Unauthorized TiVo-iPod recording tech will bring out the lawyers

Unauthorized TiVo-iPod recording tech will bring out the lawyers

Summary: Today, TiVo will announce technology that will let users transfer any TV show stored on their TiVo recorder hard drives to their iPod. According to The Wall Street Journal, Are the networks thinking about some sort of scrambling technology?


Today, TiVo will announce technology that will let users transfer any TV show stored on their TiVo recorder hard drives to their iPod.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Are the networks thinking about some sort of scrambling technology?this enhancement of TiVo's TiVoToGo technology will be available to subscribers for a one-time, $15 to $30 fee - and is being made without Apple's approval. When I heard that, my "uh-oh" alarm went off. 

That's the same Apple, you know, that is working with Disney's ABC-TV to make eppys of "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost" available for $1.99 apiece.

I have to think that as proprietary as both Apple and Disney are - and as sensitive to rights, fees and royalties as both of those companies are as well -the Apple-Disney deal had been massaged at a very high level to take into account the sensitivities of everyone from the Apple legal team to ("Desperate Housewives" co-star) Teri Hatcher's management team.

So when I read about deals that use Apple's technology without  their approval, not only am I seeing a direct, in your face challenge to a deal that has been heavily vetted, but I am starting to envision meetings between one Mr. Jobs and Apple's corporate counsel. Not to mention meetings between one Mr. Iger (Disney CEO Robert Iger) and his legal eagles.

Then, you have AOL and Warner Brothers' deal to deliver on-demand TV programming starting in early 2006 through its In2TV broadband network. If you can record a program on TiVo at the time it originally airs, does that represent a competitive threat to In2TV's broadband revenue stream?

The networks can't like it, especially if there is no direct revenue flowing to them from such a technological arrangement as TiVo is proposing.

As the WSJ's Nick Wingfield and Brooks Barnes write today:

TiVo's move is also an affront to the industry's efforts to make consumers think of TV as a product that isn't free. Most of the deals networks and studios have made in this realm involve small downloading fees. TV companies don't expect to make substantial profits from fees -- at least in the near term -- but instead hope to train consumers to buy content.

I am wondering if the networks are thinking about some sort of scrambling technology that would make specific programs, or even whole channels, unintelligible to TiVo recorders unless those TV recorders could be authenticated as subscribed to added monthly fees that would be distributed to the networks.

That said, there is something about the production value of most TV shows that doesn't translate well to a small iPod screen. But there's more than enough disruptive threat to established business models to make me think that legal challenges will surely come.

There may be attempts in some quarters to carve out permission-based financial deals, but since none were announced by TiVo prior to them making this announcement, I think they would only be in a deal-making mode if legal heat were brought to bear. 

Not commenting on the merits -or lack thereof- of such a dispute. But knowing lawyers, especially those for proprietary-minded companies and proprietary-minded industries, I strongly sense that legal challenges may be headed TiVo's way.

Topic: Apple

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  • Pretty soon

    they'll be telling us it'll be illegal to transfer files between a Mac and a Windows machine.

    This is getting ridiculous. If it's your computer (and that's all a TiVO and iPod are: types of computers), then you should be able to transfer files amongst them. And since this method of file transfer does not encourage mass pirating the way unmanaged P2P does, and since this does not illegally bypass any DRM, I don't see any reason why this should not be permitted.
    Michael Kelly
  • Why would Apple oppose this?

    I get that Apple wants to sell tv shows on their iTunes site, but the
    money from those sales pales in comparison to what they make
    from selling iPods. Letting people record their own tv shows and
    transfer them to the iPod would be a huge selling tool for the video
    iPods. It makes them tremendously more useful devices.
    tic swayback
  • Silly Apple

    Well, if Apple does choose to pursue the legal route, they will
    damage their image with consumers. Actually, the original thinking
    behind paid TV downloads was flawed. They should embrace this
    deal as something that adds value to their device.
  • These people are mental

    If they could, they would bottle the air and sell it to us to breathe, good oxygen for the rich of course. Woohoo gotta love it.
  • Apple-This Can Only Help

    a) this is free publicity for Apple and the video ipod, it will only help sales.

    b) Apple stands to win by neither condemning or condoning this since either way, THEY WIN - they will sell an ipod and beyond the 15% of tech geeks who know how to convert video between devices and formats, the other 85% of people after trying it once will just click $1.99 BUY ME.

    c) and in turn, this helps Apple with CBS, NBC, FOX and others ... hurry, hurry - would you rather let us sell it for $1.99 OR have people download it for free?

    d) nevermind that millions of savvy techgeeks are already doing so and that you really don't even an ipod to video "ipod video" which is really just a Mpeg-4 320x240 file.

    e) Besides, after all this time, Tivo has barely over 1 million customers ... (out of 110 million US households) ... but it's the perception and this can ...

    f) ONLY HELP APPLE ... sell more video ipods AND get the other networks to offer content on the itunes store which will ONLY HELP MORE IPODS.
  • Dumb Dumb Dumb

    This has to be the dumbest thing I have heard yet. How does this nut get a blog on zdnet?

    First off, mpeg4 is not an Apple proprietary technology. They have no control over what you encode to mpeg4, and have no ability to control what mpeg4 files you transfer to your ipod. The only way they can limit TiVo is if they made it so the only format the iPod played was proprietary formats which they have not done.

    Secondly, I doubt the TiVo will automatically remove the commercials. Unless the average consumer becomes tech-savvy enough to figure out how to edit the files themselves, the commercials as well as the show will be loaded onto the iPod. If I remember correctly, people were complaining that the iPod didn't have fast-forward capability which means people will be forced to watch the commercial. Heck, they will be even more likely to watch it because if they are watching the show on their iPod that means they are probably someplace where there isn't anything better to do, thus when the commercials come on they will just suffer through them. Heck, if anything this will make the iPod a more valuable resource for advertising since you can't just "change the channel" when the commercials come on
  • It's not the cool factor, it's the copyright lawyers

    I think that too many of you are assessing this issue based on the "cool" factor of your own preferences - rather than realize how litigious the copyright industries are.

    Here you have an agreement between two of the most copyright-litigious companies in the world- Disney and Apple- and then comes an unauthorized workaround that could take the wind out of the sails of an arragement that has you just know has been vetted by teams of lawyers as well as talent reps.

    I think TiVo-iPod is cool and yes,would sell a lot of iPods,but never underestimate the vanity of important players who feel threatened because their negotiated, hard-won handiwork of a deal might be rendered irrelvant and non-income producing.
    • hmmm

      When lawyers start innovating, that's when I'll start listening. Key
      words: vanity, lawyer fees, threatened. Disruptive technology will
      always be a threat to some and provide income for lawyers. Let's
      see what consumers say about it. I have a feeling that in this case,
      consumers will have more impact than what the lawyers have to