CableCARD Recordings On Zune? Why The Answer Is No

Vista: no
CableCARD streaming to other PCs (Ars Technica)
| Ars Technica has a
summery of last weeks No
Streaming CableCARD Content to Other Windows PC’s
, and questions the
ability to transfer content to portable device…

Quote:  It’s
hard to believe that Microsoft wouldn’t enable this at least for the Zune
(which currently has no way to transfer video back off the device, making it
“safe” for content owners), but it’s not clear exactly which parties
are behind which restrictions.”

While this is true from the basic consumer use standpoint,
it’s not hard to get anything off a Portable
Media Center
(and I assume Zune too).  Taking for
example the Creative
Zen Portable
Media Center,
which I have personally taken apart, the data on the device is not secured in
any manor.  The hard drive used in the
Creative Portable Media Center is an Hitachi Travelstar, and mixed with a
simple IDE to USB adapter you can access it directly from Windows.  Its FAT32 formatted, and the files are
unencrypted (though the organization method of Windows Mobile on the devices
leaves a lot to be desired, relaying on ASF meta data, but this has nothing to do with CableCARD)

So, despite the fact that the Zune/Portable Media Center’s
can’t re-copy content back over to Windows doesn’t mean the data is
secure!  It’s going to take a lot more
than the software on the PC not allowing you to, it’s got to stay secure on media
too.

If you take a look at anything related to CableCARD, part of the deal is the data must stay protected throughout it’s existence.  I don’t know all of the reasoning behind not allowing CableCARD content onto portable devices, but there are generally loads of regulations about unsecured hardware and hardware which could allow sniffing on any bus.

I’m hoping CableLabs and Microsoft will be able to work something out using WMDRM to secure the data on the device.  However, with Zune supporting whatever new DRM method they are, I don’t know if it supports WMDRM10 for example (anyone know what DRM technologies are support on Zune, please let me know).

The other concept that might work in the future is streaming to the Zune since it has built-in WiFi.  Streaming is a good option for in-home viewing, and I would bet easier to secure too.

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16 thoughts on “CableCARD Recordings On Zune? Why The Answer Is No

  1. Alternative titles:
    How to rollover for the IP owners

    How to help IP owner try to ass rape

    consumers by buying things multiple times

    Ways to let the free market properly value your offering as crap

    Apple chuckles all the way to the bank

    How cable card labs needs to be burned to the ground

  2. So in the meantime people will download every show using BitTorrent, coupled with an automatic Divx-WMV transcoding service.

    This is the kind of thing that gets the anti-DRM people all fired up, and I don’t blame them. Also, by unnecessarily limiting the Zune this way, they’re indirectly promoting piracy.

    On a related note, I finally went to Circuit City with intentions of purchasing the Zune. Long story short: fantastic screen but way too thick. I wasn’t as impressed as everyone else at the physical look-and-feel. The UI was very nice, but also a tad bit underpowered (animations seemed just a little too slow). I decided against buying it.

    I could probably get past the these limitations if the thing had a strong MCE integration and better use of wireless. So maybe I’ll buy one later after we get a taste of what MSFT will offer via firmware. But I do plan on using CableCARD, so it’s not looking good!

  3. “If you take a look at anything related to CableCARD, part of the deal is the data must stay protected throughout it’s existence.”

    And by insisting on that, they are killing the product.

    If their goal is to kill piracy, these morons have to understand that the only way to do that is to provide a better service.

  4. I have seen mention that Zune is using WMDRM 9.1.

    I would HOPE that Cable/CableCard & Microsoft can agree to allow it if content is transcoded to a lower resolution (320×200), honor broadcast flags and have limited playback duration between resyncing. Basically, you won’t be able to watch HBO because of their broadcast flag restrictions but you can take along perhaps DISCOVERY recordings. And to address the HBO,STARS,SHOWTIME gap, Microsoft probably should offer a movie download service. At least in my judgement, that would be fair way to do.

    I have been writing on Zune boards for the past two weeks promoting the idea that would add Media Extender capability to Zune. I think if Microsoft/Zune team is smart, they will do it. Heck I would buy 3 or 4 Zunes & Docking Stations just to connect all our TVs in the house to Media Center. And as you suggest, it would be very cool to walk around the house watching live TV. That would in one swipe, take care of what LocationFreeTV, SlingMedia, Sonos and iPod/MP3 largely offer. This is the kind of functionality that wins hearts & mines.

  5. …continued, I forgot to mention. Microsoft/Zune shouldn’t be afraid to develop their own Media Extender (other than 360) and stomp into some of their partner territory. From my perspective, LinkSys&HP haven’t been exactly loyal in supporting it. I mean the 1st generation extenders have been cancelled more than a year or two ago. I’ve heard rumors about V2 Extenders earlier this year but haven’t see anything. So to guarantee Media Center viability, Microsoft NEEDS to have its own offering.

    Zune w/Media Extender Capabilities Please!!!

  6. so who are the “morons”?
    1. The media companies?
    2. The owners of the material?
    3. The technical companies?
    4. The users?
    5. Others?

    There are no “morons” in this situation; there is just people trying to do “their job.”

    As a lifelong developer of software, I want my inventions protected and yet there is no way to make this happen. I see many of the things in products I worked on first, showing up in other products, including Microsoft products.

    I would like to have better protection, but with each layer of protection we get a whole set of new problems.

