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Where's Apple's Tivo Outrage?

? One of Apple's Less Obvious Strengths |


| Another Record High, and an Upgrade ?

November 22, 2005

Where's Apple's Tivo Outrage?

Peter Burrows

When Real Networks unveiled software to let its customers play songs purchased from Real on the iPod in mid-2004, Apple quickly protested. "We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod, and we are investigating the implications of their actions under the DMCA and other laws," Apple said in a statement.

So where is Apple's response to a similar announcement from Tivo? On Monday, the PVR pioneer announced it planned to deploy technology to let its customers play their favorite TV shows on portable devices including the iPod. Clearly, when it came to Real, Apple wanted all songs purchased via a music service to be purchased via iTunes--and not through Real's Rhapsody service. So why would it be okay for iPod owners to view Tivoed video, when Apple is now selling TV shows via iTunes?

It could be that Apple will break its silence post-Thanksgiving (the company is pretty much closed down this week). But I doubt it.

UPDATE: For starters, I don't believe Tivo did any reverse engineering of Apple's Fairplay DRM to make this possible, as Real did with its Harmony technology. Tivo is using a format, MPEG-4, that is supported by Apple. Even with some additional digital watermarking by Tivo, this is the essentially the video equivalent of playing MP3s or your own CD tracks on your iPod.

But also, in this case, the principle isn't the thing. The content is. As of now, you can only buy a handful of TV shows via iTunes. As such, Tivo's move could bring vast amounts of shows to the iPod. And that gives shoppers one more reason to buy its new video-capable iPods.

The interesting thing will be to see how TV networks respond. On the one hand, Tivoed TV shows come with all the advertisements intact (unless I'm wrong, it probably won't be easy to skip them). In that sense, Tivo's move--which at first will only be available to subscribers to Tivo's TivoToGo service--might be an interesting experiment in a mobile ad-supported business model for the networks.

More likely, the networks won't like it. After all, they'd rather sell their shows to the mobile crowd, as ABC is doing with Apple, than let it be viewed for free. As such, remaining silent may be Apple's best play for now. Certainly, its the most pragmatic. Sanctioning Tivo's announced plans would antagonize the same networks Apple is trying to woo to sell via iTunes. Maybe the time will come when the networks force Apple to take a stand. Until then, Jobs & Co. might as well stay mum, and let Tivo do its part to prime the iPod sales pump even more.

06:31 PM

iPod and iTunes

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I think there's a fundamental difference here. RealNetworks' plan involved reverse engineering and therefore exploiting Apple's Fairplay DRM mechanism. If Real had announced that they were going to allow their purchased music to be exported to a (non-DRM-protected) format already supported by the iPod, I don't think Apple would have objected. After all, statistics would indicate that an overwhelming amount of the content on the installed base of iPods was not purchased through the iTunes music store.

I didn't see anything in the Tivo announcement that suggested they were playing with Apple's DRM technologies; I inferred that they were making it possible to export recorded content in one of the formats supported by the iPod. The limited resolution of the iPod makes this a low-key threat to the content providers (i.e., networks).

Posted by: RetiredMidn at November 22, 2005 10:58 PM

I don't think the networks will have any grounds for complaints or a lawsuit. The Betamax decision stated that technology that could be used for copyright infringement was legal as long as it had substantial non-infringing uses. The Grokster decision reaffirmed Betamax as long as the developer was not encouraging infringement.

It seems clear that the primary use of TiVo-To-Go on the iPod is place-shifting that is allowed under fair use. Since TiVo-to-Go actually embeds a watermark in the files, this actually discourages indiscriminate file sharing and other forms of infringement. So a) TiVo-to-Go has substantial non-infringing uses and b) does not encourage infringement.

In light of that, it seems clear that the networks and others have no basis for a legal complaint. The networks & studios may sue, but they are destined to lose, possibly by summary judgement since the law has been so recently clarified by the Grokster decision. Just because the networks, studios & Apple may not like it, that doesn't mean they can do anything to prevent. We don't live in a permission-based copyright society yet.

Posted by: Jacob at November 23, 2005 01:10 AM

What is really maddening is that the TiVo to iPod transfer has to been done via a PC and not a Mac.

Posted by: Norm Gregory at November 23, 2005 01:31 AM

Get a clue BusinessWeek! The author is absolutely clueless. Apple wants to sell iPods, so if anyone wants to create audio or video content in a non-DRM format supported by the iPod (i.e., a format that doesn't involve reverse engineering Apple's DRM), Apply would not complain!

Posted by: Buddy Boy at November 23, 2005 08:27 PM

As you point out in the update, TiVo did not announce they were reverse-engineering fairplay as Real did.

Next, 85% of the people who want to get video onto the ipod (besides buying TV shows) know how to so what Tivo is promosing can be accomplished about 45 other ways - and about 3 new pieces of shareware updated a day, we should be at 100 options soon.

If anything, it helps to sell v-ipods - anothe $10 million worth of free pub about getting tivo onto an ipod - everyone will want in ...

which leads to getting ABC, CBS & Fox on board - hey look, people can tivo to go it or pay "US" $1.99 - you want add'l revenue or not?

With a v-ipod in hand, I would much rather pay $1.99 than spend 3 hours converting a show (it only takes 8 seconds to convert a music track).

There are literally only about 1 million total ACTUAL TiVo (not faux-vo) cusyomers - how many have TiVo togo? 50% what's 500k homes out of 110 million?

Plus, Rob Glasser of Real is a f** obnoxious a**.

Posted by: jbelkin at November 23, 2005 09:44 PM


Using QuickTime you can covert the the iPod video format from many tool. For example Elgato EyeTV supports this and can easily be automated using AppleScript. No need to break any DRM....

... you can put any non-DRM content on the iPod, the problem has always been putting DRM'ed content onto the pod.

Posted by: Gerard Davison at November 24, 2005 11:22 AM

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