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Television Media Your Rights Online

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

An anonymous reader writes " 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 Duds ( 100634 ) <dudley@enter[ ] ['spa' in gap]> on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:18PM (#5026994) Homepage Journal
    Just because the DMCA doesn't mention it, it's still distribution of copyright material

    At least in the UK this is still illegal. Hell, recording to a VCR for personal use is I believe technically illegal

    Any info on the situation in other countries?
  • Time limits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by march ( 215947 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:20PM (#5027011) Homepage
    I wouldn't be surprised if a time-to-live feature is added to "swapping" devices. I.e., you can swap all you want, but the swapped copy has a limited lifetime and then erases itself. Like those disposable DVD's.

    This could be easily done by the folks at TiVo or ReplayTV.
  • by declana ( 214275 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:22PM (#5027029)
    Taking the poster's "legal analysis" as true "sharing" copies of television shows is still a violation of other copyright laws. As the case proved, no one has a right to make a copy for you. Only you have the right to "space shift" (transfer to VHS, CDR, etc) an mp3 file (or television show). This is where Napster and were found to violate copyright law. Not the DMCA's anticircumvision.
  • by blaimue ( 637983 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:22PM (#5027034) Journal
    Compare this to open source software:

    The code is freely available. You can download it from the internet and do whatever you want with it. Anyone can watch a TV show and record it if they want.

    So why do people pay for things like Linux distributions? It's the convenience. They're not paying for the code, they're paying for the packaging, the tech support, etc.

    Same thing with the TV shows. If people want to record them and share them for free (essentially providing a service), that's their perogative.
  • Re:Copyright ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eohrnberger ( 628608 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:25PM (#5027062)
    Pulling video out of a TiVo and burning it on a DVD is just the same as taping the TiVo show onto VHS tape. The only difference is the media. Now if you go and give (make available for download or copies on DVD) the recorded shows to multiple people it's distribution, and I'll wager that it'd be as illegal to do this with VHS tape as it is with DVDs or MPEG files. The usable time to live quality feature of a VHS protected it more than the infinately copyable DVDs, so I figure that the DVD copies may very well get more attention than VHS.
  • by Dutchmaan ( 442553 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:27PM (#5027077) Homepage
    they provide me with the capability to create a legitimate backup of my purchases...

    If I can't make a backup copy then screw em' because that's my right.

    If it wasn't for the moral erosion in the world by both corporations and consumers alike the DMCA would most likely not even exist.
  • WAY better idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drdanny_orig ( 585847 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:28PM (#5027093)
    Why don't we show them who really holds the cards and just stop watching the damned TV and stop buying CDs! Jeebus H. Kriste, books are better for you, cheaper, and more fun besides.
    Just a thought. I'll take my mod points offline, thank you.
  • by glesga_kiss ( 596639 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:28PM (#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. They simply have no idea on how many viewers will see it, and have no way to prove it.

    To me, all p2p has done is to change the business model. If the networks had any sense, they'd have every show available for download on a popular p2p app, with some major hosting at their end. Then they get to choose the commercials that exist in the de-facto standard download for that episode. And the advertisers will know that, and pay more for the privledge.

    Or, you could just bribe politions to change the law in-keeping with current practices, and have no control over a system that is growing larger every day. You can get almost any popular show on p2p now, with no commercials in it, having been stripped out by the person who did the capture.

  • Sorry Charlie... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fnkmaster ( 89084 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:29PM (#5027112)
    The DMCA sets a pretty low bar for circumvention - DVD CSS is arguably a copyright protection mechanism. Mind you, there is no real jurisprudence yet on what constitutes circumvention, and, as always, the standards are likely to come down to whether a judge thinks a "reasonable person" would consider it circumvention of copyright protection measures. Was the undocumented Tivo filesystem a copyright protection measure? Somebody might be able to make an argument that it was.

    The good thing that the Tivo hackers (and I'm included in this one, I've hacked my Tivo unit and even got ExtractStream to work once or twice over my TivoNet connection - and that's no mean feat, unless somebody's made the damned thing work better since then) have going for them is that Tivo isn't really interested in having them prosecuted because Tivo isn't protecting their own copyrighted material. As for the copyright owners, I'm not sure they really care since with respect to Tivo, this is a hobbyist hack, and it sure is a hack (like I said, you try getting ExtractStream to work reliably).

