows in production, but what about re-runs?

        My guess would be "in band" commercials. Direct overlaying of banners (ala last World Cup) and advertising "tickers", similar to sports/news tickers (though tickers could be easily defeated by some contraption). And yes, more product placement in new shows.
    • I think we're going to see banner ads on television myself, albeit maybe not click through. Most stations already continuously display there logo other than during commercials, some even have really annoying animations. I expect that we'll soon see advertisements in the borders, probably shifting from left, right, top bottom to help foil software that automatically would black it out.
    • A few quick points:

      1 - It's possible to have TV without advertisments. Look at HBO and their award-winning programming. I'd gladly pay for a FOX channel that played good shows (Futurama!) without commercial interruptions!

      2 - I imagine it's been tough for the TV stations since cable. They used to share with a small handful of other stations in any particular market. Now the value of an ad on a channel has shrunk since viewers are spread among many more channels.

      (Disclaimer: I'm not a media market analyst, but then when does not being an expert in anything prevent anyone from saying anything on Slashdot? :)

    • but most programming on cable/satellite tv is commertial anyway. So that doesn't really solve anything.

      Or are you talking about the pay channels? I don't see that replacing commertial tv anytime soon.

    • There are two assumptions that I think are being made, incorrectly, by both sides. One assumption is that given a specific technology like commercial skipping, that everyone will use it. The second assumption is that, with the absence of a specific technology like commercial skipping, that commercials won't get skipped.

      In general the majority of the population will not use commercial skipping technology. I know that most of the people that I've sat around with when watching a tape recorded show, rarely if ever hit the forward button and I think this is similar with the PVR folk. Additionally people will skip commercials even during live broadcasts, they'll flip channels (mostly the men) or find something else to do (especially if you have kids or your multitasking TV with some other chore). I would say that skipping technology would be statistically insignifant in it's effects on the ad market. I'd love to see someone come up with independent results to show one way or another.
    • Once digital TV rolls around and they get the watermarks put in you'll see commercials running non-stop in the "black bars" at the top and bottom of the picture. You already see commercials for programs during program playback (usually in the lower right corner).

      Of course, since the TV networks see a very sizable chunk of their revenue from their non-broadcast divisions it really doesn't matter much. They'll scream and kick their way to Congress and the FCC who will accomodate their lockdown on program "sharing", but boradcast TVs days are numbered anyway. I give it until 2009 which is a few years past the mandatory digital changeover before people no longer care just as they no longer care about boradcast radio.
  • by Hans Lehmann (571625) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:18PM (#3632074)
    I really wouldn't care if the networks were aware of what I was watching right now. Unfortunately, they wouldn't just leave it at that. My TV viewing history would be stored, possibly sold to third parties, and might eventually come back to bite me in the ass. "Sorry Mr. Lehmann, but our records show that you watched 'The Spring Break Bikini Babes / Alien Autopsy Special' on Fox back in 1994. We wouldn't want types like you in this organization. Have a nice day"
  • by First Person (51018) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:20PM (#3632089)

    This is a sad day for us lying bastards. I was just beginning to relish the idea of hacking the reporting mechanism. Then I'd be able to influence network programming without even viewing the shows. This way I could dictate the mindless drivel without having to watch any of it - a double win! Create enough spurious reports and the system would have been useless. *evil grin*

    • Of course, you can try to spoof the data all you want. Statisically, you're insignificant and anything you're trying to do is thrown out in any decent modeling.

      There aren't enough people doing that kind of thing to skew models... it's why they've worked for so long. I have a friend who is on some grocery tracking system - he scans everything he buys and reports it back to some company. His buying habits are pretty damn weird too -- single male with two cats. He buys everything in MASSIVE bulk (witness the 30 packages of jello in his pantry - which haven't been touched in months), he feeds his cats Sunkist tuna, and so forth. So are his unusual buying habits going to skew the resulting data and render it all useless? Nope. Because if he's sufficiently outside the median the data will be thrown out through statistical methods. It won't even be a blip.

      And small scale attempts to hack reporting software like you suggest won't even be a blip either. Sorry to make you realize that you aren't the world-changing, corporate-overthrowing, l33t hax0r you think you are.
      • And small scale attempts to hack reporting software like you suggest won't even be a blip either. Sorry to make you realize that you aren't the world-changing, corporate-overthrowing, l33t hax0r you think you are.

        My post was intended to be humorous, although the content was serious. You raise a objection which deserves a response.

