TiVo to Restrict Content Usage

In the very near future, your TiVo machine will surreptitiously download a patch that will put restrictions on how long your DVR can save certain kinds of TV programmes. It’s the first time since its inception that your TiVo won’t let you watch whatever you want, whenever you want.

The slippery slope started when Macrovision became concerned about TiVo’s imminent TiVoToGo service, which will allow users to transfer programming from the TiVo to a PC. One patch will cause TiVos to automatically delete pay-per-view content after a preset period of time, while another change affects TiVo viewers’ ability to view National Football League broadcasts.

NFL was concerned that TiVo’s new remote access service would somehow circumvent the league’s broadcast regulations by playing real-time retransmission outside of the subscriber’s local television market. A new agreement with the NFL prevents TiVo owners from doing this.

In a recent interview with J. D. Lasica on endgaget, Mike Ramsay, CEO of TiVo said, “When you are a slave to television it screws up your life.”  It would seem though that TiVo might be assuming the mantle of slavery by being too deferential to the broadcasters.

TiVo say they are changing because Macrovision is changing, and that it’s a case of having a more restrictive Macrovision licence or no licence at all, especially since the restrictions are limited to pay-per-view and video-on-demand – so far.

The thing is, TiVo is not legally required to have copy protection, and in an interview with Lucas Graves in the latest issue of Wired, Graves asks TiVo’s general counsel, Matthew Zinn why TiVo just don’t tell Macrovision to stuff it?  Zinn replies, “That was an option. But if there was no Macrovision license, we would run into a lot of copyright problems with things like remote access and “TiVo to Go” functionality. To innovate and give people more flexibility with broadcast content, we decided it was acceptable to allow content owners to apply protections to higher-value content.”

Having an arbitrary expiration date set after which your copy gets wiped cannot be good for customer morale, the risk being that they may find non-legal ways to get what they want.

Engadget interview with Mike Ramsay, CEO of TiVo
Wired interview – Lucas Graves, general counsel, TiVo

ShowCenter 1000g Gets UK Launch from Pinnacle

Pinnacle ShowCenter is by no means a new kid on the block but its latest version, ShowCenter v1.7 has some new features that make it worth revisiting since it has just been released in the UK.

For starters, Pinnacle ShowCenter is now 802.11g wireless network ready, and includes a compatible wireless module, making it easy to set up ShowCenter on a wired Ethernet, 802.11b or 802.11g home network, and giving it a realistic chance of supporting wireless delivery of audio and video.

Funky new features include the ability to listen to music without turning on the television – users can now assign radio stations or play lists to individual buttons on the ShowCenter remote control. But coolest of all, you can now pause live TV and schedule recordings on your PC.

For the uninitiated, Pinnacle ShowCenter is a set-top device that connects to wireless and wired home local area networks (LAN) allowing streaming of multimedia files from any PC on the network to any television or home entertainment system in the house. It’s really a complete media management software suite for organising and managing media files. Unknown file formats are automatically converted and streamed to the ShowCenter in a recognisable format, while you can control the PVR features on your PCTV tuner from the ShowCenter unit – if you have Pinnacle PCTV Pro, PCTV Stereo, PCTV USB2 or PCTV MediaCenter products.

The ShowCenter software has now been updated with audio and media management enhancements and from early 2005 users in the UK will have online music access via RealNetworks Rhapsody Internet jukebox service.

Pinnacle ShowCenter 1000g carries a suggested retail price of £199.99, while current ShowCenter owners can download v1.7 software-only features for free. Existing customers who wish to add 802.11g functionality to their units, can return them for retooling at a cost of £69.

“Digital media receivers such as Pinnacle ShowCenter are allowing customers to enjoy their PC-based digital music, photos and movies to the fullest extent — throughout the home,” said William Chien, director of product management, digital home products, Pinnacle Systems. “Customers have tremendous flexibility with the option to browse and use the ShowCenter media manager on the PC or from the comfort of their sofa on the television monitor with a remote control.”


