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Television Media Your Rights Online

DMCA Loophole For Peer-to-Peer TV Show Sharing? 371

Posted by timothy
from the honest-it-was-just-broadcast-to-me dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Fortune.com asks, "Is TV Show Swapping Legal? For those using TiVos or new Windows PCs, it just might be." Why? "The law that ensnared ... DVD hackers, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, doesn't specifically address the question of [personal video recorders]. But when it comes to the legality of hacking digital media, the law zeroes in on 'circumvention' -- did hackers have to circumvent protection to copy the video? Several hackers who have published their techniques online say they didn't have to crack anything to extract video from their TiVos""
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DMCA Loophole For Peer-to-Peer TV Show Sharing?

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  • by kahrhoff (580438) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:21PM (#5027020)
    They don't want just viewers they want people who will watch the commercials too. I would tend to think that most people who watch recorded shows skip the commercials. Not something networks want.
  • by spanky1 (635767) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:21PM (#5027024)
    I think it boils down to the fact that networks make money on the commercials. They don't make any more money if you copy the videos and give them to your friends. Plus most people skip commercials when they record a show... a practice the networks HATE. That's why TiVo has never implemented an automatic commerical skip feature. ReplayTV has it, but they are getting harrassed because of it. Very lame.
  • Screw Tivo (Score:5, Informative)

    by mhoover (446585) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:22PM (#5027031)
    I have a ReplayTV. Love it! Can share my files directly off the Replay to the net (with some firewall rules). Not to mention software like DVArchive [sourceforge.net] that "emulates" another replay on my network allowing me to dump the files from the replay to my fileserver and share them back again for later viewing.
  • by mike449 (238450) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:24PM (#5027054)
    If the show is copyrighted, you can not distribute copies. DMCA has nothing to do with this. It only adds criminal liability in case when the copy was created by circumventing a protection scheme. The civil liability is always there.
  • !DMCA != legal (Score:3, Informative)

    by DdJ (10790) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:25PM (#5027055) Homepage Journal
    Just because the DMCA doesn't forbid it doesn't mean it's legal. Show-swapping is still a violation of ordinary, regular copyright, whether done via TiVo or VHS tape, regardless of what the DMCA says.

    If you pay to receive programming, and you make a videotape of it, and you give that videotape to someone who doesn't pay to receive the same programming, you're violating copyright and are breaking the law. Using a TiVo doesn't change that.
  • by btempleton (149110) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:27PM (#5027078) Homepage
    The Tivo just has a tuner and mpeg encoder that records video onto its hard disks. This is no different from any number of tuner/encoder cards for PCs such as the ATI All in Wonder, which have been out for years, and will record video to your hard disk.

    There is nothing new in the Tivo doing this, and it does not violate any laws. If somebody takes a copyrighted TV show and transmits it to others, they may be violating copyrights, and this has nothing to do with the DMCA or anything else.

    In fact, the Replay doesn't really do much different either. The studios are suing the replay because it makes it really easy to transmit shows, and they claim that this should be illegal. (Not transmitting shows, that's already illegal. They want it to be illegal to make equipment that automates the process.)

    Again, this has nothing to do with the DCMA. The DMCA made building tools that decode DVDs illegal. It doesn't actually much affect the rules on what you do with a decoded movie once you have it -- regular copyright law still applies there, and it can be illegal to make a copy of the movie for somebody else, and legal to make a backup copy for yourself.

    Tivo did indeed not have any protection system in it. They used a different filesystem to store the files but otherwise they were in a minor variation of standard mpeg formats.
  • by undie (140711) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:29PM (#5027111) Homepage
    I have a DirecTivo and participate in the Deal Database [dealdatabase.com] forums regarding Extraction, etc.

    I wanted to mention that extraction of video from Standalone Tivo does not require circumvention, but extraction from DirecTivo units does.

    DirecTivo's store the stream from DirecTV directly to the hard disk. Though it is stored AFTER the Access Card has decrypted it, it is re-encrypted when written to the hard drive.

    A smart person over at the forums wrote a kernel module that disables this (noscramble.o). This allows you to extract TYstreams (almost MPEG-2 :)

    So, from what I've read above, this loophole only applies to Standalone Tivo units.

  • by rvaniwaa (136502) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:33PM (#5027132) Homepage
    Actually, TiVo does have a 30 second skip feature. It is just not enabled by default and it is not well known how to enable it. See this link [tivofaq.com] for details on how to enable it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:40PM (#5027177)
    But that's not automatic. ReplayTV actually has an automatic commercial skip feature, like the original poster said.
  • by mph (7675) <mph@freebsd.org> on Monday January 06, 2003 @04:19PM (#5027474)
    Under your interpretation of copyright law we'd have no DJs.
    You're talking about radio DJs, not wedding reception DJs, right? They play music under license, of course. (And, traditionally, the labels are even willing to pay them to do so. Look up "payola.") Copyright law is about unauthorized reproduction, of course.
    Copyright law does not prevent you from copying content.
    Do you know anything at all about copyright law?
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday January 06, 2003 @04:36PM (#5027642) Homepage
    Re:What's the big deal about show swapping? (Score:5)
    by glesga_kiss (596639) on Monday January 06, @02:28PM (#5027101)
    I would tend to think that most people who watch recorded shows skip the commercials.
    Even if the people watching the shows from a p2p download did watch the commercials, the network still wouldn't get paid for these viewings.



