According to some online blogs, TiVo is employing a new scheme of digital rights management (DRM) which allows program sponsors (the people who provide the show, such as the network, or perhaps the syndication agency) to define when a show may be watched, and if it may be stored for later re-runs.
TiVo quietly upgraded their "EULA" or End User's License Agreement" inside of an OS update that allows program suppliers to restrict how long the DVR may save recordings, or prevent the device from recording them alltogether. Of course, this was a quiet modification... I am certain that they did not advertise this new policy on their devices, or it would have certainly made news.
Called the "Red Flag" problem, the device shows a red flag on shows, such as "The Simpsons" or "King of the Hill", and the device prevents certain actions to be taken on the stored programs. There are also reports that digital corruption can trip this flag accidentially, causing a slew of un-intended problems.
Has anyone over at TiVo ever head of Error Correction???
Perhaps it was the local TV station that tripped the flag on, instead of the source material having it encoded in the signal. Well, accidents can happen, but if this flexibility was DESIGNED into the system, that means that a local TV station can trip the flag at will, and influence their audience. Remember, not all of TiVo programming is ficticious... if a TV station had a political leaning, they could flag the opposing viewpoint's programming, and alter what the audience sees.
According to the blogged reports, TiVo 7.2 OS is the culprit that adds content protection, transfer protection, and the auto-delete feature. Users who saw the red-flags were urged not to contact TiVo customer support regarding copy protection issues.
I do not own a TiVo, and have no idea if these software updates are transmitted directly to the box, or if they mail out a little card that you insert into the device, and it updates, or how it exactly works. I am curious to know if you can remain at 7.1 OS forever (kinda like the Windows 98 crowd who refuse to update), or if you have gone to 7.2, if you can somehow return to 7.1 (a-la removing the service pack?)
Personally, I grew up in a lifestyle that I do not revolve around the Television. Yes, I have a handful of shows that I watch... Law and Order, Battlestar Galactica, ER, JAG, and Star Trek. My life does not revolve around these shows, but with my lifestyle, I like to record them and watch when I can make some time to relax and enjoy them. Our society has an expectation that when we set something aside to look at later, we expect it to be there, and ready to go. This red flag problem (yes, it is a problem, because it is a DRM issue, not a feature) smacks society's expectation, and it will get TiVo in trouble.
Some may argue that DRM is important, so that others don't make money off of a third party's work. I agree with that -- I should not make money by copying a season of Star Trek, and then selling my own boxed set out of my house. TiVo and the like are geared for private viewing -- something that I have a right to do in the US.
I have a nice HiFi VCR that I do my recordings with. Guess what is NOT going to be upgraded this Christmas!