[mythtv-users] Written proof that we've all been conned about SD

kijuhty kijuhty kijuhty at gmail.com
Sun Sep 9 04:37:45 UTC 2007

How does your foot taste Phil, Greg, Jay, William et al?

Did you read that post from aaron at pluto stating that sponsor(s) offered
to pay for data direct/zap2it to keep it free?

There you have the proof in black & white from a commercial Tribune
licensor, quoting a Tribune employee, showing that there was zero chance
that the free zap2it labs would ever have gone away, that it was a bluff,
that we never would have had to go back to screen scraping anyway, and that
Tribune's goal from the moment they made the announcement they would
terminate zap2it was to test the waters to see if they could partner with
some of the Myth developers to turn Myth into a for-profit venture, and that
had the answer been 'no', we would still have free guide data.

I'll try again to lay out the facts.  As you can see Tribune had these
options with data direct:
1) Continue to pay for the servers, IT staff, bandwidth, etc. needed to keep
data direct a free service.
2) Let sponsor(s) shell out all the cash and resources to keep it free and
accept from that sponsor $24k/year or more that was pure profit straight to
Tribune's bottom line, with the assurance that nobody would ever have any
reason to consider screen scraping.
3) Terminate zap2itlabs and then spend hundreds of thousands to revamp the
whole site to thwart screen scrapers, perhaps hundreds of thousands more in
extra bandwidth charges to transmit the web-based guide data in flash or an
image or some other hard-to-scrape format, and devote significant staff
resources to constantly change the site to try stay one step ahead of the
screen scraper authors, with no chance of making 1 dime off the FOSS users,
and the knowledge that every time someone succeeded in screen scraping it
would bog down their servers making it harder for real users to get to the
site, and completely throw off their advertising figures, putting their core
revenue model at risk.
4) See if the Myth community would accept changing MythTV from being free
software into a paid service and try to turn it into a profit center that
would make more profit than option #2.
5) Make Myth a paid service, like option #4, but instead of pricing it based
on what the market would bear, have the goal of making it non-profit, unlike
option #2 and #4 which would generate a profit.

Months ago Tribune announced that they were going to do option 3.  And it
seems most of the Myth community just went, "Uh, duh, ok".  You guys have
obviously never run a business.  No businessman would choose option 3.  It's
suicide.  Any corporate President who chose that option would be fired for
being a moron.  When Tribune first faced screen scrapers, they choose option
1 over option 3 because option 3 was that bad.  And like I said, if Tribune
really wanted to cancel zap2it and wasn't just bluffing they would have done
so with no notice whatsoever so that a good percentage of myth's user base
went away since they wouldn't wait for screen scrapers to be developed.  It
was obvious from day 1 when Tribune made that announcement that they never
intended to actually follow through on that threat and were just testing the
waters for option #4, with option #2 being a fall back, and worst case,
option #5; the non-profit claim which we're led to believe this is.  If 4, 2
and 5 all fell through, they'd stick which option #1 like they had for years
because option #3 was not even a consideration since they already concluded
5 years ago that worst case option #1 was better than option #3.  The fact
that the Myth community bought into the "option #3" bluff was disappointing,
since this really wasn't hard to see for what it was.  But what drove me
over the edge to post these flaming comments is that even now after it's
done, idiots like Jay insist that option #3 is still a big threat looming
overhead and that if we even discuss screen scraping somehow Tribune is
going to go back and follow through on that option #3 threat.  Ooooh....  We
have to walk on our tip toes so as not to upset Tribune/SD because if we do
they'll go masochistic and shoot themselves in the foot by choosing option
#3.  This leads me to believe that Jay is either a total idiot, or he's
being compensated somehow to defend the SD business model.

Make no mistake...  The SD service is *not* non-profit, certainly not for
Tribune, and my guess is it's not for the myth devs either.  Compare those
options 1-5 again.  If SD was non-profit (option #5), Tribune would have
taken option 2 since it costs them nothing, relieves all the burden, and
gives them a royalty payment that is pure profit to the bottom line, and no
company turns down the chance to add to their profit, even if it is only
$24k, that's better than nothing.  They only went for option 4 because that
represented *more* profit than option 2, not non-profit.  The SD founders
insist that they're not making any money on this and that the contrary
they're shelling out their own precious time and money to make SD happen.
Why would they do that, since a sponsor offered to cover all the costs, do
all the work, and keep it free?  Why didn't the Myth developers just say to
Tribune "thanks, but no thanks, we'd prefer to keep MythTV free" since they
knew that by doing that Tribune would have chosen option 1 or 2 and zap2it
would have continued to be free, and there was no chance of option 3?  Given
that post, unless Tribune lied to the Myth devs and told them were going to
choose option #3 and the Myth devs actually fell for it, you've got to
believe the Myth devs are in on it and are making a profit off SD.
Otherwise why didn't anybody tell us sponsors had offered to subsidize data

What pisses me off the most is not that the Myth developers decided to turn
this into a commercial venture, it's the lies and hypocrisy.  Just admit
that SD is about generating profit for Tribune and/or the Myth devs and stop
the silly charade pretending that if it weren't for SD then Tribune would
have chosen option #3 and we'd all be left high and dry fighting with screen
scraping.  What's so baffling is that the sham is *sooo* obvious but the
lemmings in the Myth community are going along with it without stopping to
think about it objectively.  The fact is that Myth would have continued to
be free if the Myth community had said "we see through this laughable threat
to terminate zap2it labs and we're not falling for it, we'll call your bluff
and if you really want option 3, fine, we'll go back to screen scraping."
Then Tribune would have chosen option 1 or 2.  So when Jay says that those
of us discussing screen scrapers will "ruin it for the rest", no Jay, by not
discussing screen scrapers you already did ruin it for the rest of us.  If
we threaten to do screen scraping and option #4 fails, Tribune *will not* go
for option 3, they'll go for 1 or 2.  Duh.  It's just common sense.

