Shift Control

The idea of 'owning' content is becoming an interesting one, which is why I'm looking forward to talking at the Media By Definition conference in London this week.

Last week's ruling by the Solicitor-General in the US rejecting an appeal against Cablevision's head end recording technology (that is, the ability for users to record the shows they are watching, or want to watch, and keep the copy with the service provider, not locally on their home equipment) is quite profound.

I'm no lawyer, but the law over copying and recording content seems to be at the crux of many rights issues. It has long been presumed that it is legal to timeshift content, or to keep one backup copy of a 'work' for personal use, but the reality is that the law in most countries actually mitigates against this.

But with the rise of video on demand this is an increasingly grey area that has already been challenged by technologies such as Tivo and Slingbox.

This blog has long promoted the idea of 'MeTV' - that users can carry or access their content anywhere - provided that they have paid for it.

Somewhat ironically now, Time Warner and others have adopted the name of TV Everywhere for this concept (I'm still deciding whether to sue). The cablecos and distributors are beginning to see themselves as conduits to multiple playback platforms, and, having paid dearly for the rights to show the content in the first place, clearly want to protect their rights.

The real irony is that this strategy is being usurped by the content owners themselves in Hulu, iPlayer and other services.

The trouble is, of course, there are too many conflicting interests involved for the industry to ever come to an agreement, and the confusion over national and state borders exasperates the situation.