By GREG SANDOVAL, AP Technology Writer
Many fans of digital video recorders made by TiVo Inc. are beginning
to fear that Hollywood studios will one day reach into their set-top
boxes to restrict the way they record and store movies and programs.
Among the functions included in TiVo's latest software upgrade is the
ability to allow broadcasters to erase material recorded by TiVo's 3.6
million users after a certain date. That ability was demonstrated
recently when some TiVo customers complained on TiVo community sites
that episodes of "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill" they recorded
were "red-flagged" for deletion by the copyright holder.
Some users also were upset that they were prevented from transferring
these red-flagged shows to a PC via the TiVoToGo service.
Elliot Sloan, a TiVo spokesman, called the red-flag incident a
"glitch" and said it affected only a handful of customers. "It's a
non-story," Sloan said.
Nonetheless, skeptics among TiVo users questioned why TiVo would own
such a technology unless the company planned to one day use it.
TiVo and other digital video recorders let users skip commercials and
jump around a recording quickly. Since TiVo introduced its DVR in the
late 1990s, customers have enjoyed the ability to record anything they
want, and store it indefinitely.
But last year, TiVo quietly disclosed that it would employ
copyright-protection software from Macrovision Corp. for pay-per-view
and video-on-demand programs. According to a post on TiVo's Web site,
the software allows broadcasters to restrict how long a DVR can save
certain recordings or in some cases prevent someone from recording
"Program providers decide what programs will have Macrovision copy
protection," said the TiVo post.
Matt Haughey, creator of http://PVRblog.com, the Web site where the
complaints first appeared, said some fans are overreacting about the
red-flag incident. However, he said he is worried that TiVo has
handed Hollywood a means to restrict recordings.
"TiVo would be of limited utility in the future if the studios were
allowed to do this with regular broadcast content," Haughey
said. "This is like cell-phone jammers. What if you couldn't talk on
your cell phone? If customers can't do something with their TiVo that
they could in the past, they will stop using it."
TiVo is among many platforms that could be transformed by the
entertainment industry's demands for tighter copyright controls.
Broadcasters have also tried to force electronics manufacturers to
insert a technology known as the broadcast flag into new televisions
to prevent programs from being copied or disseminated on the Internet.
The Federal Communications Commission at one point required such
piracy preventions, but those rules were blocked in May by a
three-judge panel for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia. Congress may get the last word.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at
http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/more-news.html . Hundreds of new