UK Gov Opens Door to Open Source

Gerald M. Weinberg, author of The Psychology of Computer Programming, came to an interesting conclusion back in 1971 – “If builders built houses the way programmers built programs, the first woodpecker to come along would destroy civilisation.” So who do government departments trust when it comes to creating software? The proprietary software giants or the open source software alternative?
The UK government’s central procurement agency, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), recently field-tested open-source software in the public sector with results that will please Tux lovers everywhere. The open-source pilots were run at various government agencies using software from IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. The subsequent report cites progress in desktop products, such as OpenOffice and Sun Microsystems Inc.’s StarOffice, for routine, low level work, but not for “knowledge” or “power users” who require more advanced capabilities.

The softening in attitude towards open source comes not only from an acceptance of its maturing functionality on the desktop – it’s been around a while now, it also comes down to cost. Open-source software requires less memory and a slower processor speed for the same functionality offered by the proprietary applications that are always demanding hardware upgrades to work to their full potential. So, if open source were taken on board soon it would delay expensive hardware replacement.

The report comes just as the OGC is finalising a three-year extension to its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Microsoft Corp., which has basked in the warmth of a long and cosy partnership with the UK government. Now that cash strapped government departments all over the world start taking a closer look at open-source alternatives, companies like Microsoft have to be a little worried.

Could OGC have just been hoping that Microsoft would cut its licensing costs? Hardly, you wouldn’t conduct a major study just for that. Although Microsoft did recently launch a major advertising campaign, ‘Get the Facts’, to repudiate the idea that open source has a lower TCO (total cost of ownership) than proprietary software.

SBC’s $20 DSL Red Herring

Baby Bell phone company SBC Communications has launched a promotion that breaks a barrier of sorts. It’s offering DSL for $19.95 (£11) a month. It only comes in a bundle though. You must also subscribe for one year to SBC’s unlimited calling plan at $48 (£26) a month.

The DSL service promises download speeds of between 384kbps and 1.5mbps, and an upload speed of up to 384kbps. It also includes increased e-mail account storage, safety and security features and a parental control package.

SBC Communications, who markets DSL high-speed services in partnership with Yahoo, say the $19.95 (£11) a month plan, effective from 1st November, is available to new broadband subscribers or for customers who want to change from cable to DSL.

It’s a regular tussle between the phone companies and the cable companies. Approximately 60% of US homes with broadband access, use cable modems, but broadband penetration nationwide has not yet hit 50%. By the end of 2004 roughly 30 million of the 110 million US households will have broadband access – still only 30%.

At the end of the second quarter (2004) UBS said cable firms had 16.7 million Internet customers, while phone companies had 11.3 million DSL customers – still a considerable gap.

Looking ahead, Local Bells plan to replace ageing copper wiring in affluent urban areas with fibre-optic wiring that will also handle video, hoping obviously to stop wireless and cable service providers at the pass. Indeed, only last week SBC granted Alcatel a $1.7 billion contract to install fibre-optic lines in its network infrastructure, so that it can eventually handle video, while Motorola will supply equipment to Verizon for their video service.

But cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable remain the market leaders for household broadband customers. While phone companies like SBC, Verizon Communications, BellSouth and Qwest Communications are upgrading their networks to handle higher bandwidth applications such as video.

While SBC added 402,000 DSL customers in the third quarter and Verizon added 309,000 DSL customers, cable firm Comcast signed up 549,000 broadband customers in the same period. Comcast did target college students though with a $19.95 (£11), six-month promotion, which may go some way towards explaining their third quarter success.

BBC Creative Archive: Pilot to Start in 2005

More details of the BBC’s Creative Archive were revealed at an Royal Television Society, London Centre meeting last night when Paula Le Dieu gave a presentation on the project’s background and recent developments. Following this, an hour-long discussion, chaired by Digital Lifestyles’s own Simon Perry, explored further details [MP3 recording ~14Mb].

Paula is co-director of the Creative Archive (CA), a project to make BBC archived audio and video media available to the UK public so that they can download it and make creative works based upon it.

The BBC is taking this extraordinary step as they believe it will help them give more value to the licence fee payers – one of their core values.

