In case you haven't heard, TiVo recently said that it would be making the content that its users record available to Apple iPods and Sony PSPs. Pretty cool! It's not exactly anything new–especially since it's been a basic feature of Windows Media Center, ReplayTV since their inception, and more recently Dishnetwork's “pocketdish” devices. Regardless, the ability to watch the content that you've otherwise legally obtained on a portable device is a welcome future upgrade.
So what's with NBC? In a recent Variety article, they said:
“TiVo appears to be acting unilaterally, disregarding established rights of content owners to participate in decisions regarding the distribution and exploitation of their content. This unilateral action creates the risk of legal conflict instead of contributing to the constructive exploitation of digital technology that can rapidly provide new and exciting experiences for the consumer.”
Quite a reaction! Since when do copyright owners have the right to tell me when and where I watch the TV I've recorded? I don't think it's been since the Sony Betamax case that we've fought over this issue. Are we really calling personal copying to a portable device “distribution?” If so, doesn't the same go for copying CDs to iPods, or any of the other TV recording systems I referenced above?
Why not look at it as a marketing opportunity, as Warner Bros. reportedly did:
“In addition to focusing on the legal issues, it's also important to focus on the fact that consumers are saying this is the kind of thing they want. We're excited about the fact that people are buying portable devices and are looking for video content on them. It's potentially a huge market for us.”
How refreshing! Considering what consumers want. Of course, this isn't the first we've heard of this kind of pro-consumer attitude in recent weeks.
As far as I know, NBC hasn't taken any action against TiVo, and it's possible that the above statement was just the rhetoric of an uninformed individual. Just the same, those statements don't help policy makers form better conclusions.