        You argue essentially that the actions of one man can't change the world. To recast this statement, you claim that a single write-in vote has little effect. I agree.

        My argument is a little different. If the channel is open and the protocol broken, I can create many spurious activity reports, effectively 'stuffing the ballot box'. If only 20% or better yet 50% of the votes are mine, I'd have a significant influence.

        To make this possible, three criteria be satisfied. One, the channel needs to be open and cheap. Using the internet to sending reports meets this criteria. Two, the protocol must be broken. This is the achilles heel. Clever encryption techniques would prevent an attack, but, ReplayTV doesn't have any incentive to do this well. On the other hand, the studios might be able to dictate the protocol. Fortunately, their track record hasn't been very good, so I'll suppose that their protocol can be broken. *smile* Three, the reports must avoid fraud detection mechanisms. Here I only need to make sure that my fake results model the statistics of the real ones close enough to fool the filters. Of course, my personal goals could be even weaker - I can corrupt the system by just casting doubt on all the legitimate results.

        Finally, I'd like to commend the judge for this result. Unfortunately, not every spyware mechanism will be thrown out. As another reader has mentioned, the studios could just as easily build their own digital VCRs. If the existence of the spyware cannot be attacked, go for the protocol. If that doesn't work, try something else. Just keep fighting.

    • hacking the reporting mechanism.

      Hmmm, according to this several hundred of our viewers watch nothing but stupid judge shows - People's Court, Moral Court, Judge Judy, Kid's Court, 65536 hours of Night Court, and ahh.... it seems Sylvester Stallone was quite popular in Judge Dredd.

      -
  • If you buy a replaytv then all your viewing data belongs to them. Then they use your tv and your pvr to force feed you targeted ads when you pause, in banners on menus etc.

    This [216.239.51.100] cached google page is why I will not be buying a replaytv. When will device manufacturers make a decent product and leave me the fuck alone after the sale. I have money to spend and I will not support companies that harass me.
    • Check your facts, fella.

      First of all, the fact that you had to get that page from the Google cache and not from Sonicblue's own web site is a major clue that it is out of date information.

      Second of all, I've owned a Replay for going on 3 years and I can report (accurately) that:

      (a) So far there have been no banner ads in menus as you suggest. I'm not sure this feature even exists in the current software.

      (b) While the "ad on pause" feature does still exist, it hasn't been used for a paid ad in over a year. The only ads that have appeared there recently are ads for discounted versions of Sonicblue's new products, to reward loyal Replay customers. And frankly they are not that intrusive, all you have to do is hit the EXIT button to clear them off and see the paused screen underneath.

      So much hysteria, so few facts.

  • In the UK, any individual has the right to have access to any data stored about their personal details, preferences, etc.

    Is there any law like this in the US? I'd love to see users being given the right to see the data on these boxes (when inevitably it is harvested), especially via some kind of telnet login ;-) then you could hack the contents and send their statistics to hell. Big brother, go away.

  • Before the remote control ads were sometimes downright painful. I remember commercials for headache medicine that emphasized the pounding and pounding and pounding. Nowadays, commercials need to be funny or at least a little entertaining to keep your attention or you'll change the channel. They need will be even better in the PVR era. You can't hold technology back. They may have stopped napster but did they stop file sharing?
  • The way the article describes the system it makes these devices out to be a lot like an "internet-device" style napster clone. Wonder if this ruling will have any effect precedent-wise for these type of companies in the future...
  • by ldopa1 (465624) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:41PM (#3632242) Homepage Journal
    The original ruling was ridiculous on the face of it in the first place.

    I already had a device that would allow me to record a live television program, skip all of the commercials and for a small fee send the ENTIRE program to my friends.. It's called a VCR.. It use to come in two flavors, Beta-Max (the Macintosh of VCR's) and VHS (the DOS of VHS, does 70% of Beta-Max, with better marketing).

    I really think that the people who should have pressed the suit in the first place were the Nielson folks. They're the ones who really need to know that I've watched the entire Band Of Brothers series about 80 times so far....

    The only reason that the first judge didn't make RCA/SONY/et al write software for VCR's that reported who was recording what was the simple fact that NOBODY knows how to program a VCR... ;)
  • by blueskyred (104505) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:45PM (#3632272) Homepage
    Forcing SonicBlue to install "spyware" was a non-starter. (It wouldn't have been spyware, SonicBlue did tell everyone this could be happening, but I digress.) It was a moronic ruling and wasn't even germane to the case. It isn't about "what are people watching", it's about "is this devicing being used solely as a copyright-infringing device"?

