NBC-Vista copy-protection snafu reminds us why DRM stinks

Discussion in 'Vista News' started by Jason, May 21, 2008.

  1. Jason

    Jason

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    This happened on my media center on monday:



    Handfuls of Windows Vista Media Center users found themselves blocked from making recordings of their favorite TV shows this week when a broadcast flag triggered the software's built-in copy protection measures. The flag affected users trying to record prime-time NBC shows on Monday evening, using both over-the-air broadcasts and cable. Although the problem is being "looked into" by both NBC and Microsoft, the incident serves as another reminder that DRM gives content providers full control, even if by accident.



    Vista MCE users began reporting problems on Monday evening, starting with posts on the popular DVR-enthusiast forum on The Green Button. While trying to record shows like American Gladiator and Medium, Vista users were presented with an error that read, "Recording cancelled. [TV show] cannot be recorded. Restrictions set by the broadcaster and/or originator of the content prohibit recording of this program." The Green Button user justinjas posted a screenshot of the error on his blog.



    It seems the flag only triggered copy protection measures in Vista, as one of our staffers with a DirecTV HD DVR recorded Gladiators as usual, and a TiVo spokesperson told CNet that the company had not received any complaints. Spokespersons from Microsoft and NBC also told CNet that the issue was being looked into, indicating that the broadcast flag was likely switched on by accident.



    The serves as a unsettling reminder that broadcasters can give instructions to the software built into DVRs, although they almost never do. Many DVRs and other, similar devices appear to be aware of the content-restriction flags set by broadcasters, even if they're not programmed to "obey" them by default. Still, broadcasters would love to have the power to stop users from recording their shows, watching them later, and most importantly, skipping commercials when they do it.



    Vista users aren't the only one to get hosed by broadcaster's copy-protection flags this year. Last month, DirecTV began to limit the window in which users could watch recorded pay-per-view movies. Previously, users who purchased PPV movies had unlimited time to watch their content, but DirecTV said the movie industry wanted tighter restrictions. As a result, DirecTV DVR owners must now watch their movies within 24 hours of purchase (unlike rentals on iTunes, which must be watched within 30 days of purchase, or 24 hours from the time you press the play button), or else the content will go "poof."



    Remember: DRM isn't about fighting piracy. It's about the ability to strictly control how we consume content. Users who are interested in pirating TV shows and movies aren't going to do so with a DVR or buy them through PPV. They've already skipped the middle-man and gone straight to BitTorrent with its decent-quality, commercial-less, and DRM-free offerings. Boneheaded mistakes like the one apparently made by NBC and Microsoft Monday night will only serve to make alternative means of obtaining content more attractive.
     
    Jason, May 21, 2008
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  2. Jason

    WAW8

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    Jason:



    Sorry to hear about the DRM-related problem -- but it only goes to underscore the widely-published claim that DRM really only hurts "legitimate" users, like yourself. Meanwhile, the Pirate Bay (and scores of other sites I don't know about) make hundred of gigabytes of movie downloads routinely available. Go figure!!



    Also, and sorry if this is slightly off-topic, I've heard from several sources that the same "industry groups" want to force manufactures of Tivo (and tivo-like devices) to build another "flag" into their box that will prevent the users from fast-forwarding over commercials. Don't know about everyone else, but I like recording my shows and watching them later, skipping over commercials so that a 45-minute show really only takes 45 minutes to watch. I don't want to have to watch the commercials!!



    Anyway ... my rant.
     
    WAW8, May 22, 2008
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