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The Challenges and Rewards of 'Place-Shifting' 125

Grooves writes "Ars Technica has an insightful look at the challenges facing place-shifting. The article talks about new European legislation that could require broadcast licensing for all place-shifting devices, and they review some of the fair use problems in the US and how they could hurt innovation." From the article: "A few cables here, a few networking adjustments there, and you can use a product like the Slingbox or the software-based Orb to watch your TV (or TiVo, or DVD player) from just about anywhere you can get a network connection, be it your office, your hotel room, or the other side of the planet. Yet what makes place-shifting devices so powerful also makes them appear very dangerous to established entertainment and media companies."
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The Challenges and Rewards of 'Place-Shifting'

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  • by drDugan ( 219551 ) * on Thursday July 27, 2006 @04:25PM (#15794272) Homepage
    thank god we have a bunch of different governments still that can't agree how to keep tabs everything

    the idea that when *I* chose to privately send information to myself in a different place requires the PERMISSION of the state is completely absurd, to me. This is not what the state should be doing at all. I don't harm anyone, I pay for the service myself, and it's no one else's business what I do with information I already have (at least in my own idealistic view of the world). It seems clear actions like licensing these activities is a transparent attempt to prevent new methods of information exchange to maintain profits with outdated models.

    the battle over information [access/ownership/control] will continue to get worse and worse and undermine "traditional" models of business and governments - and all of society. thinking about these issues far enough brings directly into focus questions of what 'property' and 'ownership' really mean and if humans are going to maintain the current conventions of property for very long. but that is a much longer discussion - but I'll seed with this...

    we're already in a world where information is much more valuable than physical goods. the really amazing thing about information is that when we share it, we don't lose it - if fact the only way to maintain information over really long periods of time (eons) is to KEEP using it. So if all the most valuable things in the world can be copied and distributed nearly free, why do we need to own things? The answers are completely incompatible with capitalism and the current health level of most people -- but it's where we will eventually come to realize long-term stability and peace in the human race.

  • No way to stop it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jimbogun ( 869443 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @04:27PM (#15794299)
    They can legislate all they want, but enforcing is a different issue. Just as there is no evil bit to stop terrorists, there is no bit that can be easily detected to see if someone is broadcasting media. True something could be created to detect if mpg files or other standard video files are being played, but that takes a lot of work and can be easily encrypted.

    The devices they legislate could easily be identified if it comes as a box (Slingbox). The software versions will be impossible to legislate without the software creators cooperation, and without it they will have to turn to computer hardware vendors. They will need to legislate computers with capture devices and a network interface. This could be simplified by legistaling all capture devices, like how HD tv capture cards have to have the broadcast bit. The capture cards would have to encrypt it to something only a licensed software product could read (and of course the encryption would eventually be broken). This encrypting could be worked around with a video/audio capture program because you have to play it somewhere for a capture device to be useful, but this would be a huge deterrent.

    My two cents: Accept the reality that it is. Crack down on pirates (unlicensed distributers of copyrighted materials), but let people who just want to watch something they've legally recorded anywhere they want.
  • Re:Old Media is dead (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CornfedPig ( 181199 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @04:28PM (#15794311)
    Unfortunately, legislating anti-competitive moats is something incumbents often do because they have the resources and political clout to do so (something small companies rarely have) and because it is, once large-company ossification sets in, easier than innovating. It is a rare company that will continue to innovate, even at the expense of its own current business, rather than deploying lawyers and lobbyists to string up razor wire around their market positions. Of course, Maginot Lines are no more successful in business than they were in keeping the Germans out of Paris; it just tends to take a lot longer for the forces of change to bypass market impediments than it took the French to fold.
  • by jonathan_95060 ( 69789 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @04:29PM (#15794317)
    When they came for the gypsies, I did not speak, for I am not a gypsy. When they came for the jews,I did not speak, because I wasn't a Jew. When they came for the Catholics, I did not speak, for I am not a Catholic. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak.

    Sure, I don't watch TV either -- I watch DVDs of TV shows I want to see. None the less, letting the media companies rape and pillage the TV watching public sets a bad precedent for preserving the other fair use provisions that you might be interested in.

