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TiVo copy protection bug scares users

A software bug in the latest version of TiVo’s operating system has some users concerned that the service’s content protection mechanisms — supposedly intended solely for pay-per-view and video-on-demand content — may someday be applied to broadcast television programming, CNET News reported.

According to PVRBlog, a blog about TiVo and other digital video recorder companies and technology, some TiVo customers recently found that a recorded episode of "The Simpsons" had been red-flagged for content protection.

When he selected the episode, he got a message to the effect that “the copyright holder prohibited saving the episode past date mm/dd,” the note on PVRblog from TiVo user Michael McKay said.

The content protection McKay reported, a part of TiVo operating system version 7.2, comes from Macrovision and is intended to give content providers a way to ensure users do not maintain total control over programming. Generally, the technology can put limits on how long content can be saved, as well as whether it can be copied or otherwise manipulated, CNET reported.

But Jim Denney, TiVo director of product marketing, told CNET that the content protection experienced by McKay was a bug, and that in its current iteration, the Macrovision technology is intended only for pay-per-view, video-on-demand, DVD or VHS sources.

Broadcast television programming shouldn’t be affected by this, Denney said. The DVR in cases like McKay’s was thinking it was being told it was protected when it actually wasn’t.

In other words, Denney said, situations like that reported on PVRblog are the result of errors, or “false positives,” in the Macrovision system, and they’re errors that TiVo is working to eradicate.

For his part, PVRblog founder Matt Haughey acknowledged that the situation raised by McKay was a bug. But he’s concerned that what’s an error now may be a sign of things to come.

Denney denied that TiVo is in the process of rolling out the Macrovision system for broadcast TV content, but allowed that even if such a system were to be implemented for all content, consumers would have the power to fight back by deciding whether they want to continue subscribing to DVR services or what they want to watch.

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