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Microsoft Encryption Media Security Television Your Rights Online

Windows Media Center Restricts Cable TV 448

PrescriptionWarning writes "With the latest Media Center Edition update from Microsoft, I and many others are finding that content available on television is now completely unwatchable from Media Center. The message states: 'Restricted Content: Restrictions set by the broadcaster and/or originator of the content prohibit playback of the program on this computer.' A simple search on the subject reveals that HBO programming and, in my case, Braveheart on AMC are among the many selections now restricted for playback or recording by Windows Media Center Edition. What's next, restricting every piece of programming on television?"
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Windows Media Center Restricts Cable TV

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2007 @05:43AM (#19206331)'s the user.

    Why invite Microsoft into your living room when you can set up MythTV? DRM opponents have been telling you all for how long... and you people still buy Microsoft products and then complain when they behave as expected?

  • Honestly, is anyone surprised? Why would you buy a microsoft product for something that just begs to be DRM'ed?
  • by Perseid ( 660451 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @05:45AM (#19206359)
    ...they WANT us to download things off of P2P.
  • TV? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FredDC ( 1048502 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @05:52AM (#19206383)
    TV is an outdated concept... I hardly watch any television anymore myself, why would I want to watch something on a specified date and time? I'll watch it whenever I feel like it!

    Record it from TV? Oh yea, I'm gonna wait until some station decides to air it and then record it with advertising...

    There is nothing which interests me on television anyway which I can't find somewhere else. And the rest? Game shows, reality shows, ... I couldn't care less about them!

    With these kind of restrictions it seems like television stations are going the **AA way... Desperately trying to hold on to an outdated concept, which has made them alot of money in the past. Too blind and stuck in their old patterns to find new ways of making money...
  • by aussie_a ( 778472 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @05:53AM (#19206385) Journal
    Microsoft once again demonstrates who its customers are. It isn't the people who buy their products, but big busines. Hence the heavy-DRM tie-ins they've developed for Vista among other products in the past (such as Windows Media Player)
  • Re:Old news???? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by rolfc ( 842110 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:01AM (#19206413) Homepage
    No, it is not old news.
    It is the same all the time.
  • by nikostheater ( 956769 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:02AM (#19206417)
    Isn't it stupid for a company to sell MCE and then to resctrict what a person can and cannot watch? What's the point to bother marketing such a product? And then they wonder why customers hate DRM and their stupid "IP rights"..
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:02AM (#19206423)
    Actually, it's almost like they don't want us to watch it.

    Fine with me.
  • by kcbrown ( 7426 ) <> on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:05AM (#19206439)

    ...and what DRM is for.

    Its sole purpose is to keep you from using the media you would otherwise have rightful access to in any way other than what the copyright holder explicitly wants.

    In short, its sole purpose is, ultimately, to make you pay every time you make use of the media, and to control the flow of information.

    DRM is how the media megacorporations intend to rein in the internet. For instance, you can't prove that the media broadcast a story when the story can't be recorded.

    DRM is how the big corporations intend to remove your right to read [].

    This is just the first shot across the bow. It's going to get worse. A lot worse. Read all you can about "trusted computing" [] to see where this is going. All they have to do is to remove your ability to boot an unsigned bootloader, and the game is over (with you as the loser).

    If you think this is paranoid ranting, well, so did people who thought habeus corpus would never be removed. That doesn't make what I say right, but since the same people are ultimately involved, you shouldn't dismiss the above as paranoid ranting on the basis of incredulity alone.

  • Re:TV? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:32AM (#19206571)
    And that's exactly the concept the content industry fails to grasp. People are indeed very willing to pay for content and avoid the hassle of searching through .torrents, downloading, waiting, waiting more, waiting even more, and finally hoping they get what they downloaded and not some gay porn movie (unless they tried to download a gay porn... you get the idea), then downloading some codec because that movie had to be packed with some esotheric encoding mechanism, then hoping it's really a good copy of the movie and not some cell-cam version with popcorn rustling in the background... Not to mention the legal matters.

    What keeps people from going the legal way is the terms of service. First of all, the hassle is not less, it's more. Incompatible DRM with this or that player, installing licenses, and finally hoping that what they got can actually be watched, if not, more try and error with DRM... And of course the fear that, as soon as their computer dies, all the content is digital junk because DRM thinks you're a different person.