Paula told us that one of the inspirations for the move was the BBC Micro. Released in 1982, the BBC Micro was an open hardware and software platform that ignited public interest and in no small way contributed to the UK’s hugely popular computing and games scenes. Indeed, by encouraging owners to use the BBC Micro platform in whatever way they wished, it helped many people take their first steps into the digital age and helped shape the industry as it stands today. A game of Elite, anyone?

Since then, we’ve seen the rapid growth of the Internet, and this has encouraged users to share content around the world – and the more material that people share, the more there is for them to draw inspiration from.

The BBC, slow on the uptake, came to the realisation that opening up their archive would allow them to present significant value to their public – enabling them to listen, watch, download, share and use materials in any way they wish, under an non-restrictive licence.

The remit of the Creative Archive has changed since the BBC’s previous Director General, Greg Dyke, left – Mark Thompson, the new DG, is completely behind the project and wants to include full programmes from the BBC’s huge media library. Give that some of the material that may be released has not seen the light of day since broadcast, it’s an exciting opportunity to give new life to content that has been sitting on shelves gathering dust for years. The BBC’s archive contains some 1.5 million items of television, equating to 600,000 hours of television – or put another way, 68 years of consecutive viewing. In addition to this is 500,000 audio recordings.

Obviously, that’s a lot of bandwidth – and the more popular the Creative Archive becomes, the more expensive it will be to distribute it. Consequently, the BBC is looking at peer-to-peer (P2P) methods of distribution, so that the public become not just their creative partners, but distribution partners also. The Corporation is also looking to the public for help in metatagging the content, after all people need to find what they need and know what they are looking for. Users of the content will be invited to tag content, and communities of interest will be sought out for their expertise on particular subjects. Paula gave an example of the Archaeological Society, who have already, of their own volition,  tagged and catalogued all of the BBC’s archaeological output before the Creative Archive was even announced. Layers of metadata will be encouraged, so that content will be searchable in many different ways – for example, actors present, type of canned laughter – even types of shoes worn in a scene, and each layer will be open to peer review.

We feel this layering of metadata is of huge importance, an idea we have been putting to media owners for a long time. We feel the addition of descriptive metadata will be added to time-coded media with or without the owner blessing – it enables the viewing public to add their knowledge and experience, without limit of depth. It’s very encouraging to find that the BBC is to include this in CA.

New ways of using and accessing material require new licences. The Creative Archive team have looked at a number of alternative licences, and intent to distribute the content under terms based on the well-established Creative Commons (CC) Licence. Key requirements of content users will be that they properly credit the source and creators of the original materials, and that the new work they have produced inherits the same CC licence. All derivative works have to be non-commercial in nature – but of course a new licence can be sought for commercial use if required.

One aspect of the licence that needs work is a requirement that content is not distributed out of the UK. It is far from clear as to how this would be enforceable – web sites can be accessed from around the world, and one file downloaded from a P2P network may be assembled in blocks from a dozen countries. Any clip of interest to anyone will certainly be distributed worldwide within seconds of it becoming available. The provision has been built in because the UK licence fee is paying for the project, but it shows that the BBC is trying to tackle the new distribution problems that the digital age brings.

Because of content licensing within the BBC and the source of much of the materials in the archive, the Creative Archive’s material will be started off with natural history content – music clearance and artist’s rights will have to be tackled later before the rest of the archive is put online.

Andrew Chowns of the Producers Rights Agency raised the question of derogatory  treatment of works from the CA. Depending on the content within the CA this could become a problem. Nothing spreads faster than a Friday afternoon joke video clip, and the Creative Archive will no doubt contain many items that regulars to b3ta and similar sites might find too tempting not to load into Premier and misuse. Again, this is an aspect that they will need to work on.

To enable the public to use the content, it will not be distributed with a digital rights management scheme and will be available in a number of formats, probably two proprietary and one open. Le Dieu described DRM as an envelope with a transparent window that only allowed you to see part of the content, without getting access to it.

She also stressed that the Creative Archive is not just about the BBC – they want other content providers and broadcasters to get involved, and want to share what they have learned, and have still to learn, with them. The whole project is very much a learning exercise for the Corporation – scary and exciting in equal measures.