    I have a revelation for you... they dont know that 99.997% of all viewers see them or are even watching the show. they dont know that your Tv is tuned to channel 4 from 3:30pm to 7:30 pm during the soft core porn afternoon.

    the cable Tv companies do not YET collect the viewing demographics and sell them.. (I said YET.. it is coming!)

    your point is moot ... they don't know that I am watching TV at all let alone what channels at what time. they dont care... I'm not a nielsen family so my choices dont mean squat to them..

    They get paid on the commercial UP front based on the viewers in that area.. if UHF-62 in your town has 20,000,000,000,000 viewers and has a high rating point number then they charge $$$$$$$ for that spot... even if ony 3 people watched that commercial and everyone else tuned out, they still got paid all that money for that airing.

    NOBODY pays on how many people saw that show/commercial... they pay up front for X amount of subscribers at X rating for X daypart..

    I'm inside TV advertising... I know this stuff.
  • by yerricde (125198) on Monday January 06, 2003 @04:43PM (#5027729) Homepage Journal

    Contributory infringement, admittedly, already existed, but there is a redline test involving "primary purpose or effect". The DMCA doesn't require any such test to be applied if "circumvention" has occured

    Actually, the DMCA does require such a test to be applied, in 17 USC 1201(b) [cornell.edu], for devices designed or marketed to break "a technological measure that effectively protects a right of a copyright owner under this title". The right to exclude others from making unauthorized fair use of a copyrighted work is not such a right. Thus, section 1201(b) merely codifies the guidelines developed in e.g. Sony v. Universal.

    On the other hand, I'm not so sure about 1201(a).

  • by krlynch (158571) on Monday January 06, 2003 @04:46PM (#5027766) Homepage

    Not a lawyer and all that, but:

    • When a television show is made by a studio, that studio holds the copyright on the show itself.
    • When it "sells" the show to a network for broadcast, it is generally using its copyrights to charge for a distribution license.
    • The individual stations that broadcast the show over the aether have paid the government for the exclusive right to use a given set of frequencies for the express purpose of delivering broadcasts. The government gets the right to do that from you (in the US).
    • In exchange for being given those exclusive broadcast rights over the airwaves, the received broadcasts are still subject to copyright law (check the appropriate sections of the USC and applicable court rulings, all of which I am too lazy to look up for you :-)
    • In exchange for giving up control over the broadcast spectrum to private interests, the government retains some rights for you the citizen such as the fair use right of time shift recording for personal use, and the right to control content to the extent that it violates community standards of decency (which is why the latter doesn't violate the First Amendment in the US). Note that this DOES NOT impinge upon the copyright law prohibition against distribution by sources not authorized by the copyright holder during the full course of the copyright term.


    Your argument about cell phone transactions is specious, at best. It is generally illegal to record those private conversations, whether they go out over a landline or a cell transmission (because the citizenry has chosen to create/retain their rights to privacy in these cases), but I don't believe that has anything to do with copyright law.

    However, even if it did, don't forget that copyright is a LIMITED monopoly, and one of the limitations of that monopoly is in situations of pressing government interest. A court ordered wiretap or a subpoena for phone records are just hte types of pressing interests that trump copyrights. Patents also have the same sort of limitations (don't forget the "taking" of the Wright airplane patents in the First World War).

  • Here's the link (Score:5, Informative)

    by anthony_dipierro (543308) on Monday January 06, 2003 @04:48PM (#5027779) Journal
    NBA v. Motorola [bitlaw.com].
    We agree with the district court that the "[d]efendants provide purely factual information which any patron of an NBA game could acquire from the arena without any involvement from the director, cameramen, or others who contribute to the originality of a broadcast." 939 F. Supp. at 1094. Because the SportsTrax device and AOL site reproduce only factual information culled from the broadcasts and none of the copyrightable expression of the games, appellants did not infringe the copyright of the broadcasts.
  • by m1a1 (622864) on Monday January 06, 2003 @05:25PM (#5028103)


    I agree, and this is a very good thing. I don't know how many /.ers watch HBO, but I know I do and it is excellent. HBO has, bar none, the best original programming of any channel. They are simply far superior. Why? To make money they need you to choose HBO. They don't just throw it out over the wire with commercials and hope someone watches it. You buy it because you like it. If other channels had to compete for viewers on that level there would be an explosion of excellent programming as opposed to the nigh-unwatchable garbage floating about the airwaves and cable lines. Go HBO

    By the way, news channels and channels such as TechTV would probably still get by with advertisements. It is channels trying to sell content that would have to improve their business models.
  • by Cramer (69040) on Monday January 06, 2003 @05:36PM (#5028188) Homepage
    Yes they do. It's just not at the same level as the traditional Nielsen tracking data (ages of people watching the shows, etc.) TiVo does keep statistics on what is watched (and even which commercials are skipped, viewed, or replayed); it's just "anonymous" (yes, it can be tracked back to the specific tivo, however it's not simple and tivo promises they won't try.)

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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