    You can bet that anybody that commercializes an easy to use system for sharing saved shows will get sued (i.e. ReplyTV). For the time being, the desktop TV Card-based PVR software products are all so damned klunky that I doubt anybody has cared enough yet to push the US Government to action. When somebody mass markets a product for the top of your TV set, that's what gets panties in a bunch - the content producers figure that a few egghead hobbyists isn't a big deal but a mass market product is.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:29PM (#5027114) Homepage
    It's always been illegal to swap TV shows under conventional copyright law, nothing under fair use covers that. It covers time-shifting, and using small portions in various ways.

    What DMCA added was that it outlawed any tool or information that could be used to circumvent protection mechanisms (and screw any fair use or other applications it might have).

    I really don't see the point here...

  • Ratings and TiVo (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CuriousKangaroo ( 543170 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:35PM (#5027143)

    Even more problematic is that ratings systems (the way networks determine how many people saw a show and its commercials and how much they can therefore charge in the future for commercial time) cannot currently effectively deal with the TiVo:

    If you tape a show and watch it months later, how does it count? The ratings have already been published!

    If you fast-forward through commercials while watching a program right after it actually aired, should it count?

    While these aren't huge problems today, as more people get PVRs the problems will become larger. Neilsen has spent time investigating VCRs in the past and are working with TiVo right now to address these issues in the future.

  • by jgerman ( 106518 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:38PM (#5027165)
    Technically, you're not even allowed to describe some tv broadcasts... notably NFL games. Listen to the legal bit at the end of one. What a crock that is.
  • Re:One huge hole (Score:4, Interesting)

    by glesga_kiss ( 596639 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:40PM (#5027175)
    Nah, because it'd be even easier to just cut out between the first keyframe of the brrak and the last keyfram of the break and reshare.

    Sure, but given a choice of the file with thousands of sources and ample bandwidth versuses the one with 3-4 from a couple of cable modems capped at 128k upstream, the "official" version will prevail. You can't control everything, and this seems to be the basic lack of understanding with these corporations.

  • by Patrick13 ( 223909 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:44PM (#5027211) Homepage Journal
    Also, as in the case of Enterprise [] the program is only on the UPN network. UPN is not available in every market (or internationally), so I happen to know that it is an extremely widely traded program.

    I think having the episodes downloadable with "embedded" adverts might really be a feasible way of having the network maintain control of their product, and make money on it.

    I wouldn't even mind having to use a "branded" viewer to play the episodes, or download a "star trek" codec so to speak so that they can say track the number of viewings it had or whatever.

    Of course this may never happen, since the Media Conglomerates are so protective of their content.

    Then of course, they should make the complete season DVDs available without the adverts, to guarantee DVD sales.

    Anyhow, I am a big fan of the series, but I have never, ever seen it on TV.

  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:44PM (#5027213) Homepage Journal
    "We're sitting here wondering how long it will be until Microsoft gets sued,"

    Personally, I'm waiting for the content faction (RIAA, MPAA, et al...) to take on Microsoft for "contributory copyright infringement" . It is illegal to market a device whose primary purpose is to facilitate copyright infringement, and it appears that the new Windows functionality does just this*. It's only a matter of time before:

    1. The content faction sues Microsoft, or
    2. Microsoft "retroactively" (via Automatic Update...)incorporates DRM into its OS
    From my standpoint, it seems as if option 1 is better for Microsoft; DRM could hamper the widespread adoption of the new Windows OS's. Though Microsoft would like to push Palladium, I think they realize that they'll sell more operating systems without it - simply because people need a good reason to upgrade. Being able to record and swap tv shows is a significant reason to the average PC buyer; without it, Microsoft might have a harder time selling upgrades, especially in this stagnant economy.

    Personally, I'd like to see Microsoft buck the content faction, and get sued. As both Microsoft and the content faction have lots of money, it would be interesting to see them embroiled in a legal battle against each other, rather than trying to screw their customers...

    * - yes, ATI has produced hardware which allowed PC users to record tv shows, however, it is not nearly as universally recognized or used as Microsoft. Microsoft's backing of tv recording programs has a much bigger impact, as the software will be on virtually every desktop sold.

  • by jgerman ( 106518 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:46PM (#5027226)

    It's always been illegal to swap TV shows under conventional copyright law, nothing under fair use covers that. It covers time-shifting, and using small portions in various ways.

    Illegal or not, they can bite me ;) I'm usually out on friday nights, so I fully expect the right to ask a friend to tape Firefly and borrow the tape later to watch. This wouldn't be an issue if it wasn't so easy to release shows to the masses digitally but it's still pretty much bullshit in my book. Especially in the cases where the show is no longer avilable. For instance if I wanted to watch The Wonder Years I can't without finding someone online who has a capture. Or waiting on the remote possibility that it will be shown... at a reasonable time, on a channel I have, and in a reasonable order. As far as I'm concered, I will never feel guilty downloading and watching something I have no other way of obtaining.

