Why are there No Name Brand OTA DVRs? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 106 Old 12-06-2013, 06:32 PM - Thread Starter
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We hear so much these days about everyone cutting the cord and watching HD TV available for free over the air. So if there is such a large and growing movement, then why are there no name-brand companies making DVRs that record using subscription-free ATSC signals from an antenna?

 

Not that many years ago there were several large companies making PVRs; Philips, Sony, etc. I was very happy with my Sony 160 Gb unit until last month when I cancelled my cable rendering it useless since it can't tune OTA signals. I looked around and there was virtually *nothing* available from any serious, reputable company. Desperate, I settled for a  mickey-mouse, flakey, poorly documented, chinese Homeworx HW 150PVR for $60 when I would gladly have paid $200+ for a "real" one. While it is great value for the money, and well supported, and I admit I'm having fun playing with it, most people do not have the time or the patience to take on this new little hobby!

 

So, is it because the market is still too small to make it worthwhile? Is there no money to be made for the biggies so they don't produce anything for this market? Are subscription revenues essential for a profitable business case in this field?

 

Or is there some big conspiracy by dark forces intent on preserving the current system of unquestioning cable subscribers loyally paying $100 or more per month for their cable.

 

What's going on here? I'm curious. Can anyone explain this? The way the business world is supposed to work is that if there is a demand for a product or service someone will rush in to fill it, and profit from it. The biggest, smartest companies anticipate future trends and react accordingly. We've known that OTA was coming for several years now but no-one has invested to meet this need. Fill me in someone pleeasse.


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post #2 of 106 Old 12-06-2013, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by laridae View Post

Or is there some big conspiracy by dark forces intent on preserving the current system of unquestioning cable subscribers loyally paying $100 or more per month for their cable.

Bingo, you got it with "conspiracy". Providers are protecting their revenue streams. It got away from them with the old VCR, and they aren't about to EVER let that happen again.
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post #3 of 106 Old 12-06-2013, 06:51 PM
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There are two new Philips units just becoming available, as described here.

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post #4 of 106 Old 12-06-2013, 06:53 PM
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There's probably no money to be made in it, as most hardware makers sell their boxes for a loss and then recoup manufacturing costs with software fees. Selling a DVR for a one-time fee would require a hefty price tag for the developer to turn a profit, and the market isn't big enough to make entering it worthwhile. Besides, the terrible concept that is the software patent has ensured TiVo will sue anyone who tries to make a similar product. Combine this with the asinine restrictions of the DMCA and the way they give media conglomerates the legal muscle to intimidate companies into not making products that would allow viewers to exercise their fair use rights in saving OTA programming, and you have the media market that exists in the US. If you want lots of DVR options, move to a country that uses DVB-T.
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post #5 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 05:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Primestar31 View Post


Bingo, you got it with "conspiracy". Providers are protecting their revenue streams. It got away from them with the old VCR, and they aren't about to EVER let that happen again.

 

I assume by "providers" you mean the cable companies? Then how do the cable companies control companies who make DVR's?


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post #6 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 05:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Aleron Ives View Post

 TiVo will sue anyone who tries to make a similar product.

 

How is TiVo involved at all? The signal is transmitted from the antenna of a commercial broadcaster, is carried over the public airwaves, and received in a private home and recorded for personal use.

Keep in mind I'm no lawyer, just a curious Canadian consumer trying to make sense of it all.


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post #7 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 05:59 AM
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Or is there some big conspiracy by dark forces intent on preserving the current system of unquestioning cable subscribers loyally paying $100 or more per month for their cable.
That would pretty much sum it up though "conspiracy" might be stretching it a bit. Deregulation, big business free for all as usual.
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How is TiVo involved at all?
That's like asking who doesn't the NSA spy on. tongue.gif

Do a search for TiVo patents. It's not how it gets there, it's what happens afterwards.

Abundant OTA television is what makes this country different from all others. Lets keep it this way.
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post #8 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 06:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by videobruce View Post


Do a search for TiVo patents. It's not how it gets there, it's what happens afterwards.

 

What happens afterwards is the consumer records it for personal use which afaik is legal in Canada & the US. Wasn't this settled long ago when stand-alone PVR's were made legal?


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post #9 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 07:16 AM
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Yes, but it's what functions can be made available and just how they are allowed to work. The Guide for starters.