The Creative Archive know that they have a lot of areas that need to be explored and developed and are looking for ways to involve the public in the project. Although there is no fixed start date, a 18-month to two year pilot will begin in 2005. It will not be restricted in the number of people who can access it, only in the amount of material that will be available.

The CA will not be producing a software platform or editing tools as they feel there are already plenty of free and cheap solutions out there. They may however produce an environment for the public to showcase works they have produced using CA content, much like those around Video Nation and One Minute Movies.

The Creative Archive is certainly an exciting project – an experiment in alternative licensing, another legal application for P2P networks and a chance for the UK public to get their hands on some fascinating and important archive materials. As a vehicle for learning about content distribution and consumption in the digital age, we can’t think of a better example.

MP3 recording of the Creative Archive Q&A ~14Mb
BBC Creative Archive
Royal Television Society – London Centre
Producers Rights Agency UPDATE: James Governor’s write up

Report: Euro Music Download Market $5.7 Billion by 2009

A new report by research and analysis firm Generator, predicts that the digital song download market in Europe will reach $5.7 billion (€4.5 billion) by 2009. If this figure pans out, it will mean that the download market will account for about 40% of the total recorded music market.

The report also predicts that the mobile channel will figure largely in this market growth, up to $777 million (€610 million), 13.5% of the total by 2009 – and that’s not including huge ringtone market. But Europe first needs to change its usage-based mobile data tariffs and adopt flat-rate 3G tariffs like DoCoMo in Japan to encourage the successful use of the mobile channel, says the report’s author, Andrew Sheehy.

Operators will also need to develop their WAP portal strategies, so consumers can directly access existing Internet music resources, such as artist Web sites and digital music stores.

The Generator report, ‘Digital Music Meets Mobile Music’, differs considerably from last months Jupiter Research report, ‘European Digital Music: Identifying Opportunity’, which predicts that digital music revenue will reach €836 million, or 8% of the total market, by 2009. With a difference of 32% between Generator and Jupiter, one perhaps slightly conservative and one perhaps slightly ambitious, it might be safest to pitch the predicted figure somewhere between the two.

Only one year into the legal digital music industry, but in real terms more than a few years in, it has permeated the world of commercial music consumption far quicker than happened with the CD.

While both Generator and Jupiter agree that sales of downloaded digital music in Europe will continue to grow steadily for the forseeable future, Jupiter says the trend but will not replace the CD anytime soon, while Generator says it will be largely replaced within ten years.

Don’t throw anything away yet!

Micropayments to be $60Bn by 2015 in Says Gartner

Gartner and many in the micropayment world, want companies to engage Zen-like, in a shift of consciousness regarding how their products and services are sold.

For those who don’t keep an eye on such things, a micro purchase is something you buy online for less than $5 by subscription, on-the-spot, invoiced or prepaid. “Apple’s iTunes music store was originally conceived as a driver for iPod sales, but it has become a shining example of how small electronic purchases can actually become a major revenue-driver for an entire company,” said Jackie Fenn, vice president and fellow at Gartner.

Gartner puts the acceleration down to three intersecting trends – the rise of networks making it easier for PC-based buyers and sellers to locate each other, the low cost of transactions handled electronically, and lastly, the increased usage and sophistication of automatic location identification for targeted content and services.

“Online marketplaces that gain critical mass, such as eBay and Craigslist, already provide an infrastructure to link buyers and sellers cost effectively” said Ms. Fenn at the Symposium. “In the same way that eBay makes it economical for a person in Boston to locate and buy a $10 teapot from another state or country, the emerging mobile delivery and payment infrastructure will provide a framework for buyers and sellers to connect for new types of micro services.”

It behoves organisations then to identify if they can leverage mobile and micro payment processes to economically deliver or consume services delivered in much smaller units.  And the infrastructure for doing this – micro payment systems, mobile connectivity, m-commerce on wireless networks, authentication, and more-granular products and services are becoming more and more firmly entrenched in the world of electronic business.

Zillions of people making tiny purchases would seem to be more significant from a global economics perspective, than millions of people making very large purchases. Micro commerce may be augmenting the revolution of the small spending masses, quietly sitting in front of their PCs in living rooms all over the world.


