- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 4, 2004

The Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved technology yesterday that will allow TiVo subscribers share copies of TV shows over the Internet.

The agency said TiVo Inc., the company that makes devices to digitally record TV shows, is equipped with sufficient controls to prevent widespread distribution of digital programming.

The FCC rejected arguments from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Football League that there must be tighter limits on a new wave of devices capable of recording digital television shows.

“The consumer is king,” said Michael K. Powell, FCC chairman.

TiVo, based in Alviso, Calif., said the concerns of its opponents are misguided. The company’s device to record and share digital programming, which won’t be available before next year, will allow up to 10 devices to exchange digital television content.

“It’s new technology and it scares them. I don’t think they understand that it’s limited,” TiVo spokeswoman Kathryn Kelly said.

The technology would allow a subscriber to download broadcasts to a computer and send copies of recorded shows to other Tivo devices in the home, or to people outside the home as long as they are all registered on the same Tivo account.

TiVo had 1.6 million subscribers at the end of April.

FCC Commissioner Kevin J. Martin approved TiVo’s technology but said he remains concerned that it won’t include “sufficient constraints” to prevent widespread redistribution. Regulators began the debate over technologies to protect digital television content in November, when they approved a measure to create the so-called broadcast flag.

The broadcast flag is an electronic signal that tells digital video recorders and other devices to encrypt shows when recording to prevent distribution over the Internet. The FCC has said that by July 1, new televisions and computers that capture digital broadcasts must recognize the broadcast flag.

TiVo says its technology recognizes the broadcast flag.

But the MPAA argues that TiVo’s device will let consumers swap digital television programming outside broadcast markets, which could disrupt local advertiser-supported broadcasting.

Brad Hunt, MPAA chief technology officer, said movie studios don’t oppose remote access to digital content when a TiVo subscriber ships a program to a laptop computer. But failing to place strict controls on where devices can send programs could lead to copyright infringement, he said.

Movie studios hope to prevent consumers from sharing digital programs on the Internet’s peer-to-peer networks like those that have fueled online music piracy and prompted lawsuits against consumers.

The NFL has said TiVo users could send broadcasts of live games to viewers in blacked-out areas. The league can black out a football team’s home game if the team fails to sell all tickets available to watch the event.

The MPAA stopped short of saying it will appeal the FCC’s ruling.

“We are discussing what our options are,” Mr. Hunt said.

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