    The skipping-commercials feature gets Hollywood steamed. And I don't blame them -- it is the crux of their business model. No one likes their business model ruined, just ask the RIAA. The thing is, in the USA we get free, over-the-air TV in return for advertisements being pushed into our houses. That isn't going to change. Instead, where the advertisements are put will change.

    On the third-to-last ER of the season, in the ultra-emotional opening segment where we saw people's reactions to Carter dying, the local NBC affiliate had a scrolling text banner across the top of the screen. "Important Details About The Crisis In Boston's Catholic Churches -- stay tuned to Channel 7 The News Station for an important news story tonight at 11!" (Or something close to that.) To the people that really care about ER, this was a major distraction and hurt the content.

    It isn't just local affiliates that do this sort of thing. Sticking with NBC for a minute (though they aren't the only ones who do this), is anyone else sick of the text overlays when they come back from commercial? They state the show that you are watching (NBC logo + "The West Wing"), but right before they wipe it away, they REPLACE IT WITH AN AD for something else like "The Friends Baby Is Born This Thursday! (Check local listings.)"

    This is only going to get worse. I'm not talking about product-placement stuff that has gone on for decades, I'm talking about how our television will very quickly resemble a poorly-designed web page. Navigation banner on the top, news/stock/other update scroll on the bottom, advertisement on either side and less than 40% of the on-screen space used for content, right in the middle. This will be extra-great with the poor NTSC standard we have in the US.

    Sigh. [STRIKETHRU]At least we can point out drastic flaws in our administration when we need to.[/STRIKETHRU] The United States will win the war on terror, and dissenting voices will be quashed. This is wartime, people!

    • Its not too hard to trim an mpeg (or even a normal tv signal - change a capacitor or two in a tv and you have a zoom function) in real time.

      The problem is channel stamping (I dont know why they do this - seems dumb to me), product placemnet (Ever seen an episode of friends - unintrusive adverts inside the program are much more influencing then adverts outside programs).

      What I worry about is when they are going to have adverts at the same time. Mix a faint image of a coke can into the program etc.

      Personally I'm all for paying for quality tv directly (in which case the cost of a can of coke should drop thanks to a reduction in advertising expense). if it gets too much I'll get the episode (in glorious high quality mpeg) of the internet. Hell, I'll pay for a decent fast internet source where I could download and burn shows before they come to air here in the UK. I've got a 10mbit line available, I want to be able to stream at svcd quality minimum)

      As for crap TV? Either broadcast with normal adverts, I'll watch it if I'm bored. If you dont then I wont watch, end of story.
    • You clearly have no grip on reality. There is no conspiracy to ruin your hard-won TV watching pleasure. The secret police are not going to come get you for whining about ads. And most importantly, the networks changing the way tv is presented has absolutely nothing to do with "drastic flaws in our administration." You really really need to get out more.
    • On the third-to-last ER of the season, in the ultra-emotional opening segment where we saw people's reactions to Carter dying


      Carter didn't die - it was Dr Green.
  • by Space Coyote (413320) on Monday June 03, 2002 @12:53PM (#3632335) Homepage
    The current slump in ad revenues combined with the spectre of TV watchers being able to skip ad has caused some TV show producers to write ads into the actual contents of the show. There was a story on CNN about this yesterday, in which they showed a scene from "Felicity" with dialog as follows "Hey, I just got a new computer" "Oh, is it one of those new iMacs? Those things are so beautiful".

    Another example is on the Rosie O'Donnel show she recently shilled for Wendy's new salads, saying how great they were. I wasn't watching, but apparently while she was talking her producer said "Take a bite", "What?" "Just do it."

    Another good example is the TV morning "news" shows on the day Coke launched Vanilla Coke. The Daily Show did a wonderful send up of this. "The Today show host then informed the Coco-Cola spokeswoman that it was time to go to a commercial break, at which point she just allowed her to continue speaking."

    I can picture this getting a whole lot worse, as it's the enw hot trent in advertising. I've basically stopped watching TV altogether except for the Simpsons anyway.

    • I expect this trend to continue until the only people still watching free TV are the morons who don't have any money to spend on the advertised products anyhow. OTOH, at Family Video I can rent two movies (1 new release, one oldie) for $1. Even if the movies weren't better than 99% of TV (and they are), 3-hours ad-free is well worth a buck.