  • by xerofud ( 555327 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @03:55PM (#5027286)
    When I learned that Series 2 Tivo cryptographically signs the kernel and uses filesystem checksums, I quickly packed mine back in the box for a full refund.

    Now I'm happily running MythTV.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 06, 2003 @04:02PM (#5027337)
    Despite whether it is legal or not, people have been doing this for several years on IRC. The authorities monitor it a bit, and all that happens is the MPAA sends your ISP (or puts a popup on your computer, something I didn't know was possible until I received one) a cease and desist order. Those with dynamic IPs pretty much get away with it.

    Why I've downloaded 1650 cds of TV shows in 2 yrs, and served up over 3 terabytes of data myself. Someone remarked "What next, trading reruns of friends?" The irony being on my other computer I am burning a dvdr of 40+ old Friends episodes right now.... Sure I have some on VHS tape but this is much easier to manage.

    I really don't see what the big deal is. It's nice to have commercials precut. It's even nicer to have a real dvd of the stuff, but often times the dvds do not exist.

    Still more often, the shows never aired. For instance, NBC cancelled the religiously-controversial cartoon "God, The Devil, and Bob" after 4 episodes. But in Europe they aired all 13. So I downloaded them all, and got to watch what NBC cancelled. NBC's loss.

    Or how about Kevin Spencer?
    This is the Canadien equivalent of South Park. The characters in the show make Eric Cartman from South Park look like Mother Theresa, and makes Beavis & Butt-head look like excellent animation. It is the ultimate in lowbrow humor and is a DAMN GOOD SHOW.

    Or how about those Canadien Osbournes episodes that aren't censored? Finally, I can actually understand Ozzy because 50% of sounds coming from his mouth are no longer sounds.

    And then there is the underground stuff that never aired anywhere.... Chuch Of The SubGenius videos, footage of the WTO Protests in Seattle, executions, etc.

    And of course, all the great anime series that simply aren't available in this country and never will be. Many subbed by fans.

    I believe that sharing video is an integral part of living. If we are only forced to watch what the networks shove down our throats, then we are essentially having our opinions made for us. If we choose what we want to watch, then we get to form much more unique opinions. Cult video rules.

    Too bad I have to post anonymously for fear of the Motion Pricks Association America.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 06, 2003 @04:04PM (#5027347)
    The Tivo has a "save to vcr" function which allows you to basically dump a recorded episode to a vcr or digital cam-corder or a pc capture card or whatever else has rca and/or svideo inputs, so transfering the show to another medium is perfectly legal if it's for your own use. It's shareing the show that was and still is illegal.
  • Re:Screw Tivo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gorilla ( 36491 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @04:07PM (#5027365)
    The BBC shows very little commericals (Only between programs, and commericals for either BBC products or other BBC programs, similar to PBS). However, the BBC is a minority of TV in the UK, 2 out of 5 analog channels, and a similar proportion of cable/digital/satellite channels. The non-BBC channels show commericals just like American channels do, though at a slightly lower percentage of air time.
  • by Cyno ( 85911 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @04:10PM (#5027386) Journal
    Under your interpretation of copyright law we'd have no DJs. Copyright law does not prevent you from copying content. If I own a license to view content I can view it reguardless of which format it is in. I don't own a license to view a DVD, I own a license to view a Movie. If both you and me own that license, then what happens if I can copy my DVD into an ogm file and give you a copy. Would we be breaking copyright law? (I'd be breaking the DMCA, but that's beside the point here) That's something I bet even our courts would have a hard time figuring out.

    How many friends have handed you mixed tapes of their favorite music. Its the same thing. How do you prosecute someone for making a mixed tape or giving it to their friends. Its different when their friends become everyone connected to Gnutella, but to keep things simple let's just talk about neighbors sharing TV broadcasts.
  • Mixed Feelings (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jmoriarty ( 179788 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @04:24PM (#5027511)
    On one hand, I want to say "GO TEAM!" On the other hand, if this just whips around and Big Brother tries to address the problem by removing PVRs from the equation entirely by going after TiVO, et al, I'll be very, very depressed. On the TiVO Community [] board, discussion about data extraction are banned for just that reason... no one wants the lightning rod.

