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