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October 18, 2004
HBO freezes fair use; plugs analog hole
Going on a trip and want to take the latest episode of The Sopranos with you? Forgetaboutit. Coming this June to a cable or satellite set top box near you, HBO will be locking down all fair use rights on their content -- whether analog or digital. You can make one copy of regular HBO content and no copies of On-Demand content:
Commencing in June, HBO will include a technology in its program services that provides copyright protection information to consumer electronic equipment connected to analog outputs of cable and satellite set-top boxes. The technology (CGMS-A -- Content Generation Management System for Analog) enables compliant digital recording devices to abide by federal digital encoding rules.
In accordance with the federal encoding rules, HBO and Cinemax subscribers will still be able to make a single copy of HBO and Cinemax linear programming, but will not be able to make any copies of HBO-On-Demand or Cinemax-On-Demand programming.
Why would you need to make extra copies? Well, if you:
* Have On Demand content down downstairs in your living room but want to watch it upstairs in the bedroom. Under the old system, you could copy it to VHS tape to "space-shift" it. Under the new system, no can do.
* Want to take On Demand content with you when you travel to watch on the plane or in your hotel room
* Have a large family where several folks want to watch the same thing at once but in different places.
These are all arguably fair uses under copyright and not illegal. But rather than let a judge decide what's legal and what's not, HBO has made the decision for you. And in doing so, they've placed a cap on fair use. No more than one copy of non-OnDemand content -- ever.
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