  7. “There are no “morons” in this situation; there is just people trying to do “their job.” ”

    The “morons” would be the developers who seem incapable of devising a solution, as well as the executives who are incapable of diplomatically negotiating agreements with the media companies for their content.

  8. “There are no “morons” in this situation”

    The ‘morons’ in this situation would be Cablelabs and the media companies that are likely pulling their strings. By demanding ‘protection’ (which ironically is unlikely to stop copies from showing up on P2P networks), they are limiting the functionality and value of their products to the average consumer. Which in turn makes P2P a more compelling alternative for their potential customers.

    This should be so blindingly obvious that it is hard to label those that don’t understand it as anything but morons.

    “As a lifelong developer of software, I want my inventions protected and yet there is no way to make this happen.”

    That’s as far as I can see an unrelated issue. You wish software patent protection? Or design mark protection of UI features? Those are double edged swords that will be used more efficiently by large companies, in effect putting the average small developer on an even weaker footing.

  9. I don’t buy this explanation, but it could be due to my misunderstanding.

    I thought that the Media Center/WMP would automatically reformat the video before/during the transfer to the device, as it does with videos transferred to my phone.

    SURELY you aren’t telling me that you would transfer a full-res HD recording to a Zune.

    If the videos are downsized, then the excuse given doesn’t make sense. If the videos would not be downsized, would they even work on the Zune?

  10. Downresed content doesn’t make it okay to transfer. The content must be secure, full resolution or not.

    But yes, they would have the downres the content before putting on any portable device. This of course, in addition to it saying secure brings up another point, and that’s making a second copy of content that in some cases is only permitted for a single copy.

    Lots of things going on here, I was just addressing the “secure” portable device quote, which the Zune is not.

  11. The reason given still makes sense to the media companies that own the content. Whether you transfer the full-HD version or a low-rez version of a recorded episode of The Sopranos to your Zune, there would still be a vulnerable episode on the unsecure Zune. It could then quickly become lost revenue to the DVD box-set department at HBO.

  12. so if I record Aqua Teen Hunger Force via the normal tuner on my MCE and transfer that to a portable MC, that is okay. But if I have a CableCARD-equipped MCE, that is no longer allowed?

    This still doesn’t make sense to me.

    Is it due to the device in Question being a Zune? If it were a Creative Portable Media Center, would that be a “secure” device? My phone(!) is secure enough to work with PlaysForSure (some the Zune doesn’t do), so maybe this is just another failure of the Zune?

  13. Correct on the analog recording vs. CableCARD recording.

    The issue right now is not the devices, it’s that CableLabs flat-out says you can’t do it. CableLabs rules and regulations are basically set by the content providers (“Hollywood”, in effect). CableLabs takes these rules and regulations and develops hardware/software technologies to allow the content to stay protected as deemed by the content providers.

    The device being secure will only come into play once, or rather if, CableLabs (collectivity with “Hollywood”) and Microsoft can agree on a system that would allow transfer of this protected content to portable devices. A lot of work has to happen for this to get off the ground, and it all starts with “Hollywood” opening up to consumer’s uses of technology.

    Once CableLabs/”Hollywood” can agree that taking these recordings on portable devices is “Okay” then CableLabs and Microsoft can work together to provide a solution for it to happen.

    It’s not a failure of Zune (or any other portable media player). Zune was my explain as it is Microsoft’s new player.

    Wrapping the recordings on WMDRM (aka PlaysForSure) would be the first step to getting this to work as it does protect the content. However, Microsoft just can’t say “Let’s do it” without the consent of CableLabs/”Hollywood”.

  14. “CableLabs takes these rules and regulations and develops hardware/software technologies to allow the content to stay protected as deemed by the content providers.”

    The irony here is that this ‘protection’ will do little to stop copies from showing up on P2P networks. If the goal of DRM is to stop P2P, then it is a resounding failure so far.

    If the goal of DRM is to limit the functionality of the devices available to the average consumer, it is however a success.

    What I don’t get is why the media companies believe they can combat piracy by limiting the value and functionality of the services they sell to their paying customers. That’s going to perpetuate piracy, not limit it.

    “Microsoft just can’t say “Let’s do it” without the consent of CableLabs/”Hollywood”.”

    Did Sony ask “Hollywood” for permission before they made the Betamax? Did the cable TV industry ask for permission? Did the Compact Cassette manufacturers?

    In the old days, you could count on consumer electronics manufacturers to be on the side of consumers by bringing new technology to market – and even fight all the way to the US supreme court for their right to do so. Today, it seems like most technology that isn’t “Hollywood”-preapproved gets the axe.

    I don’t expect Microsoft to grow a set, but it sure would be nice if they did.

  15. “DRM” will always be a failure, we all know this. Rather the content owners believe it or not is your guess.

    The great thing about Sony is that they are Hollywood. 🙂 Sony owns the rights to over 4,000 films. The own Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Television Group, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures Studios, MGM, and much much more.

    As to everything you are saying, I agree 100%. I’m just stating what’s actually going on behind the scenes.

    The DMCA left a lot to be desired about companies just bepassing existing copy protection methods (remember, CableLabs and CableCARD are nothing new). Despite what people think about Microsoft having billions behind them to fight any battle, there is a limit to what money can actually do. The limit is there, and all you can do is attempt to work with these companies to gain there trust, to make sure they know that the content can stay protected and yet still move around.

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