      I turned off the cable when they raised the rates again last summer, and never bothered to hook the antenna back up. What I miss: Buffy (but our cable company doesn't carry UBN anyhow). And it sounds like there's some good stuff on the Sci-Fi channel, which you also don't get here no matter how much you pay those !@#$%^&* freebooters at the cable company.

      I'm just hoping enough people will get disgusted with 50 channels of crap and join me, so it becomes more profitable to release good shows to DVD than to the dying networks.
    • There was a story on CNN about this yesterday, in which they showed a scene from "Felicity" with dialog as follows "Hey, I just got a new computer" "Oh, is it one of those new iMacs? Those things are so beautiful".


      Ugh. That's just tacky, and I say that as an Apple shareholder. I much prefer the Mac placements in shows like Buffy and 24, where they fit right in and none of the characters give them a second thought. By not beating it over the viewer's head, it creates the impression that of *course* Willow would use an iBook for her white hat jobs, and of *course* a high-tech antiterrorist facility would have lots of Powerbooks and Cinema Displays.

  • It's funny, I got to thinking about how to have valuable ad revenue despite commercial skipping technologies, and it didn't take long to come up with a plausible idea: Trivia contests.

    Imagine buying a Cell phone from AT&T, but getting $25 off for being able to answer this question: 'Q. What AT&T plan offers one low rate for any time, any where? A. One rate'

    If somebody doesn't know the answer to this, they could go look it up on the net or watch TV with the ads and figure it out.

    If somebody does know the answer, then what's the point in pummeling them repeatedly with ads? Annoyance is a big reason that people want to skip the ads. Well, if I'm willing to remember the 'One Rate' plan, then the advertiser's done their job, lets stop bugging me about it until it's interesting to me.

    The big advantage of this idea is that it gives people incentive to watch the ads, instead of trying to strap them to their chairs.
    • Or even more effective: After each ad, there's a quiz, and you have to get a passing score to go on to the next part of the show. Of course, you can replay the commercial if you have to.

      Coming soon to a popup near you. Or a DVD. Or your cable box. See U.S. Patent #5,855,008.

      • "Or even more effective: After each ad, there's a quiz, and you have to get a passing score to go on to the next part of the show. Of course, you can replay the commercial if you have to."

        Actually I was thinking about something like this for PC's. Download a show, install it, and you have to answer a few questions like this first. Once you've done that, you've permanently unlocked that episode so you never get bugged for ads again with that particular show.

        It may seem annoying at first, but if that means content is free, I say go for it.
      • Geez... The USPTO will rubber-stamp anything these days, won't they? This isn't really even patentable let alone meeting the un-obviousness criteria.

        The only reason why they haven't set up an "attention brokerage" is that it's deuced hard to manage with what we've got in place and the people buying the ads and selling the ads still think the old ways work.
  • Two stories on PVRs (Score:4, Informative)

    by stoney27 (36372) on Monday June 03, 2002 @01:07PM (#3632493) Homepage
    Not so much on the Judges ruling but this week on the show "On The Media" had two stories about TiVo and a follow up on product placement because of TiVo.

    http://www.wnyc.org/onthemedia/transcripts_06010 2_ tivo.html

    Which talkes about TiVo, and then in intresting fact, it seems that someone was reporting that the BBC had down loaded a show or two to all TiVo machines that could not be deleted, had to wait one week before it was removed. Thus hoping I guess for people to watch it. ( Could be full of add :)

    And http://www.wnyc.org/onthemedia/transcripts_060102_ product.html
    another story:

    On what the advertisers are doing to get their products in front of people's eyes.

    -Scott
  • Blipverts here we come!!
  • firewalls? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gerardrj (207690)
    Okay, so even if this monitoring does in the end become a fact of life (there are higher courts), what will prevent some clever hackers from making up a firewall for these Replay systems?

    With a network probe or phone-line tap you could easily reverse engineer the protocols used to transmit this data.

    You get a small box with a low-powered CPU, 2 network cards and modem interfaces and plug the Replay in to the "safe" side ports, and plug the others in to the wall.

    Whenever the replay goes to send viewing data to SonicBlue, the fierwall changes all the data. It could either be random data or you could tell them you watched the NASA TV all day every day.

  • Due to the undeniable ignorance of the consumer that Sonic Blue and Tivo has shown, I have started distributing my own PVR and PVR service called Steve-O.

    The PVR itself is easy to use, and allows you to record any show you want! Unlike Tivo's poor hardware model, I have designed a system with unlimited storage, in the form of inexpensive 'cartridges'. Unlike Sonic Blue's cold digital picture, Steve-O's warm analog signal gives every character a healthy, ruddy glow! Buffy never looked so good!

