TiVo wins FCC OK for users to share programs

TiVo has received approval for technology that would permit users to send copies of digital broadcast shows over the Internet to a limited number of associates.

The Alviso, CA-based company had applied for FCC authorization so its customers could receive digital broadcasts and share them with up to 10 other TiVo units that share the same customer account. TiVo’s forthcoming “digital output protection technology” is designed to prevent the files from being distributed more widely.

The FCC last week voted to certify digital protections for the yet to be launched service, which will be branded “TiVoToGo.” The approval came despite protests by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Football League (NFL) about the risks of unrestricted distribution of copyrighted shows and airing regional games outside of their market.

“Each of these technologies has been exhaustively reviewed to ensure contention protection systems prevent the mass indiscriminate redistribution of digital television programming,” said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein.

In addition to approving TiVo’s application, the FCC certified 12 other technologies proposed, including Sony’s “Magic Gate” recording technology, Philips Electronics and Hewlett-Packard’s Vidi recordable DVD protection system, Microsoft’s Windows Media Digital Rights Management, and RealNetworks’ Helix DRM Trusted Recorder.

Of all the different protection approaches weighed by the FCC, only TiVo's technology faced opposition from the MPAA, the NFL and the NAB, the Mercury News reported. “Technologies that enable redistribution of copyrighted TV programming beyond the local TV market disrupt local advertiser-supported broadcasting and harm TV syndication markets,” the MPAA said in a statement.

Consumer groups disagreed. “Unlike every other content protection provider, TiVo insisted that the age of the Internet ought to be an age in which viewers can share, over the Internet, the programming they love with the people they love,” Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn said. “We believe TiVo is blazing a trail that other vendors will soon follow.”

TiVo has about 1.6 million subscribers who pay a monthly subscription rate or a flat fee for lifetime usage so they can record their favorite television shows and watch them whenever they choose. It plans to launch a version of TiVoToGo this fall that would allow users to transfer recorded shows to a home computer but has not said when it would launch its version that would allow shows to be shared outside the home.

“TiVo has always tried to maintain an appropriate balance between consumer interests and the rights of content providers,” said chief executive Mike Ramsey. TiVo is also building alternative products and features into its service as it makes efforts to branch off from simply digital recording boxes, especially cable and satellite TV providers develop their own recording systems.

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