[mythtv] virtual tuner via BitTorrent plug-in

Tom Metro tmetro+mythtv-dev at gmail.com
Tue Apr 17 03:26:13 UTC 2007

Nick Morrott wrote:
> However, I'm 100% against the specific premise of the plugin the OP
> describes as it clearly invites breaching copyright law across most of
> the world.

As the OP of this thread...I didn't intend to start a legal argument, as 
I was satisfied to see the thread die once it was deemed outside the 
purview of MythTV.

However, as this has been brought up, I'd like to clarify a few points:

In the US, recording of TV programs for personal use is permissible, and 
was settled by a supreme court case brought against the early 
manufacturers of VCRs (Sony I believe).

 From this it seems reasonable to conclude that other similar behavior, 
like recording non-DRM protected broadcast video to a digital device, 
such as MythTV, would similarly hold up in court. (I don't know if this 
has been specifically tested in the courts, or whether newer revisions 
of the copyright law, such as the DMCA have incorporated specific 
language to permit this, or if it is just generally assumed to be so 
close to the VCR situation as to not be in doubt.)

My proposal included the stipulation that the shows made available to a 
user of the virtual tuner be limited to shows that the user already had 
access to (with commercials, and possibly even recorded in the same 
geographical area). (You can argue that any such limitations can easily 
be defeated in an open source project, but it still establishes an 
effort to not condone illegal behavior.)

 From a purely legal stand point, this restriction probably wouldn't be 
adequate to hold up in court, as it involves distribution, as pointed out:

Justin Moore wrote:
> As for the "I own the [DVD|CD|whatever] so I can download it, right?",
> that argument is BOGUS.  It doesn't matter if you already own the
> content in one form.  You cannot go and download it off the 'net (i.e.,
> requesting and therefore causing the uploader to make and distribute an
> illegal copy of the show) just because you can't find the disc in your
> mess of an apartment/house/whatever.

but ultimately it would need to be tested in the courts.

My view is that it is definitely getting into a gray area, even if it 
still complies with the spirit of the law (in my opinion), and therefore 
I can understand why core MythTV developers would not want to take the risk.

What I proposed wasn't intended to solving the problem of giving users 
access to vast quantities of illegal content. It is, just as the title 
suggests, providing the user with a virtual tuner, that provides for 
them (a subset of) the same content that they can obtain from a physical 
tuner card. It's merely a technical solution to save money on tuner 
hardware, accomplished with distributed computing, that happens to reach 
beyond your LAN.

> As for the virtual tuner, I think it would (in theory) be neat and
> perfectly legal for MythTV to integrate RSS feeds/bittorrent downloads
> from legal sources such as those listed here:
> http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/03/08/0328214&from=rss

Something to consider is that we are rapidly moving to an IPTV 
distribution model (old media seems to be embracing this faster than I 
expected), where legal content is being broadcast over the net. 
Currently this is happening in a mix of formats, with the big media 
leaning towards streaming and closed formats, like Flash, and low-budget 
providers using open file formats and BitTorrent for distribution.

MythTV is in a good position to evolve into a front-end for managing 
this type of content. (Similarly, if TiVo doesn't evolve in this 
direction, it'll probably be dead in 4 or 5 years.) A virtual tuner 
could be one way to accomplish it.

One of the pieces that seems to be missing from this model is an open 
format for IP distribution of content to consumers for playback on their 
TV. The big media players currently operate under the assumption that 
their streamed content is being viewed on PC screens, not TV screens. 
The closest thing they have to a direct-to-TV channel is making deals 
with cable companies to have their shows carried via an "on demand" service.

Who knows, if the major networks knew that if they published their 
content in a certain format, they could reach a few million additional 
viewers using MythTV, they might be interested in supporting the format. 
Even better if the format got picked up by manufacturers of 
set-top-boxes, particularly non-cable company boxes (like a Hauppauge 
MediaMVP), so that content providers could by-pass the cable companies.

I could see a day a few years from now where installing a tuner card is 
only rarely needed for a MythTV setup, much in the same way that using 
hardware to interface with phone lines when running PBX software like 
Asterisk is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, as analog lines from 
the phone company are replaced by VoIP.

If there is a less legally risky way to head down the path toward 
building the infrastructure needed for this kind of a distribution 
model, it would be worth pursuing as a core MythTV feature.


Tom Metro
Venture Logic, Newton, MA, USA
"Enterprise solutions through open source."
Professional Profile: http://tmetro.venturelogic.com/

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