- Video recording is a convenience that consumers have grown accustomed to since the introduction of the first videocassette recorders in the 1970s. Many consider it an entitlement.
To a point, it is. The U.S. Supreme Court, in fact, said so: In 1984, in the landmark Betamax case, which pitted Sony against Universal Studios and The Walt Disney Co., the court ruled that recording television programs for private viewing in homes does not infringe on copyright protections.
However, the rights handed down by the court don’t seem so clear now. When the videotape in the VCR is replaced by a hard drive so that the copy made is as good as the original and can be shared over the Internet with a multitude of people, the right to record looks more–at least in the view of several media companies–like a license to steal.
….Under the proposed rules, most regular TV shows available for free from the major networks would fall under the “copy freely” category, while pay-channel programs on networks such as HBO or Showtime might fall under “copy once” that would allow recording but restrict sharing. Pay-per-view and video-on-demand programs would likely be tagged “copy never.”
But copying and sharing programming over a network is at the heart of what many consumer electronics and PC manufacturers want to pursue. If the recent International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is any indication, manufacturers such as Sony and Hewlett-Packard and even software giant Microsoft showed off product concepts that would allow consumers to record a show from a TV in one room to a hard drive, and then watch it later on any TV or computer screen in the home. And all of those networks were in turn connected to a broadband line to the Internet.
….But the fact is, consumers expect high-quality recording to be available. A study by GartnerG2, a unit of research firm Gartner, found that 90% of consumers think it’s OK to make a copy of a TV show for personal backup purposes, while 63% think it’s OK to give a copy of a TV show to a friend.
….the studios may have little to fear. According to one estimate by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, HDTV broadcasts take up far too much bandwidth for even the fastest Internet connections to handle easily. Even under ideal conditions, it would take 40 hours to download a single two-hour movie in HD format and would require about 17 gigabytes to store on a hard drive. Even the biggest hard drives widely available for PCs store only about 200 GB, leaving room for only a few movies in that format.