I want my
I want my DVRP2P
From the first time I heard about Tivo, I expected the obvious next step, which would be gargantuan, the biggest thing since the web browser. It was obvious; Tivo + Napster! But Napster was already dead so I started saying: Tivo + Kazaa! Kazaa just happened to be the hot P2P file sharing network at the time (circa 2002). It's not necessarily Tivo anymore either, now it's DVR a whole category. So to update the idea let's call it DVR+P2P.
It's obvious. The DVR is basically a computer with a big hard drive, and a fancy video decoder/tuner card. Tivo is essentially an application that runs on Linux, I believe. Moreover DVRs connect to the Internet. So if they just added a P2P software client on it, boom! Suddenly not only can you record your own TV programs, you can also search every other user's recorded programs. This means almost anything that has ever been on TV on any channel is accessible for viewing on demand by everyone! The benefit to users would be ... I can't find a strong enough superlative. It'd obviously be HUGE. And incredibly easy to do.
So why hasn't it happened yet?
- Copyright infringement? This is running on a closed device so they could easily restrict the software to only search "legal" videos from the same cable or satellite provider only.
- Advertising? They already allow fast-forwarding through commercials, it doesn't seem to have killed the ad revenue. In any case they could disable ffwd if they wanted to.
- Revenue? DVR+P2P would be so great they could charge any price for the service everyone would still sign-up for it.
Are they just extremely paranoid?
Here's what AFAIK is the conventional theory about this: Traditional laws relied on the physical form of books, records etc. to control the amount of copying, and now with digital media + data networks making copying exponentially easier the laws just don't fit anymore, and so there will be some major adjustments in the coming decades. In the meantime content owners are paranoid and are just blocking every new distribution method even if it's beneficial to them, like they tried to do when VCRs first came about. Scrounging through some links on my old homepage, I found a link to the first article I first read on this: "Who will own your next good idea?".
Today, I stumbled across a brilliant presentation by Laurence Lessig from 2002 entitled "Free Culture". In fact this post was supposed to be a quick link to that preso but it has released years of pent-up frustration on this subject in me. Anyway, "Free Culture" augurs a much darker cloud over the same field. He makes the point that digitization is expanding the scope of regulated use dramatically to the point of suffocating unregulated use. Which seems upside down because we are so conditioned to think of digitization as threatening regulated use. But when you think about it, it's absolutely true! Brilliant!
The more I think about it, the more amazed I am by the truth, simplicity, and importance of that fact: digitization is expanding the scope of regulated use. Unregulated use which used to be 90% of the activity, like simply reading a book or lending it to a friend, is being replaced by regulated use: reading a web page is technically a regulated activity, there are restrictions on what you can or can't do with those bits of content whether they are in your computer's RAM or HD, or pixels. "Fair use" is just a minor sideshow. Unregulated use is the 800lb gorilla. I don't think most people realize that and they really should. Lessig is a giant.
"Free societies enable the future by limiting the past" -- Laurence Lessig.