    I know that a lot of people, if not the overwhelming majority, is very willing to pay for content that simply works, hassle-free and without problems and tinkering. But currently, with DRM in place, it's anything but that. More often than not, you buy something only to find out that it would have been less hassle to simply search for a .torrent, download it, wait for a while...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:50AM (#19206679)

    And you think that -- just because you're paying for the content -- they won't attempt to get more revenue by including advertising?

    Of course, once it's all DRM-protected, you won't be able to get rid of the advertisements.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:55AM (#19206693)
    Makes sense, doesn't it? Only if there is a limited supply, something gets some value in our world. Think of precious metals, pieces of art, anything collectible. By itself, not really valuable. Gold is actually quite worthless, from an industrial point of view. Aside of a few applications where its physical and chemical properties (like being almost impossible to corrode and very resistant to acids) come to shine, it's quite useless or easily replaced by other metals. But it's rare. So it's precious. It has been since the dawn of humanity.

    Pieces of art, paintings of old masters, are nice to look at, but by no means necessary for survival. Even more, it's something to look at, not something to consume. You can look at the Mona Lisa, take the experience with you and go on with your life. Still, it's invaluable. It's a one-of-a-kind.

    And let's not even get to Magic the Gathering cards or rare stamps.

    All those things have a high value because they're rare. Not because people need them. They are valuable because people want them and only a selected few can have them. That's what makes their price tag to up.

    Content, now, is by its very definition not scarce. Reproducing content is easy and has been cheap from the beginning of the printing press. With computers and digitalized content, the cost for reproduction has been brought very close to zero. In other words, unrestricted content has no value in our world because it is anything but scarce. Everyone can have it.

    DRM now imposes an artificial shortage onto something that is available in abundance, with the sole goal to make the value (or rather, the price) of information go up. Disney understood this concept from early on, making its movies only available every few years for a short time, so people don't even ponder twice before buying. Either you get it now or you can't get it for a long, long time. So they pay, any price.

    DRM should now make the same possible for every kind of digital content. The content industry dictates when and at what terms you may get it. The goal is, amongst others, that by creating an artificial shortage of a movie, the movie becomes a hot seller again, no matter how old it is. Think of, say, Casablanca. A good movie, but we've all seen it for ... how many times? Provided you're interested in that kinda movie, granted. Now imagine you couldn't see it anymore. For a long, long time. And then, for about 2 months, it is on sale again.

    People would buy more. They would buy it THEN, not put it back 'til they want to see it again, they will buy then because of the fear that you can't get it for a long time anymore afterwards.

    And, of course, you won't be able to watch it forever. You will watch it for as long as the content industry lets you.

    This also creates a nice way of restricting the access to movies that ain't so much in sync with political views anymore. When was the last time you saw Rambo III [] on a TV network? And how many copies that you can still buy contain the words "This movie is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan" in the closing credits?

    Could you see a few people who'd want this movie to disappear once and for all, as if it never existed? Or at least alter a few things?

    It's not like movie altering isn't done already. But you can easily remove all existing copies of the "original" version with DRM. Movies have a best before date with it. Who could claim that Han shot first anymore without looking stupid to people who ain't old enough to remember?

    Tastes a bit of Orwell, ain't it?
  • Joe Wiseman (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:55AM (#19206695)
    Meanwhile, Joel Wiseman bought a Mac MINI and wonders why Sixbit and Sixpack spent all the time and money on systems dedicated to trying to grab content from a stream, when they could spend less of both just buying songs individually on demand.

    He uses the extra time and money saved to read books.
  • Re:TV? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by badasscat ( 563442 ) <{basscadet75} {at} {}> on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:07AM (#19206753)
    Almost by definition, peer-to-peer networks contain what the users want. Shows no-one is interested in are left out.

    Never heard of the Long Tail [], I guess. Hint: it's the reason why companies like Amazon and Netflix are successful. Another hint: it's not because they only carry the top 5% of products that 80% of the world is interested in. It's because they carry the other 95%.

    The fact that I can't get those shows "no-one is interested in" on p2p is precisely why it is not very useful to me, or a lot of other people. Because, see, while you can have an individual show that's liked by 50% of people, you can also guarantee that there are 20 other shows liked collectively by 100% of people... even though individually they may not reach over 5% each. It's those 20 smaller shows that make any content delivery system useful, not the one show that's popular. You can get that one popular show anywhere; it's the place you can get those 20 smaller shows that's special. (And that includes regular old cable TV, which is hardly "irrelevant" as some here have suggested. p2p can never be as relevant as cable, because of the long tail.)