Other FOSS projects have turned from being free into for-profit.  The
difference is they're honest about it.  If you go to a Gracenote forum and
talk about using alternative, free software that will circumvent the need to
pay for their service, they'll admit that they're banning such posts because
it threatens their business model.  But in Myth's case, it's a facade.  They
instead pretend to take the moral high ground and insist they're banning the
discussion of screen scrapers, not because it's a threat to SD's business,
but rather because according to the legal system screen scraping is stealing
someone else's IP.

Geoff's post was hilarious: "the list owners now recognize that scraping in
defiance of user agreements or web-site owners is illegal....  Isaac and
others do not ... want to be associated with it in any way. If they did 'it'
in the past, they no longer do, and regret having done so."  I believe that
as much as I believe Ted Haggard's declaration that he's been "cured" of the
desire to take it up the ass.

If the list owners are truly born again and are now cheerleaders for
protecting corporate IP, then what happened when I pointed out that just
pausing live tv is also stealing someone's IP since that's patented, and
ditto for displaying an EPG grid, and that if their real concern was being
totally legal and not stealing IP, then they should ban any and all
discussion about "stealing" *anybody* else's IP, and not only ban
discussions about stealing IP that would hurt SD's business model?
<Crickets chirping>  Nobody responded.  R.J.'s comment that the RIAA would
shut down Myth because of screen scraping is absurd.  First the RIAA has no
interest in Myth; they're about music downloads not TV:
http://www.riaa.org/physicalpiracy.php.  It's the MPAA that's battling
PVR's.  Regardless if they or anybody else wanted to use the legal system to
get MythTV shut down, it wouldn't be because of screen scraping guide data,
which is a gray area since Google and others do it anyway.  They would
attack Myth for using FFMPEG and not paying the license fee, or for
violating the patents of TiVo, Gemstar, Echostar, etc.  *Those* are much
more clear, black & white legal violations that are easy to enforce, and
that have already been proven in the judicial system.  Nobody is going to
sue Isaac because somebody posted to the myth list about screen scraping
since that's such a gray area with no clear boundaries because the data is
made public anyway and the user never actually signs a TOS agreement and
there is no precedent in the judicial system about the legality of screen
scraping.  Duh.  The ban of discussions about screen scraping is to protect
SD's revenue model, not to protect Myth from IP violations.

>> Phil: If you don't like the product, DON'T USE IT.

Myth was promoted from day 1 as being a "free" solution, and many of us
actively contributed to support it for that reason.  Now some myth devs want
to take our contributions and make it a for-profit venture that benefits
only a few, ban any discussions that might lead to it again being a "free
solution" and saying "If you don't like the product [now that it's not
free], DON'T USE IT."  You miss the whole point of the FOSS movement.  It's
about a mutual commitment.  We all make a pledge to contribute to keep it
free, and so when a few of the developers decide to pull the rug out and
make it a non-free solution, that's a violation of that trust, particularly
since it's clear they had options for keeping it free.

>> William: After all, if you cannot afford $5/month you should not be
building PVR systems, you probably should not even own a computer

It has nothing to do with the amount.  It's a black & white issue: is it a
free solution or not.  I don't care if it's 1 cent or 1 million dollars.  I
didn't get Myth because I couldn't afford TiVo's subscription.  The dollar
amount isn't the issue.  The issue is that it's not a free solution anymore
because the myth developers chose to partner with Tribune to turn it into a
commercial venture even though they had alternatives that would have kept it
free.  William, now you sound like Microsoft.  The OEM license for Windows
is only $20 or so.  So Bill Gates could borrow your words: "After all, if
you cannot afford [$20 for Windows] you should not ... even own a
computer."  It's not the dollar amount.  It's free vs. non-free.  And it's
the fact that the Myth/SD devs won't be honest and admit that it's a for
profit venture.  I have more respect for Bill Gates because at least he's
honest and doesn't try to hide the fact that he's in it to make a profit.

>> Greg: The SD crew is not  making any money on this. If any one of the
other Listings companies that were approached had said yes SD would never
have been formed.

Greg, do you want some of my swampland in Florida?  If that were true, then
why didn't they go for a sponsored alternative that would have kept SD free
and not required any effort on their part?  Why weren't any of us told
months ago that sponsors were willing to pay to keep DD free?  Duh.

As far as why I'm posting this, it's not to bash SD or Myth for going
commercial.  Whether you're for or against commercialization and
profiteering is an opinion, liberal vs conservative thinking, that's all
subjective opinions.  What is clear-cut and black & white is if the
community is honest and objective and acknowledges the fact that SD exists
for the purpose of generating a profit for Tribune and/or Myth devs, and
that if the Myth community said 'no' to SD and threatened to do screen
scraping, then the guide data would still be free like it was before, and
that attempts to ban discussion of screen scraping is to protect SD's
business and not because of a serious threat.  I'm not arguing that SD
should go away or that we should boycott it or that a free or sponsored
solution is better.  I'm not arguing for or against SD.  I'm only saying
that if you choose to support it you should do so because you made an
informed decision and not because you were conned and too dumb to realize
it, and that open discussion on the list shouldn't be censored to protect
SD's business.
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