July 22, 2004 | By Donna Wentworth

Hollywood (Finally) Turns on TiVo

For a while there, it looked like TiVo could avoid (some of) the copyright battles that felled the competition by playing nice with the content industry. But as this MSNBC Washington Post article shows, sometimes even asking for permission to innovate isn't enough:

Hollywood studios and the National Football League are seeking to block the maker of the popular TiVo television recorder from expanding its service so that users could watch copies of shows and movies on devices outside their homes.


TiVo has an interest in keeping everything secure," said its Washington attorney, James M. Burger. "We are trying to bring innovation to consumers."

But the system alarms the content industry, which promised to roll out more digital programming over free television networks only after insisting that the FCC adopt rules requiring makers of recording devices to certify that they have technologies to prevent mass Internet distribution.

Digital programming is far more appealing for online distribution because the quality does not degrade as it is copied over and over.

TiVo was one of 13 companies that asked the FCC for approval, arguing that its copy-protection system met the requirements. The Motion Picture Association of America, Hollywood's lobbying arm, and the NFL then filed objections to TiVo's plan.


Mike Godwin, policy counsel for Public Knowledge, an advocacy group for consumer digital rights, said the fight highlights the danger of requiring technologies to be approved by government agencies.

"We've always thought that once the FCC got into the role of approving content protection technologies that the content companies would leverage this to use the agency to throttle various technologies," he said.

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