Is HBO Aksing for Their Programming to be Off-Limits for DVRs?

HBO wants its programming to be off-limits for DVRs Ars Technical is out with a piece this morning titled HBO wants its programming to be off-limits for DVRs based on an article posted on the matter yesterday by Dave Zatz. Allice Hill’s Real Tech News adds some sensationalism to the story by adding their headline, HBO Says No PVR, No VCR, No Nothing.

While these headlines are certain to grab readers I think we need to be careful about what is really going on here. No one wants their premium HBO HDTV via TiVo or Media Center than I do. Especially with the Sopranos coming up here shortly you’d beter believe I’ll be TiVoing it. But is Dave’s post and supporting document really showing a request by TiVo to disallow access to their programing for DVRs? I’m not so sure that it is.

Although I’m sure that HBO would rather not have their content on your DVR, I think what they are addressing specifically in Dave’s post has to do with the specific delivery of Subscription Video on Demand. They essentially are petioning the FCC to not allow video on demand content to be able to be recorded. (i.e. buy it now, watch it now). To me this is very different than saying that they are requesting the FCC to not allow any copying of their programming whatsover. The “Copy Never” request in the letter on Dave’s site is specifically about SVOD not all of their content in general.

One of Dave’s readers, Andrew, makes the relevant point:

“Don’t suppose you guys actually read this through… it’s asking that SVOD services be set as “Copy Never”. It’s not asking that normal broadcast TV be marked this way. Because VOD is Video on Demand, there’s no reason to record it to your DVR, you simply order it from the VOD screens. The reason for this is because HBO, and the cable provider can get metrics on activity as well as charge for certain events over and over. Currently with Comcast, when you pay for HBO as a premium channel for normal broadcast, you also get HBO VOD free.

You guys really should do your research and read the document carefully.”

Although I still don’t like the concept of SVOD being copy never (and won’t buy content like that myself). I think we need to be careful in jumping to conclusions that this means that HBO is asking that none of their content be able to be copied and getting the blogosphere all lathered up about this. And even with the Broadcast Flag and HBO, my understanding is that future copy restrictions will allow you to make one personal copy on your device for your use, it just won’t allow subsequent copies from there.

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7 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    HBO has been a proponent of the broadcast flag and has pushed for expiration dates and copy limits for DVR content in the past. It’s a slippery slope and I reserve the right to record anything entering my home for later playback, especially something covered by a subscription fee. -DZ

  2. Anonymous says:

    Oh yeah, I love that word lathered. Sex sells. 😉 -DaveZ

  3. Thomas Hawk says:

    Yes, they have been a proponent and I understand the slippery slope argument. But I just think we need to be careful to remind people that what they are asking for specifically here has to do with SVOD. I’m still opposed to their request and like you want all my VOD copy unrestricted, but people are jumping to conclusions that they are trying to shut down all DVR copying of their content and while that may be what they truely do want, it is not what they are specifically asking for with this petition. Perhaps a moot distinction but a distinction nonetheless.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Yes, it is worth emphasizing this *particular* request is specific to SVOD… I linked to the NCTA’s definition to help folks understand what is being requested.

    I also wrote that it’s odd that some types of programming would be treated differently than others – that’s probably the bigger story in all of this. -DZ

  5. BigFrank says:

    Wow. I’d read about this elsewhere and I was completely incensed. The blogger failed to mention that HBO was seeking this behavior for SVOD.

    I *all* about fair use, and sometimes unfair use ;-), but SVOD is one case where I can kind of understand a seller wanting to absolutely control DRM.

    I guess I don’t feel very strongly about SVOD because I never use it. I’ll have to analyze how I feel about that…

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is the same story we see over and over again. IP owners will continue to aggressively attack fair use until it no longer exists, unless we stop them cold.
    IP owners have and should have ZERO say in how we use content in our home. Should they have recourse against those who profit from redistributing content and making a profit from others labors? Of course. But they will argue that that is what DVR is doing when it’s not, it’s fair use on our property and no new law or tech is needed. No 24 hour expirations. No limits on how or where or how many or how often I can shuffle content around my devices. None of this sops piracy, all of this invades are homes and undermines are fundamental right to secure and protect our property and our rights to have fair use on content that we (i many cases such as with cable) paid for.
    Sadly of course DRM is about control not about piracy, and this companies can not and shall not have control over any device that I own and house in my home and what I with the items I store on it.

    Sadly the masses won’t understand what they have lost until it’s long gone they way things are going today.
    PK has a great blog article on how the vob version on the super bowl was edited and critical moments where removed to “reflect the official version of the game calls”, if that is not a cold hard slap of Orwellian foreshadowing I don’t know what is…
    We must draw the line at our property boundaries and defend it from these incursions against our devices.

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