    My TiVO is very near and dear to my heart. As just about every member of the TiVO Cult chants, "It changes the way you watch television." I want this technology as much freedom to develop as we can squeeze out of our rapidly gestapoing society.
  • by btempleton ( 149110 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @04:45PM (#5027756) Homepage
    Tivo does not have a protection system, I have never seen any claim to that effect, so it doesn't seem possible to circumvent something that isn't there.

    Of course the police will help you out. While nothing was circumvented, the money was still stolen. If I put my laptop down on the table next to me and somebody grabs it, do you think this is somehow not a theft. The law of theft does add an extra crime for breaking in (even if you don't steal) to somewhere, but the theft is still the theft.

    The DMCA made illegal bypassing something that ostensibly is a protection system. Sadly, it includes even really weak ones. What matters to the DMCA is not how strong it is but what its purpose is. CSS is quite weak, the authors of it said they were surprised it took so long for DeCSS to appear.

    Sadly the DMCA prohibits not just circumventing these systems, but even, we have learned through bad court rulings, publishing the software that does it, since you are now "trafficking" in circumvention devices. Of course this is something we are fighting.

    The Tivo Series 1 has nothing to circumvent, since as far as I know, Tivo never represented that they had protection. I presume they used a different filesys to assure real time delivery of the video stream.

    If they claim that it was a protection device, that will make an interesting case. The DMCA contains a clause exempting people doing reverse engineering to allow things to interoperate. But the exemption proved effectively useless in court.
  • Re:One huge hole (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @04:51PM (#5027810)
    Yes, if CBS offered commercial-laden downloads on p2p, (without deploying any imaginative new impediments) they'd become the vastly preferred download source.

    In comparison to random tivo-rippers, they'd have superior timeliness, audiovisual quality, and legality (the viewers can sooth that tiny pange of guilt that plagues them today).

    The TV networks might even arrange some formula to inject p2p downloads into their Nielsen computations, so their income can proceed as usual.

    However, if this happens, their profit model will immediately face a new menace: "virtual copyright infringment". Some hackers will create/modify a software MPEG player so that it applies a simple EDL (Edit Directive List) to the video as it plays.

    When following an EDL, a player doesn't read through the stream linearly from start to finish. ("Begin at the beginning, and go on to the end. Then stop"). Instead it may start playing 15 seconds in, then pause after 24 seconds and skip ahead 30 seconds before continuing, etc. Using an appropriate EDL, you could for instance watch a PG-13 edit of an R-rated DVD.

    Or, more worrisome in this scenario, you could skip over the commercials of a recorded TV program.

    So what will happen eventually is that the first few viewers to download a TV show will create a list of commercial start/end times when watching the show (just tap a button when viewing it for the first time) and then dissemenate a no-commercials EDL far and wide.

    The EDL might be spread on a p2p network, or ftp site. But it's such a tiny file that you could easily transmit them through (mass?) email or IM instead. If the EDLs have a naming convention based on the authoritative filename used when the TV network released their show, then the viewer's process could be automated even more: when you start to play an official MPEG, the player hops onto Morpheus and searches for an EDL matching the commercial breaks for the video in question. (rather like the CD-audio database)

    I could go on and discuss possible countermeasures (technical, legal, or creative) to the threat of EDL and virtual-infringment, but you get the idea.
  • Per channel charge. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MikeVx ( 627293 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @05:05PM (#5027922) Journal
    Actually, I'd like to see a per channel charge, if you could specify the channels you wanted. At $5/Month/Channel I'd be paying about $25-30/Month, provided tha channels I wanted could learn to behave.
  • Legal in Norway (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 06, 2003 @05:07PM (#5027935)
    Here in Norway its perfectly legal to swap recordings of tv or radio broadcasts, as long as no money changes hands.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 06, 2003 @06:24PM (#5028568)
    Hello Folks,

    I'm actually hacking together a prog to extract the mpeg that is present in a TyStream (the internal format used by Tivo).

    Firstly some errors in the article:

    All present software revisions of Tivo has some sort of crypt (both Series 1 and 2). Since they are using Linux it's however easy to turn off and nothing is preventing you form hacking the kernel source to remove file system crypt.

    Now Series 2 is harder to hack since Tivo is checking if you are running a hacked kernel (or even if you have put extra file or changed files on the root partion).

    I agree that there is no diff between using a TV/mpeg encoder in your computer or using a stand alone Tivo (SA Tivo).

    Now what is interesting DirecTV Tivo they are using state of the art mpeg encoders or getting the source in mpeg format directly from the source. What you get is very high quality MPEG video which is not what you get when you encode analog TV with help of a ATI all in wounder.


    PS: Yes, I have code that can turn a DTivo recoding in to a DVD in a snap - very handy I must say :)

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