    You would think people here would be celebrating the long tail - which is all about choice, after all - rather than promoting only those things that the mainstream is interested in.

  • Re:TV? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:11AM (#19206769) Journal
    I believe the grandparent was talking about TV-the-delivery-system, rather than TV-the-content. I don't watch TV-the-delivery-system anymore, but most of what I rent on DVDs is TV-the-content. I value my time, and don't want to waste 25% of my entertainment time watching adverts, so I simply don't watch TV. I want to watch things when I have time, not when the broadcaster decides it's the optimal time to show it. I want to be able to take the show with me, and watch it while travelling on my laptop.

    I would love to be able to buy TV show on a per-season basis, with no DRM and the ability to re-download (I don't want to bother having to archive them myself), or for less if I don't have the re-download ability (for stuff I'm likely to only want to watch once).

    TV viewership is dropping as it has to compete with more convenient forms of entertainment. Expect the status quo to change when enough people have broadband that the studios can sell more by selling to the viewers than to the distributors.

  • by rbanffy ( 584143 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:28AM (#19206861) Homepage Journal

    And I don't see the problem of information control. Quite the opposite, if you have the freedom to view any news broadcast from all over the world with a click (well, that's reality even now, I think), there's no control. If people want information, they'll get it easily (well, at least here in the free world). If they don't want it, no DRM is going to make them want it.

    Do you really think it would be hard to block your access to foreign news broadcasts via DRM?

    The mere existence of this broadcast flag threatens your ability to record the present and document the past. It drives a nail through some of the more basic requirements for a democracy, which is the right and need to be and stay well informed.

    After all, we've always been at war with Eastasia.

  • Re:TV? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FST777 ( 913657 ) <{ten.keebneets-nav} {ta} {naj-snarf}> on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:34AM (#19206889) Homepage
    Which is exactly my fear when the TV stops being profitable: that it disapears and be replaced by internet-TV (like Joost). Then there is no point anymore in socialising in front of the TV, watching shows with your children, talking with your colleagues about that great show that was on yesterday...

    If I throw out the TV, I miss my primary source of news: it's more convenient than looking up the news online. I also miss some of the fun programs that I watch now which I never would bother to download. There would be less incentive to watch something which happens to be on air with my wife. I wouldn't partake in the benefit shows which are on air when a disaster happened and the people are asked to donate money (those are highly succesfull means fo charity here). All that is lost.

    That might well be a threat to socialisation. Not because it disapears, but because it is replaced by a less social medium: the internet. Sure, you can socialise more while watching TV via the internet (channel based chats, program based discussions) but that is not the same as laughing about a show with the wife and / or friends, collectively as a nation worry about something that needs to be done (and doing so because of that) or discussing a controversial documentary with your colleagues.
  • by gigne ( 990887 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:38AM (#19206903) Homepage Journal

    All that is a steep price for avoiding DRM that (in my experience) never gets in the way. Of course, all this changes when suddenly a bunch of content becomes impossible to record, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there (or when it gets here, across the big pond).

    So you have 1 hour to set up windows, but now you can't watch anything because it's DRM'd so you need to invest in another package.
    So now you are going to spend a couple of hours thinking about what new system to use, a couple of hours to backup all important stuff from the existing box, and (say) three hours to setup (Insert new PVR solution here)
    When you look at it like that, it would have been quicker to choose the solution that was least likely to screw you over at a later date. You would have saved a few hours if you carefully considered this initially. The price for DRM is very high when you factor in the "oh shit, DRM" cost. It's not like we didn't know it was going to happen.
  • by kcbrown ( 7426 ) <> on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:39AM (#19206913)

    Um no. In a free market, the alternatives look better. In a non-free market, the alternatives are outlawed.

    And what makes you think the market in the U.S. is a "free market"?

    The people who are pushing for DRM are precisely the people who have the greatest amount of control over the U.S. government, because they control what gets advertised about the candidates during election time. Frankly, I'm a little surprised DRM hardware of the kind I described hasn't already been mandated, but I suspect that's probably because the people in control know that fascism has to be implemented slowly for it to work. That's the lesson I think they learned from the early to mid 20th century.

  • Re:Joe Wiseman (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @08:01AM (#19207017) Journal
    "He uses the extra time saved to read books he checked out of the library, because he ran out of cash trying to buy all the content he wanted to see off of iTMS."

