[mythtv-users] Myth Developers ban all use of MythTV as a PVR due to IP infringement?

Yeechang Lee ylee at pobox.com
Sat Sep 8 08:09:23 UTC 2007

(First and foremost, it's clear to me that "kijuhty kijuhty" is not,
in fact, the infamous Robert Current. Robert's writing style is VERY
DISTINCTIVE. kijuhty's paragraph flow and clause order differ from
Robert's. What we can be sure of, of course, is that kijuhty's some
Anonymous Coward who doesn't have the guts to use his real name to
debate real issues in public.)

kijuhty kijuhty <kijuhty at gmail.com> says:
> To the nay-sayers who insist that Tribune's "threat" to kill zap2it was not
> fake and that they really were ready to deal with screen scrapers, look at
> it logically.  If Tribune really wanted to stop zap2it labs, they would have
> shut it down "effective immediately".

I am not so cynical about human nature as to ascribe the worst of
intentions to everyone I encounter. It seems to me that the same
goodwill (yes, goodwill; see the mail thread I reference later) on
Tribune's part that originally drove it to offer the free listings
also caused it to provide a grace period to its users.

> It's clear their "we will terminate in 3 months" was purely an
> attempt to test the waters and see if the myth community would be
> willing to cross the line and go from being free to paying Tribune
> for the data, and to allow enough time to form a non-free
> alternative.

The problem with your theory is money, or lack thereof. Despite
sharing the woes of the rest of the newspaper industry, Tribune is
still a substantial company with more than $5B in annual revenue. Were
the generous number of 10,000 people to sign up for ScheduleDirect at
the hoped-for annual price of $20/year, that's $200,000 in revenue
(actually less, of course, because of ScheduleDirect's own
expenses). While this mailing list has made clear that there are
some--not many--cheapskate MythTV users for whom $5/month is too much,
let alone $200,000, $200,000 is about two Tribune employees' worth of
cost. In other words, just not worth the bother if Tribune's goal from
the start was to strongarm the MythTV community into paying.

That said, I actually don't disagree with the notion that Tribune
hoped to some degree that the community would collectively agree to
reimburse Tribune for use of the data. After all, +$200K is better
than -$200K (assuming Tribune had devoted two employees to
labs.zap2it.com, a figure I am totally guessing on). What I do
disagree with is the thought that this was Tribune's primary
goal. After all, if that +$200K (again, a pretty small sum to the
Tribunes of the world) were really that dear to Tribune to get, it
would have set up its own fee-based subscription system piggybacking
off the already existing authorization framework labs.zap2it
had. Tribune has plenty of inhouse e-commerce talent spread among its
various properties and, for example, would not have had to turn to
PayPal and its prepackaged payment system as ScheduleDirect has
done. But it didn't. Thus, I have no reason to disbelieve Tribune's
statement from the start that people abusing its goodwill and using
the data for improper purposes was the reason for pulling the plug.

> All this complaining about whether someone can afford $5 month.
> Sure we can afford it.  But we can also afford $13/month for the
> cable company's PVR, and then we'll be able to record 400 digital
> channels (not the 10 or so Myth can receive), and we can record
> premium content like HBO & Showtime in high-def.

Some--not the majority, but more than you think--of us are fortunate
enough to have access to all subscribed HD digital-cable channels via
FireWire. I'm one. Many others--Michael Dean, for one--are strictly
OTA only. (And have you noticed that those who moan and grown about
$5/month never seem to be OTA only? Why do they "need" cable and its
$30-100/month bill, if money is so tight, anyway?) But even were I to
not have such access I suspect I'd simply pony up for a couple of
capture cards and at least record (very, very high-quality and
widescreen) standard-definition component video from the HD able
boxes, because my MythTV box has advantages no cable DVR has.

> The point is not whether it's $1 or $1,000.  There's a black &
> white, crystal clear line between free and non-free.  You're
> "non-free" if you charge anything, even 1 cent for the next 100
> years.  I didn't use Myth because I couldn't afford $13/month for
> the cable box.  I used myth because I believed in the free software
> movement and wanted to support a free solution. 

Ah, one of those who believes that Linux and free software are--nay,
must be--free as in free beer, as opposed to free speech. (Insert here
Robert Current delusionally foaming at the mouth, shouting "Help!
Help! I'm being oppressed" about how the nonexistent list censors are
imaginarily censoring his free speech in the cloud-cuckoo land he
resides in.) Did you know, that Linus Torvalds himself does not
believe this? That he uses Microsoft Word when he needs a word
processor? That he has done nothing but welcome over the past 16 years
the RedHats and IBMs and Novells of the world that hae sought to and
have made zillions off Linux as a commercial endevor? And before you
ask, I've been 100% Linux and OS X at home for more than a decade,
thank you. I'm so hardcore old-school that I use an Emacs-based mail
program, again for more than a decade, and other than Firefox and
MythTV I do *everything* through console emulators. How long have
*you* been Microsoft- and GUI-free?

> Like most myth users, we made lots of sacrifices (stability,
> usability, number of channels, etc.) because we wanted to support a
> free solution.

Other than cash for equipment and some setup time, I haven't
sacrificed any of the above things to go the MythTV route; unlike your
rickety and incompetently-built setup, o Anonymous Coward, and
qdespite (or, perhaps, because) my not being a coder, database guru,
professional sysadmin, or freelance computer consultant like almost
everyone else on this list, my frontend/backend, slave backend, and
8TB of active MythTV-dedicated RAID storage are all rock-solid and
stupendously-usable in the best WAF way. And while I'd be saddened to
lose untrammeled access to my HD cable channels should that happen, as
noted above it'd be less of a sacrifice than to go to a cable-company
DVR and lose out on all the other neat features MythTV provides me. As
you've seen from others' replies to your message, I'm not alone.

> So it's hard for us all to accept that Myth isn't free anymore

Somehow, I'll get over it. $5/month makes said getting over quite
easy. Heck, I don't drink coffee so I don't even have to skip the
metaphorical two lattes a month!

> When you watch Tribune/DD/Zap2It's actions, it's really clear that
> for them giving free access to zap2it was better/cheaper/etc. than
> trying to thwart screen scrapers.


> So despite all the talk, I'm really convinced that if the Myth
> community stood up and said "no, myth is and always be a free
> solution, and if you kill zap2it we'll go back to screen scraping",
> then Tribune would back down and continue to give dd for free,
> since, after all if thwarting screen scrapers was really their plan,
> they would have done it years ago instead of offering DD for free.

Months ago, before Tribune made its announcement, Bruce Markey and I
had a heated debate on the topic of how much in Tribune's
self-interest it was to offer free data (start at
Post end-of-free-data, I suspect that Bruce would acknowledge that in
retrospect he was wrong and I was right. While I'm egostical enough to
enjoy being correct this is one case I really wish I were wrong.

There are gradations to most things in life. Is free (as in beer)
data, all else being equal, preferable to non-free data? Of course. If
DataDirect were $50/month, would I want to pay? Probably not. I'm glad
that at $5/month I don't have to decide.

Yeechang Lee <ylee at pobox.com> | +1 650 776 7763 | San Francisco CA US

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