    Steve-O's excellent service is unrivaled in the industry! Find out what's playing anytime, day or night by calling the Programming Line: Steve Ballmer at 1-888-Vel-0P3R. He will be happy to answer any questions you may have, as well as offer program selections! (MSNBC is always a favorite!) Your information is safe because he never writes anything down!

    Steve-O's start at just $299! That includes a lifetime subscription to the Steve-O service and three empty cartridges! Call now!

  • by jbarr (2233) on Monday June 03, 2002 @02:47PM (#3633329) Homepage
    This is a great victory for more than just Sonic Blue. This sets a precident that prevents manufacturers from being required to install monitoring software. That said, the issues of file sharing and commercial skipping are still open (for which litigation is no doubt forthcoming!)

    By the way, the whole "file sharing" issue has often been misinterpreted. ReplayTV's file sharing is not an unlimited sharing tool like Napster was. You can only share a file with up to 15 other people, and once the recipient receive the file, they cannot share it further. Yes, itis file sharing, but it's been designed to be somewhat limited.
  • I predict that the lawyers will refile with an eye to what will be billed as a "compromise".

    Namely, instead of recording what viewers watch and when, they'll be under court order to record and report any "copyrighted material" that viewers send ("broadcast") to their friends.

    Napster all over again.

  • Free TV is a myth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Krelnik (69751) <timfarleyNO@SPAMmindspring.com> on Monday June 03, 2002 @03:17PM (#3633569) Homepage Journal
    I see a common misconception in several posts in this discussion. The misconception is that most Americans get most of their TV content "for free" and that selling advertising is the only business model available to the networks.

    This is largely false, and has been false for going on 30 years.

    How many of you actually get most of your TV from an antenna on your roof? I didn't see many hands go up. The fact of the matter is that most people in the U.S. (even in urban areas where good broadcast signals are readily available) get their TV from satellite or a local cable TV provider (or both). Of course in rural areas this is the ONLY choice as broadcast signals are usually too poor.

    Now lets disregard subscriber-only channels like HBO, which clearly get close to 100% of their revenue from subscriber fees.

    What does that leave? Well I know of five categories, broken down strictly by where they get their revenue.

    Shopping channels. In general, these channels PAY YOUR TV PROVIDER for the right to be fed into your home. They get their revenue by you buying things. So nevermind them.

    Publicly supported channels. PBS and your local cable access channels are supported via various methods of funding such as grants, taxes, direct donations from viewers, etc. So we can somewhat disregard them.

    Basic cable channels. Some of these run advertising, some don't. However ALL of these channels collect a small fee from the cable operators per subscriber per month, on the order of a few cents. Of course something like 10 cents per month per subscriber can really add up, that could easily be $100 million a year for somebody like CNN or The Weather Channel who is nearly on every cable or satellite line up out there.

    Satellite fed broadcast stations. As you can see here [copyright.gov] the copyright law specifically spells out the fees that providers like DirecTV must pay to network stations, superstations and even PBS stations for the right to feed them to customers. It's 18.9 cents per month per subscriber for a superstation, 14.85 cents per month per subscriber for network stations and PBS stations.

    Cable fed broadcast stations. (i.e. your local stations being re-fed down your local cable company's wire). As far as I know, this is the only category that does not get a cut of your TV provider fee (your monthly cable or satellite bill).

    So as you can see, almost all TV channels have alternate sources of revenue that in some cases significantly outweigh the revenue they get from advertising. These channels are not going to go bankrupt tomorrow, though they may have to consider increasing their fees or finding other revenue streams if advertising continues to slump. Just like any business that has to adapt to changing market conditions. Just like the business you work for has to.

    But most important: You are already paying for the shows you watch on these stations, bundled into your cable bill. They are not free, and they never have been.

    (I also find it irresistable to point out that almost all of the channels under the purview of Jamie Kellner of Turner, who famously was reported here [slashdot.org] as denouncing commercial skippers as thieves, do in fact charge subscriber fees).

    The only stations that are truly at risk here are the traditional true broadcast networks, i.e. ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB and UPN, as well as your local independent stations. These stations are a tiny percentage of the array of programming sources available. I have something like 120 stations on my cable provider, and these are only 7 of them.

    BOTTOM LINE:Why should we, the consuming public, bend over backwards just because a tiny minority of the industry is using an old and backward business model?

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