I wonder what it would be like if Henry Ford patented the steering wheel, brakes, glass windows, gas tank caps, transmissions, seats, doors, horns all specifically for motor vehicles Everyone would have to pay Ford to sell a motor vehicle. That's almost the way it is with TiVo, except most of the patents they own were acquired elsewhere "by hook or by crook".

Abundant OTA television is what makes this country different from all others. Lets keep it this way.
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post #10 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 07:29 AM
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DVRs are dead. I have OTA (only) and roughly 50 series scheduled to record. There is no way I am going to manage them through EPG. The several times I have looked at it I'd give up recording TV before I relied on it. The daily, what needs to be recorded, what's repeats and the endless maintenance. You need a guide service. Sure a few will go without one more on spite than anything else.

 

The service is costly month after month, year after year it becomes an endless expensive. You don't see cell phone providers giving free lifetime service. So at this point you need to duplicate what TiVo does and has been doing for well over a decade. Many have tried and some are still trying. So they can compete. However large companies are smart enough to know they can't compete based on the cost factor. Heck even TiVo isn't successful to a large degree and they dominate the market. Why try to replace someone that isn't successful... all the time it's been proven for over a decade even if you won you still lost.

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post #11 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 07:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by videobruce View Post

Yes, but it's what functions can be made available and just how they are allowed to work. The Guide for starters.

 

 

My EPG guide comes OTA from the broadcasters along with the show. It only goes less than a day into the future and I have to tune each channel in succession to update it since my PVR only has a single tuner.

 

Inconvenient, yes, compared to the comprehensive, searchable Guides offered by the others. But I'm used to dancing through hoops when manually setting the tuner on my old Sony PVR. Heck, EPG is a big improvement on what I had before, which was no on-screen guide at all, just my daily newspaper!

 

You get what you pay for, fair enough. But companies should not be intimidated out of a fair market to serve honest consumers.

Sounds like we need a Consumer Advocate here. What is Ralph Nader doing these days  ;-))


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post #12 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 08:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Charles R View Post
 

DVRs are dead. I have OTA (only) and roughly 50 series scheduled to record. There is no way I am going to manage them through EPG. The several times I have looked at it I'd give up recording TV before I relied on it. The daily, what needs to be recorded, what's repeats and the endless maintenance. You need a guide service. Sure a few will go without one more on spite than anything else.

 

I have no objection to the continued existence of cable companies and TiVo offering premium services to heavy watchers like yourself who want their services and are willing to pay for it.

 

But I take issue with the lack of alternatives available to the growing number of light viewers, like myself, who are content with OTA but would like to be able to purchase a reliable PVR to record it. Now, *that* is what I'd be willing to pay for!


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post #13 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by laridae View Post

 

But I take issue with the lack of alternatives available to the growing number of light viewers, like myself, who are content with OTA but would like to be able to purchase a reliable PVR to record it. Now, *that* is what I'd be willing to pay for!

 

So purchase Simple.TV or one of the other less expensive (compared to TiVo) solutions and get what you pay for...

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post #14 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Primestar31 View Post

Bingo, you got it with "conspiracy". Providers are protecting their revenue streams. It got away from them with the old VCR, and they aren't about to EVER let that happen again.
Total load of BS, OTA recording that OP wants is completely unprotected. Try again.
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post #15 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 11:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Charles R View Post
 

 

So purchase Simple.TV or one of the other less expensive (compared to TiVo) solutions and get what you pay for...

 

I don't want to pay anything for SiliconDust's Simple TV service, or anyone else's program quide or service. Also, Simple TV is not really an alternative since it's specifically excluded from Bruce's list.

 

I just want to buy an OTA PVR box with no strings attached.

 

The OTA signal is free and public. I feel no obligation to pay any 3rd party company for the privilege of accessing it.


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post #16 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by laridae View Post
 

 

I don't want to pay anything for SiliconDust's Simple TV service, or anyone else's program quide or service.


If you actually looked into it you would see you don't have to pay for a guide or service. At this point it's tunnel vision and or whining. I'm out.

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post #17 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 02:57 PM
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Total load of BS, OTA recording that OP wants is completely unprotected. Try again.


If you think that the DMCA hasn't had a "chilling" effect on both equipment manufacturers and software developers you should read the following article entitled "Unintended Consequences: Fifteen Years under the DMCA":

 

https://www.eff.org/pages/unintended-consequences-fifteen-years-under-dmca

 

What's clear from that article is that the motion picture industry and others have for years been trying to stifle even legal "fair use" of copyrighted material by threatening legal action through cease and desist letters and other legal action.  And if that's not enough evidence, the FCC tried to implement a "Broadcast Flag" ruling in 2005 which would have restricted the recording of certain programs broadcast over the air:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadcast_flag

 

Although the FCC officially eliminated broadcast flag regulations in 2011, it is still possible that the motion picture industry could lobby Congress to pass legislation to reintroduce the broadcast flag or similar technology.

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post #18 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Charles R View Post
So purchase Simple.TV or one of the other less expensive (compared to TiVo) solutions and get what you pay for...

 

I don't want to pay anything for SiliconDust's Simple TV service, or anyone else's program quide or service. Also, Simple TV is not really an alternative since it's specifically excluded from Bruce's list.

 

I just want to buy an OTA PVR box with no strings attached.

 

The OTA signal is free and public. I feel no obligation to pay any 3rd party company for the privilege of accessing it.

 

:D

 

Philips has just introduced two HD OTA/digital cable recorders, described here.

 

:D

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post #19 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 08:10 PM
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Originally Posted by DD24 View Post

What's clear from that article is that the motion picture industry and others have for years been trying to stifle even legal "fair use" of copyrighted material by threatening legal action through cease and desist letters and other legal action.

To make matters worse, the effect of the DMCA extends beyond broadcast media, too. A judge ruled last year that copying commercial DVDs is effectively illegal, even if you bought them yourself and legally own them, because bypassing DVD encryption violates the DMCA. As such, you'd only be able to legally copy your DVDs if they happen to lack CSS, which is probably true of < 10% of all commercial DVDs, such as those of TV shows that aired prior to 1980.
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post #20 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 08:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you DD24 for that thoughtful and informed post ; now we're getting somewhere!

 

Well, those links had a lot of heavy going but despite skimming parts of it I did get a few things out of it;

 

EFF are my new best friends.

 

My notions of my ongoing bullet-proof rights to the OTA signal are a little naive; things are not that simple. The definition and interpretation of "Fair use" is subject to the whims of our respective governments as persuaded by forces pushing public use vs. private profit agendas.

 

Companies doing hardware and software business in the US need to be mindful of which way the wind is blowing before investing heavily to develop products subject to the whims of political reversals.

 

Large international companies, especially those based in the US are understandably intimidated or at least respectful of copyright issues whereas smaller, offshore companies not so much - this explains why Chinese companies, for example, rush in where others fear to tread - lucky for us as consumers!


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post #21 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 09:08 PM
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Regarding the lack of OTA DVRs, I think that the explanation is mostly pretty simple at this point: there isn't enough of a market for one to justify the major manufacturers offering anything.

Consider that about 85% of the market in this country is cable and satellite -- and those viewers mostly just lease boxes from their providers, which means that they're out of the market space for the sort of DVR that we're talking about here. That leaves the 15% of us who are watching OTA...but many of that 15% are price sensitive, and not willing to buy an expensive DVR. And the truth is that a nice multi-tuner DVR with a large hard drive and an elegant user interface is likely to cost well over $200 in the volumes that it would sell in to that portion of the OTA market that is willing to pay for one. The economic calculations say that it just isn't enough money to be worthwhile for Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, etc to mess with.

Yes, the DMCA and the desire of content providers (both distribution and production) to maintain greater control than they did in the VCR era are almost certainly factors in this, as well...but I don't believe that those are the primary factors.

I, personally, would love to be able to buy a high end Panasonic DVR and Blu-Ray recorder that would feature dual ATSC tuners, cable card (for the rare cable subscriber who chooses not to lease a box), component video input, a large hard drive, basic editing functionality, and the capability to output archived programming onto either DVDs or Blu-Ray. With all that capability, I suspect it would cost like a high end VCR did in the nineties. And there would probably be very few people other than me that would be willing to pay for it. Sadly, I do understand why Panasonic chooses not to pursue this particular opportunity to lose money.
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post #22 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Aleron Ives View Post


To make matters worse, the effect of the DMCA extends beyond broadcast media, too. A judge ruled last year that copying commercial DVDs is effectively illegal, even if you bought them yourself and legally own them, because bypassing DVD encryption violates the DMCA. As such, you'd only be able to legally copy your DVDs if they happen to lack CSS, which is probably true of < 10% of all commercial DVDs, such as those of TV shows that aired prior to 1980.


Exactly.  By that ruling the court has effectively eliminated any fair use of the DVD by the consumer who purchases it.  They seem to be saying that the DMCA trumps the copyright law and allows the copyright owner to prevent normal fair use by the DVD owner.

 

What bothers me about what seems to be happening with the DVR equipment manufacturers is that the recording industry groups can intimidate and threaten the manufacturers into doing what they want without ever having to actually take them to court. Their army of lawyers sending threatening letters is enough to scare any manufacturer with only a small legal team regardless of whether or not the manufacturer believes they would ultimately prevail in court. This is what I believe happens and it isn't something you read about in the news.

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post #23 of 106 Old 12-07-2013, 11:06 PM
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As laridae pointed out, it is fortunate for us that companies from other countries are willing to do what US companies are not and release DVRs without restrictions. I don't care if I'm buying a "name-brand" DVR: I only care if it works, and name-brand products often offer nothing over "generic" substitutes except for a higher price tag. That phenomenon is also not unique to the electronics industry: the pharmaceutical industry, for one, exhibits it better than perhaps any other.
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post #24 of 106 Old 12-08-2013, 05:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by DD24 View Post

 

 What bothers me about what seems to be happening with the DVR equipment manufacturers is that the recording industry groups can intimidate and threaten the manufacturers into doing what they want without ever having to actually take them to court. Their army of lawyers sending threatening letters is enough to scare any manufacturer with only a small legal team regardless of whether or not the manufacturer believes they would ultimately prevail in court. This is what I believe happens and it isn't something you read about in the news.

 

This then has the effect of restricting trade which is illegal and actionable by government agencies. But since it's indirect it's probably difficult to prove.

 

At this point it gets political; with the government of the day deciding if they want to come down on the side of the consumer or business.

 

And we, the consumers, end up, ironically, being saved by the Chinese while our governments stand by and let our domestic companies scraw us over! Curiouser and curiouser!

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post #25 of 106 Old 12-08-2013, 06:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Thomas Desmond View Post

Regarding the lack of OTA DVRs, I think that the explanation is mostly pretty simple at this point: there isn't enough of a market for one to justify the major manufacturers offering anything.

Consider that about 85% of the market in this country is cable and satellite -- and those viewers mostly just lease boxes from their providers, which means that they're out of the market space for the sort of DVR that we're talking about here. That leaves the 15% of us who are watching OTA...but many of that 15% are price sensitive, and not willing to buy an expensive DVR. And the truth is that a nice multi-tuner DVR with a large hard drive and an elegant user interface is likely to cost well over $200 in the volumes that it would sell in to that portion of the OTA market that is willing to pay for one. The economic calculations say that it just isn't enough money to be worthwhile for Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, etc to mess with.

Yes, the DMCA and the desire of content providers (both distribution and production) to maintain greater control than they did in the VCR era are almost certainly factors in this, as well...but I don't believe that those are the primary factors.

I, personally, would love to be able to buy a high end Panasonic DVR and Blu-Ray recorder that would feature dual ATSC tuners, cable card (for the rare cable subscriber who chooses not to lease a box), component video input, a large hard drive, basic editing functionality, and the capability to output archived programming onto either DVDs or Blu-Ray. With all that capability, I suspect it would cost like a high end VCR did in the nineties. And there would probably be very few people other than me that would be willing to pay for it. Sadly, I do understand why Panasonic chooses not to pursue this particular opportunity to lose money.

 

Yes, I expect that you're right and that has a lot to do with it.

 

But I guess the big unknown right now is how big this cable-cutting fad is going to be and it it going to last? Is that 15% going to grow and offer a new business opportunity? Or is it just going to plateau and saturate once all the poor people and tech weenies switch over?

 

I would definitely be willing to pay $200+ for a robust, reliable OTA PVR with a good UI. But, like you Tom, I wouldn't presume to be in the majority. From my experience people like their convenience and are willing to pay for it. And for many viewers TV is a priority in their lives - including live sports and specialty channels that OTA doesn't offer.


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post #26 of 106 Old 12-08-2013, 06:16 AM
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And the truth is that a nice multi-tuner DVR with a large hard drive and an elegant user interface is likely to cost well over $200 in the volumes that it would sell in to that portion of the OTA market that is willing to pay for one. The economic calculations say that it just isn't enough money to be worthwhile for Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, etc to mess with.
A. It would be priced more than that,
B. These companies have no trouble coming out with electronic devices that are 2-4x more expensive than that and are 1/10th the size.

The real problems are:
1. Lack of proper consumer education courtesy of the CEA (as usual). How many know of what is available from OTA? How many know even what an antenna is?
2. Utter laziness of the American consumer that wants everything to work as intended out of the box with no user intervention (other than basic user input).

Amazing, the high percentage of VCR's 20 years ago, vs the percentage of consumer owned DVR's today.

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At this point it gets political; with the government of the day deciding if they want to come down on the side of the consumer or business.
The last time anyone really came down on big business was prior to 1981. It sure as hell didn't happen after 2008. mad.gif

.

Abundant OTA television is what makes this country different from all others. Lets keep it this way.
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post #27 of 106 Old 12-08-2013, 06:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Thomas Desmond View Post

Yes, the DMCA and the desire of content providers (both distribution and production) to maintain greater control than they did in the VCR era are almost certainly factors in this, as well...but I don't believe that those are the primary factors.

 

I agree that the size of the market for OTA DVRs does play a part in this but I think you may be underestimating the degree to which the DMCA influences the manufacturers.  The DMCA affects not only the manufacturers decision of whether they will sell a DVR product or not but it also affects the design of the DVR if they decide to make one.  For example, the new Philips HDR5710 requires that any external HDD be "registered" and the total number of drives is limited to 8 and the video files which are written to the external drives are apparently encrypted.  What possible product advantage could these "features" have?  None.  But it is clear to me that the DVR has been designed that way for no reason other than to appease the DMCA gods.

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post #28 of 106 Old 12-08-2013, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by DD24 View Post


If you think that the DMCA hasn't had a "chilling" effect on both equipment manufacturers and software developers you should read the following article entitled "Unintended Consequences: Fifteen Years under the DMCA":

https://www.eff.org/pages/unintended-consequences-fifteen-years-under-dmca

What's clear from that article is that the motion picture industry and others have for years been trying to stifle even legal "fair use" of copyrighted material by threatening legal action through cease and desist letters and other legal action.  And if that's not enough evidence, the FCC tried to implement a "Broadcast Flag" ruling in 2005 which would have restricted the recording of certain programs broadcast over the air:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadcast_flag

Although the FCC officially eliminated broadcast flag regulations in 2011, it is still possible that the motion picture industry could lobby Congress to pass legislation to reintroduce the broadcast flag or similar technology.

Yeah and there's plenty of cheap and easy ways to record whatever you want OTA, so there is no conspiracy present that keeps you from doing it right now. You might have to get your hands a little dirty with a PC, but it's not rocket science.
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post #29 of 106 Old 12-08-2013, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by slowbiscuit View Post


Yeah and there's plenty of cheap and easy ways to record whatever you want OTA, so there is no conspiracy present that keeps you from doing it right now. You might have to get your hands a little dirty with a PC, but it's not rocket science.


Sure, there are always ways to do things, legal or not.  Someone who wants to break the DVD CSS encryption can find ways to do it but that doesn't make it legal.  Someone who is determined to pirate movies can do it, right or not.  But that wasn't the point.  The point of the OP was that certain industry groups have banded together to promote legislation like the DMCA which is then used to threaten manufacturers and others from providing to consumers a full range of equipment capable of doing all of the functions that are legal under copyright fair use law.

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post #30 of 106 Old 12-08-2013, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Thomas Desmond View Post

I, personally, would love to be able to buy a high end Panasonic DVR and Blu-Ray recorder that would feature dual ATSC tuners, cable card (for the rare cable subscriber who chooses not to lease a box), component video input, a large hard drive, basic editing functionality, and the capability to output archived programming onto either DVDs or Blu-Ray. With all that capability, I suspect it would cost like a high end VCR did in the nineties. And there would probably be very few people other than me that would be willing to pay for it. Sadly, I do understand why Panasonic chooses not to pursue this particular opportunity to lose money.

 

It would have been a simple matter for Sony to slap a couple of ATSC tuners into my old 2007 Sony PVR and sell it widely on the N. American market. The development work was already done; surely they could have farmed-out the build to china or korea and brought it to market for $200+ if they wanted to. It does most of the things we'd like; built-in HD, well-thought-out UI, editing capability, heck, it'll even burn a DVD. But NO, for whatever reason they chose not to continue in this market.

 

Being Sony, with their holdings in motion pictures and other content, perhaps it was a strategic decision on their part not to make it easy for us to store and copy content? Or did they find that consumers preferred the convenience of competing units - PVR's from the cable companies and TiVo boxes that offer nice program guides to make it dead simple, no thinking required. Mebbe the market just isn't there for boxes you have to program yourself, but they could have added EPG at least.

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