    There, fixed that for you. You see, the idea is that TV has always been "free" for the viewer, and the intent of these things is to leverage that content to reduce the regular outlay of cash associated with paying for every instance of a recording. If you don't understand that economy (spending time to save money), then you are detached from most of America. Then again, you seem to be a mac fan, so...
  • Re:TV? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Targon ( 17348 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @08:01AM (#19207021)
    I don't think that viewership is dropping as much as the idiotic method of tracking how many people are watching just doesn't work anymore. If someone records a show because they can't be home, that in no way means that people don't end up watching. There seems to be progress in getting away from the current system, but who knows if it will ever happen.

    A big problem I see with the different distribution methods out there is how to fund the production of the good shows. Honestly, if the TV distribution method is going to change, and advertisements change as well, a better way for these shows to generate money will be needed, and the possibilities are scary. Will we have running advertisements along the bottom and/or top of the screen as we watch? Will the users be required to pay to view the content without advertisements? If we are given a choice(pay and get no advertisements, or get it for free with advertisements), the peer to peer downloads will hurt the chances for good shows to be renewed.

    Remember, money is the reason we get ANYTHING on TV in the first place. If the production studios don't make money on the development of the shows/movies, they will NOT continue to make the shows we care about. So, how do we make sure that the good shows continue while the crap is dropped?
  • by PrescriptionWarning ( 932687 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @08:11AM (#19207073)
    before that last update, I had no problem with MCE, other than the fact that it was MS. Because of this, however, I from here on refuse to use MCE and am using SnapStream until I can find the time to set up MythTV.
  • by knewter ( 62953 ) <josh.rubyist@gm a i> on Monday May 21, 2007 @08:26AM (#19207185) Homepage
    They determined that one for me quite a bit ago. I subscribe to two music services (Napster and Yahoo), with their MILLIONS OF SONGS!! Anyway, if I want any acoustic content I have to bolt to Soulseek. If I want any live content, can't get it there. If I want to listen to a song by Denison Witmer, why, it's purchase only. He's not a well-known artist. There's no way he's selling a lot of those tracks.

    They've driven me from my fortress of legalitude back into P2P because they won't give me what they have that would make them better than P2P - exclusive live tracks (for a brief period I would have it better than P2Pers in one respect), or at least approaching 60% of the stuff I search for? Because ALL of the P2P apps give me whatever I search for, immediately. I know the RIAA can do better, but they don't understand why it would become infuriating to depend on them to deliver the content I want.

    I will download music. I stopped and tried to go the legal route, and as far as I can tell they want to siphon off every dollar I have that way. This is no different. The faulty business models must be crushed - do your part. Download stuff.
  • Re:What's next... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MECC ( 8478 ) * on Monday May 21, 2007 @09:04AM (#19207499)

    >What's next, restricting every piece of programming on television?

    Yes. Didn't you get the memo?

    Did anyone seriously think for a even a moment that a media package for watching cable TV from microsoft wouldn't try to control everything?

  • by l3v1 ( 787564 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @09:16AM (#19207633)
    Some people just don't get it. It's far enough that we let Microsoft so into our lives as they are now, why on earth would I let them have any kind of control over other aspects of my life, e.g. watching tv ? Why would I tolerate a piece of software that, after I pay money for it, makes my life more restricted instead of easing my life ? Am I stupid enough to believe that this way of life is what I've been waiting and working towards during the last decades ? Hell no. Any software and service I pay for I expect to improve the quality of my life on whichever scale and aspect not make it worse. Before some would ask "then why have you payed for it?" I didn't and I won't. And if the answer is that there's nothing to do, this is the only way from now on, then I'd rather stick to the pathetic miserable level I am at now then to willingly contribute into making our lives suck more.
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @09:24AM (#19207739) Homepage Journal

    Han Solo will never shoot first again and the government never went after ET and the kids with shotguns. While at one level, those are just movies and no big deal, it IS a revision of history, especially the latter example. I can easily see how revisionists would love to be able to take an 'incorrect' movie back after the fact if they could.

    At the rate we're going, how long can it be until police departments start really wishing people coundn't watch movies about police corruption or even those silly movies from the '70s where the hero defies authority and causes a zillion police cars to crash? I can see how that could unfold now. A riot breaks out somewhere and in order to "avoid fanning the flames", a few movies become unavailable "for a short time" "for the public safety". Afterwards, most but not all restrictions get relaxed again and history is now revised.

    The fact that most DRM is not retroactive today is no impediment. Retroactive DRM is only a "must have" "security update" away.