  • by ChoppedBroccoli ( 988942 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @04:33PM (#15794362)
    Seriously, with a fast LAN or WAN, I can remote desktop to my main computer and watch TV channels using its onboard TV tuner (it works decently with a reasonably sized window, i.e. not TOO big, on my LAN). This is a slippery slope, do they want to legislate remote desktop or VNC as well as 'place-shifters'?
  • by graystar ( 223824 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @05:00PM (#15794612) Homepage
    It is funny how corporations which are in bed with state prance about singing free trade, hang out at the WTO, so long as it is free trade for their supplies and inputs.

    When it comes down to consumers getting rid of articficial territories, eg region coding dvd - these were only done so they could price discriminate, place shifting etc they run back from free trade into the arms of the state for regulations.

    You will never get consistency when the state is concerned.
  • by quokkapox ( 847798 ) <> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @05:07PM (#15794667)

    Just like I can invite my neighbor upstairs to mosey on down and watch my cable TV, I can also invite him to SSH in and stream whatever I can capture live with my devices. There's no way to prevent that unless you allow the government to come in and regulate what I can and cannot do on my own LAN in my own home. I can thwart this easily with encryption. The only thing that will stop me from sharing my data is if I cannot buy hardware that will let me do what I want. At that point, I quit buying altogether. The media and distribution cartels would love to control the hardware, but guess what? If you make it so I can't keep a copy of what I watch on TV, I'lll quit subscribing to your service. Anyone who wants to control how culture and media spread between individuals can go fuck themselves. I don't need their content and I won't pay for it. And I won't buy hardware that constrains my fair use.

    The media cartels can have the sheeple and their money. There will always be a significant chunk of people who don't mind missing out on the garbage they distribute. Bring it on, the broadcast flag, the HDMI ports, the DRM, all of it. There's nothing really compelling on TV anymore anyway.

  • Re:naive argument. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @05:13PM (#15794707)
    No.. they dont work, prohibition didnt work, drug laws (enacted by nixon because everyone protesting him used them), and now filesharing laws dont work, but selective enforcement of laws against X provide the state with options for legitimizing campaigns of terror against dissidents--- i mean "criminals".

  • by ratboy666 ( 104074 ) <> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @05:38PM (#15794868) Journal

    You are overlooking what is going on. In fact, copyright law ALLOWS me to make a copy, if making that copy is necessary to the process of making use of the information.

    Consider if that is not the case in a digital world. A copy of the information is made when reading from a CD or DVD, that, in turn has to be converted to be display. An Analog signal is not present on the CD or DVD.

    If there was no dispensation to copy the material to make use of it, copyright would be violated by simply playing the CD or DVD.

    That is a "ludicrous" result (and yet some people have been prosecuted for making such an illicit copy -- of licensed material. There is precedent here.)

    So, you are allowed to copy, if that copying is in the ordinary use of the material. I will now attest that my TV tuner is a digitizer attached to a computer; and further that my normal use of cable tv is to record the shows temporarily, and then to play them back on a playback device when I choose to.

    Again, this was upheld, and precedent is set. This would be "distributing to myself". The fact that this can also be used to "distribute to others" has no bearing on the argument.

    Of course, the cable provider could attempt to "license" material -- but, remember, boys and girls, the backhoe solution!

  • its just data (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gsn ( 989808 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @05:39PM (#15794880)
    "...a cable subscriber in San Francisco who watches a Giants baseball game from his or her laptop during a visit to Chicago is stealing from the Chicago cable operator who paid to transmit MLB games in that city."

    I really don't get the MLB guy's argument that I'm stealing from the guy in Chicago. Does he expect me to pay some cable operator in Chicago to watch one game while I'm visiting? If the game is playing in a bar I could just watch it free, and my watching it doesn't add to their revenues.

    The only way this makes sense is if they can sell me the rights to watch the game while I'm travelling over the web or PPV. But I've already bought the right to watch the game in SF... I paid for access to the *content*. THats where the difference in thinking is - Buisness wants me to pay for the content on a particular delivery system or a different media. Wouldn't it be just wonderful if they could charge you $5 for content on your iPod and $10 if you want your game streamed over the web to your laptop in your Chicago hotel room, $15 if you want a DVD of it.

