FCC Approves TiVo Technology

Aug 4, 2004  •  Post A Comment

In a major blow to the Motion Picture Association of America, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved technology Wednesday that allows TiVo customers to send at least some digital copies of broadcast TV shows over the Internet virtually anywhere in the world.

Concerned that the downloads would undermine Hollywood’s control over its own programming, MPAA has been lobbying strongly to limit electronic redistribution rights essentially to other devices within the user’s home. But a majority of the FCC commissioners said they believed the TiVo technology — TiVoGuard — includes adequate protections to preclude “indiscriminate redistribution.”

A TiVo spokeswoman said TiVoGuard would limit customers to using copies on a maximum of 10 devices associated with the user’s account, including laptop computers or TiVo devices at the user’s office or vacation home. She said abuse of the technology would be kept in check by registration requiring credit card numbers and security key accounts. “The fact that the FCC certified the technology should reassure everybody that we have the adequate technology to control indiscriminate distribution,” the spokeswoman said.

But a motion picture source said the industry is not convinced the TiVoGuard system contains anything to prevent users from sending programming to sports bars, restaurants or college dormitories-or even selling off the rights to receive the digital copies on Internet auction sites.

The source also said the production community fears that other technologies similar to TiVo will now win similar redistribution rights. “When you multiply that [10] by the number of TiVo users, and the total number of other technologies that will do the same thing, that will essentially be everyone,” the source said. Said MPAA in a statement, “Technologies that enable redistribution of copyrighted TV programming beyond the local TV market disrupt local advertiser-supported broadcasting and harm TV syndication markets-essential elements supporting the U.S. local broadcasting system.

The MPAA and its member companies are not categorically against the idea of remote access, but there are many business and copyright issues associated with remote access to TV programming from anywhere in the world. We believe these issues deserve further analysis. The approval of TiVoGuard appears to prejudge the FCC’s upcoming examination of the complex issues surrounding home networking and remote access.”