March 20, 2018

Archives for November 2004

TiVo to Display Fast-Forward Banner Ads

TiVo has announced that it will overlay banner ads on viewers’ TV screens when they fast-forward while replaying recorded shows. Many commentators (such as Cory Doctorow) have criticized this move, though Kevin Werbach says it’s no big deal.

As a TiVo user, I’m not sure what to think about this. I would be happier if TiVo didn’t do it, but I’m not surprised that they’re trying to sell the ad space available to them.

There are actually two reasons I want to skip ads. First, I don’t want to wait around while the ad is on. Second I sometimes don’t want to see the ad content at all. (This is especially likely if there are kids around.) If TiVo’s new ads are only shown while I’m fast-forwarding anyway, then they won’t make me wait any longer than I would without the new ads. But they’ll still push the banner ads in my face, which might be annoying, depending on the nature of the ads.

I wonder, though, whether TiVo isn’t interfering with its customers’ viewing more than it thinks. Savvy TiVo users who are sports fans know that there’s a lot of dead time in televised games, even beyond the ads. For instance, fast-forwarding between batters of a baseball game (and between pitches if the pitcher is slow or the batter steps out of the batter’s box) can cut the viewing time for a game in half. Things are still happening during those periods, but they’re perfectly visible on fast-forward. If TiVo starts slapping banner ads over parts of the screen during these periods, this will interfere with the viewing experience.

The biggest question, I think, is whether the introduction of these ads is a single step, or the first step in a systematic redesign of the TiVo interface. The latter would be a mistake. Many TiVo users (including me) have already paid for the service, having bought a TiVo recorder and a lifetime subscription to the service, and they won’t take kindly to any reduction in the quality of the service. And TiVo will face more competition in the future as MythTV gets closer to being consumer-ready.

Online Lecture

The video of my Princeton President’s Lecture, “Rip, Mix, Burn, Sue: Technology, Politics, and the Fight to Control Digital Media” is now online. The lecture, which lasts about an hour, is a layperson’s introduction to the technology/copyright wars. I gave it on October 12. The first six minutes of the video consists entirely of introductions, which can safely be skipped.

UPDATE (Nov. 22): This entry has been updated to point to a new page for the lecture, which includes a Creative Commons license for the lecture video, and will eventually link to the lecture in more formats.

Princeton offers a great set of lecture videos on the net.

Copyright, Copynorms, and Plagiarism

Malcolm Gladwell has an interesting piece in the Nov. 22 New Yorker, reflecting on the discovery that Frozen, a Broadway play, included language lifted from an earlier Gladwell article.

Equally interesting is the reaction of Dorothy Lewis, a New York psychologist who was the subject of Gladwell’s earlier article. One of the characters in Frozen is very similar to Lewis, to the point that Lewis’s friends and colleagues see the character as being Lewis. Lewis may or may not have a legal remedy, but she feels violated, especially since the character commits an indiscretion that Lewis herself did not.

And yet the public outcry over Lavery’s copying, such as it is, points to the copying of wording, rather than any of the other copying that occurred. Why? Gladwell’s exploration of this question is worth reading.

Gladwell correctly separates questions of copyright law from those of plagiarism.
Perhaps this is what distinguishes his view from the conventional wisdom that he describes and then ultimately rejects.

Little by little, the legal rules of copyright are infecting our understanding of plagiarism. Kids, who used to be taught that certain kinds of copying are wrong, or at least disapproved by adults, are now taught about copyright instead. Last year a third-grader told me that it’s wrong to copy a friend’s homework, because the homework is copyrighted.

Adults make the same mistake too. High-profile plagiarism accusations usually point to textual similarities, as if the underlying sin could have been blotted out by a bit of rewording.

This is a shame. Our plagiarism norms exist for a good reason. Intellectual life is about more than copyright.

[link credit: Joe Gratz]