    But the whole point is irrespective of what the content I paid for is its still just data and if you put data and a computer and a network together then you are simply not going to be able to keep control over it...unless you can control what users can do with their computers and what what networks can do. Out of curiostiy whats happening with network neutrality and does anyone remember that Trusted computing/TCPA/Palladium thing...
  • Re:its just data (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ratboy666 ( 104074 ) <> on Thursday July 27, 2006 @05:51PM (#15794968) Journal
    Thank you.

    And, I'll go just a bit further (being a "tech layoff" survivor). Companies can outsource; why can't we?

    If the cable operator in San Francisco offers, say, $5 per month less than Chicago, why can't we subscribe to SF, and place-shift? Isn't that pretty much the same as "outsourcing"?

  • by WebCowboy ( 196209 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @06:47PM (#15795294)
    Simple solution.

    Stop watching television. It works fine for me.

    Heh. What a stupid idea. It's like saying that if you don't like the way your government works or the choice of candidates then stop voting. RIDICULOUS. That is letting the inmates run the asylum.

    I rarely watch TV myself...I HAVE a TV but I tend to watch either rented DVDs or the news channels. As such I have little stake in the debate either. Thing is, there is a larger issue at stake here. By taking your apathetic stance you are giving tacit approval to the industry for its immoral behaviour. The entertainment industry is trying to create an artificial industry that relies on a contrived set of legislation so they can be lazy and keep doing business like they have for a century.

    The entire entertainment industry is perverting intellectual property law. Patents and copyrights were meant to protect and promote innovation, and now they all seem to think such law is meant to protect the status quo and STOP innovation. This is ridiculous. Imagine if typewriter companies managed to make word processing software illegal, book publishers managed to make the photocopier illegal, RIAA or MPAA succeeded in outlawing the Record button on cassette or VCR decks illegal.

    The whole reason the entertainment industry could work with its now-antiquated business model was becasue technology didn't exist to broadcast peer-to-peer or on-demand or across the globe, so big central distributors were essential. We first got communications sattelites, then videotape, fibre-optics, digital encoding/decoding, high-bandwidth global networks and now peer-to-peer technology, and all along they stuck to the crusty old business model and remarkably managed to get away with getting into government's pockets--and with their help they set up artificial, contrived business models and markets in order to maintain their obscene profits.

    Don't you think in this day and age it is stupid to release a movie in the US first, then Canada a few days later, then the UK and Australia a few weeks later, all in theatres, then on DVD months after that in the same staggered fashion, when NOTHING technically prevents simultaneous release? (I mean they are all English speaking markets so even language isn't even a barrier!). The whole thing runs on protectionist laws, exclusivity contracts, captive markets, etc. to the point of absurdity.

    That would be tolerable to a degree if it was limited to the Hollywood industry, but it isn't. Other lobbyists are seeing their success and are starting to try to emulate it. Witness unscrupulous "submarine patent" companies that are abusing patent law the way Disney abused "mickey mouse law" copyright--lobbying to extend the law to protect monopolies and abusing the system as it already exists. Now tech companies are even getting into copyright games themselves. The thought that a printer company could use DMCA COPYRIGHT law to even try to legislate a captive market for its printer consumables is absurd--if they succeeded it would be tragic.

    So you can't just stop watching TV becasue, firstly, too many people couldn't bear to lead such a bland life as one without TV AND music AND movies AND professional sporting events etc. so it'll always be worth the effort for Hollywood to stifle innovation. Secondly it is false that you do not have a stake in this EVERYBODY has a stake in this because Hollywood is setting the stage to turn the economy into a bunch of coddled, corporate welfare cases without regard to the quality of life of society in general.
  • by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Thursday July 27, 2006 @09:53PM (#15796065) Homepage
    Of course, there's nothing sacrosanct -- or even tolerable -- about the Berne Convention. Getting the US out of it, and other international copyright treaties, is on my agenda.

    In any event, your argument is wrong. It is not the government's job to enforce the law, so much as it is the government's job to create and enforce laws for the benefit of the people. If the people are better served by different laws, then it is the government's duty to change the laws accordingly, not to enforce the bad laws.
  • by drDugan ( 219551 ) * on Friday July 28, 2006 @01:49AM (#15796805) Homepage
    Are you about to start a debate on the rationality of the current copyright laws? I'd love to hear that!

    Do you know what they are or how we got them? Ever hear of Disney?

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright