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NBC: Zune to get piracy filter as Apple resists [U]

updated 04:35 pm EDT, Wed May 7, 2008

NBC wants Zune Copy Filter

(Updated with Microsoft comment) NBC Universal today revealed in a discussion with the New York Times that Microsoft is working to implement an anti-piracy filter into its Zune media players. While not outlining the amount of progress, the studio's digital chief J. B. Perrette says that Microsoft has agreed to work on a "cop" that would check the legitimacy of videos loaded on the device; those deemed illegal would refuse to play. The implementation would function similarly to automatic blocks being tried at YouTube and other sites, which are claimed to stop easy bootlegging by checking such data as the title or basic track information.

Microsoft also declines to provide details but acknowledges through company representative Adam Sohn that it has begun cooperating with NBC on the anti-copying technology. SanDisk is also investigating the option, according to NBC.

The move is instrumental to the appearance of NBC shows for Zunes, Perrette says. NBC has been willing to offer its content on downloadable services but now wants to guarantee that customers are unable to load unapproved versions of the same titles on the players, encouraging them to seek pirated copies instead.

Microsoft is also willing to vary its backend pricing for TV shows, though the company currently sells all of them to the public at $2 per episode and is absorbing any reduced margins or losses from each show.

It's these same reasons that NBC continues to refuse the return of its content to iTunes as a whole, according to the TV network executive. Apple has so far declined to develop an anti-piracy filter for iPods and currently insists on flat wholesale pricing for most TV content, with the exceptions being some select shows at the UK store that now sell for varying prices. Apple has not explained its efforts but has typically shied away from using any filtering systems on the iPod, and has routinely argued in favor of flat pricing in order to avoid customer confusion.

The NBC statements raise concerns over legality and precedent. Although anti-piracy filtering isn't considered illegal, it may tread on legal precedents in the US for fair use rights that allow users to copy media for backup purposes. These are often cited as justification for users extracting content from CDs and DVDs for the sake of transferring it to a portable media player.

Advocacy groups have also warned that allowing stores to use filters may promote laws that require anti-copying technology, while others have pointed out that such methods are rarely effective as experienced users learn to alter files to avoid filtering techinques.

NBC is reportedly aware of initial concerns, but argues that filters are necessary to protect the revenue necessary for continued filming. "In the long term, the consumer wants there to be quality premium-produced content," according to Perrette. "And in order for that to continue to be a viable business, there needs to be significant protection around it."

Update: Microsoft now claims that it has no plans to filter content for NBC, though has yet to explain the contradiction between statements from company officials.



By Electronista Staff
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  1. climacs

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Sep 2001

    0

    good luck with that

    Microsoft has agreed to work on a "cop" that would check the legitimacy of videos loaded on the device; those deemed illegal would refuse to play.

    Given MS' historic track record of user friendliness and competent software, I am certain it will work as well as Vista.

  1. climacs

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Sep 2001

    0

    i meant

    competent software development.

    It would be great if I could be a competent commenter.

  1. climacs

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Sep 2001

    0

    title/basic track info

    Title: OK, so you just use alternate characters or abbreviation. DRM defeated.

    Basic track info: I guess it would be possible to analyze, say, the first 10 seconds (or 10 seconds, 15 minutes into the video) of a video track and compare it to a database. If you get a match, it triggers the 'cop'. But geez... would you really be able to develop a database of every film under copyright to each studio, and compare each 'fingerprint' to a given video file in a timely manner?

    Maybe someone more geeky than me can figure out how they could do this without it being a huge pain for the consumer. I don't see how it can be done.

  1. climacs

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Sep 2001

    0

    algorithm

    perhaps you could develop a fingerprint just like is used for Authorize.net transactions, an MD5 hash kind of thing, based on a sampling of the video track, the length of the video, and so on. That might simplify/speed up the comparison with a database.

    This just sounds like a Sony rootkit kind of disaster.

  1. scotte75ky

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2008

    0

    nuts

    That is 100% idiotic of Microsoft!

  1. mgehman

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Feb 2001

    0

    umm

    Now given, wouldn't buy a Zune to begin with, but doesn't this just shoot the h*** out of any reason to buy a Zune? Hmmm, let me see, I can buy an iPod and play anything I can encode on it, or I can buy a Zune and have big brother decide what I can play...yeah that works.

  1. eldarkus

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2004

    0

    and really

    what's the point? Well, they can have all the illegal shows they want on the computer but damn it, we have to stop them from getting on a small media player.

    because a video file on a computer can never be converted, chopped up, renamed, etc...

  1. elroth

    Junior Member

    Joined: Jul 2006

    0

    good luck

    Another great idea from Microsoft - Windows Genuine Advantage has been such a big hit, they're now extending it to the Zune.

    What really gets me in all this is the total lack of interest Universal has for its customers. They make buying their media really annoying: CDs with adhesive strips and RFID tags that won't come off, iTunes audio downloads with inferior sound and DRM, Hulu with such annoying advertising, and now Zune TV shows with a filtering system that'll be a pain in the a** and might block out legitimate content.

    It's like they try to drive customers away by frustrating and annoying them.

    A perfect marriage: Universal and Microsoft.

  1. MeandmyMac

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2008

    0

    still waitiing...

    Quote: NBC is reportedly aware of initial concerns, but argues that filters are necessary to protect the revenue necessary for continued filming. "In the long term, the consumer wants there to be quality premium-produced content," according to Perrette. "And in order for that to continue to be a viable business, there needs to be significant protection around it."

    "the consumer wants there to be quality premium-produced content"... I'm waiting on NBC/Universal to first produce quality content!

  1. climacs

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Sep 2001

    0

    check out comment

    #11 at the NYT link above

    Having experienced both the effects of piracy and Apple in my business, I had been wondering when these majors would wake up. Itunes effectively killed the music business, it made great profit for itself but it killed the music business. I know this because I was in the music business until a few months ago.

    Wow. So much disinformation in that one paragraph. Unfortunately the comments are moderated, I am sure that "Joseph" was flamed ferociously but you can't find any such comments in that thread.

    Looks like they still don't get it.

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