  • by JohnBailey ( 1092697 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:23AM (#19208347)
    I disagree. The problem IS Microsoft. The reason is the same as usual.. lock in. The goal is to be the only practical choice for anybody wanting a media PC. Nothing to do with any fear of the RIAA/MPAA suing them, but everything to do with market domination.

    Media center PCs are just another segment of the market that they can try to control. If the market for these becomes profitable over the next few years, then Microsoft can offer a more awkward to hack and constantly updating system to the content providers. On condition that they sign an exclusive deal. In return, perhaps a nice little feature that refuses to allow a DVD to be played if ripping software is detected, and constantly updating DRM features that break last month's illegal content hacks.
  • Re:Try myself (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dishevel ( 1105119 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:52AM (#19208685)
    Nope. It is working as intended. Not a problem.
  • by rbanffy ( 584143 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @10:55AM (#19208719) Homepage Journal

    So yes, I think it would be hard to use DRM to block foreign news any more than they can be blocked without DRM. Feel free to enlighten me on how it could be done, though.

    By mandating that all players sold in your market also obey decency flags that can only be set by the Ministry of Decency should be enough of an example. Adding mandatory self-updates to the equipment would forbid anyone to tamper with such controls. Making it a crime to tamper with them would also not help. IIRC, TiVos can be instructed to erase recordings after a certain amount of time. Truth is DRM by itself does not provide means to do it, but laws can be crafted in such a way as to use DRM as a tool to do it and, since the machines are not really under your control, they can do pretty much anything they want.

    You know, democracy was developed in a time without any audio or video recording equipment... I'd be more concerned with self-disintegrating paper, introduced in the name of recycling, that would disintegrate in 20 years... Once somebody proposes that, then you know you should be scared (and I'm not saying this merely as a joke...).

    Obviously I do know democracy has evolved without audio or video recording, but it also evolved without any technical means for mass surveillance. Such means exist now. Even the best equipped totalitarian state of the first half of the past century could not summon the vast amount of information that is a subpoena away now and, even if they had that data, they would not be able to sort through it. This is very possible now and has been for the last couple decades. Our IRS-equivalent in Brazil is capable of massive data-mining to spot tax-evasion. In São Paulo, cameras can recognize license plates and issue fines accordingly (people are not allowed to drive in certain days of the week at certain times according to the numbers in their license plates). This capabilities hint on what a determined government could do if laws allowed it.

    While it may be impossible to revise the books you have on your shelf, it would be technically trivial to revise e-books in a library or the news published on a web-site. "Your edition of George Owell's 1984 is being updated. Please do not disconnect".

    It is terribly unwise to ignore such possibilities until it is too late. Because, of course, by then, it will be too late.

    And yes, I too would be terribly scared of self-disintegrating paper, but I am already terribly scared of computers I can't control.

  • Re:Try myself (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord Apathy ( 584315 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @11:02AM (#19208791)

    I saw no references to piracy in the orginal post. Not that I have problem with that option. But there is always netflix or some other form of rental. For instance I have see every episode of showtimes Bullshit and I shit canned my showtime subscription years ago.

    The reason it's good to rent than buy these type of productions is you get to see the show, while the spawn of evil, mpaa, doesn't get one god damn red cent of my money.

  • Re:Try myself (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:02PM (#19209517)

    The reason it's good to rent than buy these type of productions is you get to see the show, while the spawn of evil, mpaa, doesn't get one god damn red cent of my money.

    I don't think you've thought through the economics of the video rental business very well, but if it is comforting for you to think that you are denying the producers of videos or their industry associations money by renting rather than buying videos, go on telling yourself that.
  • Re:Try myself (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RareButSeriousSideEf ( 968810 ) on Monday May 21, 2007 @07:21PM (#19214937) Homepage Journal
    Pick any two: Enjoy mainstream movies, obey the law, deprive the MPAA of funds.

    About the best compromise is to dilute your contribution to the bad guys' revenue streams: only buy movies used when purchasing, and whenever possible, check them out from your local library or borrow from friends instead. Those you do own, loan liberally among friends.

    Admonish your peer group not to buy you new DVDs or CDs as gifts. Tell them you are happy to receive used ones though.

    Bring up silly questions like "why do 10 of us have to own this same DVD? Do you think more than one of our group has ever watched it on the same night?"

    You could also brutally murder anyone who disagrees, but IANAL so I can't speak to the legality of that.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.