Technology/ Media Writer Required

We are looking for new, passionate writers. If you’ve got a strong background in technology and understand the significant impact it’s having on the creation, distribution and consumption of media, you’re the kind of person we want to hear from. You’ll also get your hands on some of the latest gadgets.

An ability to research a subject, gain a strong understanding and clearly express the key points, while putting it in context of events that have gone before, is vital. You need to be able to demonstrate this to us.

Your physical location is unimportant. All you require is a computer and a broadband connection, and frankly if you haven’t got these, you’re not right for the role.

We’re open to writers who want to work full-time and to those who want to contribute on a part-time basis. Pay will be dependant on experience.

If this sound like something you’d like to be involved with, get in touch with us via email to writers(at)Digital-Lifestyles.info, giving us details of your background on a CV/Resume and pointers to examples of your writing. Let us know which of the areas that we cover is your strongest, whether your preference is full or part time, and if part time, the frequency of your contributions.

Court Orders New Protections for People Targeted by RIAA

A district court in Pennsylvania has forced the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to rethink the privacy and due process rights of people it has accused of copyright infringement. The impasse arose after the music industry filed a flood of lawsuits against anonymous individuals who they claimed were sharing copyrighted music, but because the industry did not know the identities of the file sharers, it served subpoenas to the individuals’ ISPs seeking their names. The court held that before the ISPs turn over these names, they must first send notices to each file sharer advising them of their rights.

The judge ruled that the RIAA cannot sue alleged file sharers simultaneously, since they had grouped 203 of them, called “John Doe” because their identities are not yet known – into one lawsuit last month. The RIAA must now identify alleged file swappers by their Internet Protocol addresses.

On Friday a subpoena was authorised in the case of John Doe No. 1, but the RIAA will have to make separate requests to seek the identity of each of the remaining 202 alleged file sharers, and must pay court fees of $150 for each lawsuit filed.

“Piracy, both online and on the street, continues to hit the music community hard, and thousands have lost their jobs because of it”, said Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA in a recent press statement. The RIAA and its partners in the music community have continued a variety of public education efforts. These include joining with the FBI to unveil a new anti-piracy warning and seal; expanding the acclaimed “I Download…Legally” media campaign; and working with the university community to develop new programs to educate students about intellectual property laws, discourage illegal peer-to-peer use, and offer legitimate online music alternatives.

Notwithstanding, the RIAA, for the first time ever, included digital downloads in its semi-annual shipment report. For the first half of 2004, there were 58 million single tracks downloaded or burned from licensed online music services.


Half UK Mobile Customers can Access the Web via their Mobile

The MDA was established in 1994 to increase awareness of mobile data amongst users and their advisers. The MDA acts as a focal point for its members, (vendors and users) and outside parties interested in knowing more about the industry.

MDA findings show that half of UK mobile customers can access the Web via their mobile. With a total active, mobile touting customer base of over 52 million, that means about 26 million are surfing the Web on the tiny screen, with GPRS active devices topping 24 million – a 46% penetration rate for GPRS devices for the total UK market. MMS active capable devices, on the other hand, reached 15 million as at 30th June 2004, with a penetration rate of 29% for the total UK market, showing an increase on the previous quarter of 36%.

Announced today, the figures as of 30th June 2004 from UK GSM network operators O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone show a rapid increase for both GPRS and MMS devices on the previous quarter.

GPRS technology provides “always on” capabilities and faster speeds for e-mail and Web browsing on the move, while MMS capable devices are defined as those with integrated camera phone, attached camera or “MMS capable” of sending / receiving without camera option.

The GPRS/MMS trend is expected to continue, while GPRS services have illustrated an increase in popularity in the last 12 months in both the consumer and corporate markets.

Popular applications predictably include, access to rail/air timetables, mobile chat, location services, mobile images and innovative music services as GPRS and MMS providers strive to suit every customer need.

The MDA announces the total number of chargeable person-to-person text messages and WAP page impression figures sent on behalf of the UK GSM Network operators on a monthly basis and figures are announced in the third week of the following month. You can keep yourself informed by accessing their Web site.