November 19, 2004
6:54 PM   Subscribe

Do you like fast-forwarding through commercials on a television program you’ve recorded? How much do you like it? Enough to go to jail if you’re caught doing it? If a new copyright and intellectual property omnibus bill sitting on Congress’s desk passes, that may be the choice you'll face. Let's hope this legislation goes lame duck like this session of Congress.
posted by hockeyman (46 comments total)
So I can still fast forward through something if I find it "offensive," right? I find advertisements offensive. Put that in your pipe and shove it up your ass, "intellectual property industry."
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:17 PM on November 19, 2004

Who are these people? I mean what's next? Fines for failing to have and attend to a television?
posted by idest at 7:30 PM on November 19, 2004

So would this law be like the international law enforced by Interpol regarding the unauthorized duplication of home videos? Or prosecution under the full extent of the law by Major League baseball if one were to rebroadcast a game without their express written consent? I think it actually most resembles the federal law expressly forbidding the removal of mattress tags. No need for the blown gasket, Charlie.
posted by loquax at 7:42 PM on November 19, 2004

Coming up soon, legislation by Fritz "Senator Disney" Hollings requiring you to watch 2-3 hours of TV every day.
posted by clevershark at 7:45 PM on November 19, 2004

I'm loving all this great post-election loopiness. Fast forwarding made illegal, suggestions that porn might be something dangerous that Congress should study and, of course, the NPS's new creationist texts regarding the Grand Canyon. What a goofy country!
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:47 PM on November 19, 2004

What's next?
Death penalty for watching porn in slow motion.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:53 PM on November 19, 2004

weapons-grade wins
posted by rooftop secrets at 8:09 PM on November 19, 2004

The Max Headroom show took place in the near future when it was illegal to possess a tv with an off button... seemed so absurd at the time.
posted by bobo123 at 8:37 PM on November 19, 2004

I think it actually most resembles the federal law expressly forbidding the removal of mattress tags.

You do realize that what will happen is you'll be technologically prevented from fast-forwarding or skipping advertisements on a DVD, HDTV signal/flag, etc.? Or, like TiVo, they'll show you ads while you're fast-forwarding anyway.... And on top of that anyone who somehow circumvents the restrictions will be technically breaking the law (they'll then go after any now "illegal" hardware/software that enables you to do this).

If they're really going to force this crap, they ought to offer you the TiVo service or DVD for free really! Then there's a trade-off.
posted by bdragon at 8:59 PM on November 19, 2004

I wonder if the government will come to where we live and glue the fast forward button so that we can't press it anymore. Like what North Korea does so that they only get one radio station.
posted by Arch Stanton at 9:58 PM on November 19, 2004

Yeah. That's enforceable.
posted by ticopelp at 10:15 PM on November 19, 2004

"Who are these people?" - call this legislation the bastard offspring of corporate funded free market ideologues and the Religious Right.
posted by troutfishing at 10:24 PM on November 19, 2004

Yeah, why worry about terrorists when we have people in this country fast forwarding through carefully constructed and expensive advertising?

Thank goodness the government has its priorities straight.
posted by fenriq at 10:39 PM on November 19, 2004

bobo123: But if I recall, in Max Headroom people were required to fast-forward through their commercials, so to speak...
posted by neckro23 at 11:09 PM on November 19, 2004

I can't figure out why this industry is actively trying to convince me to give up completely on DVDs and just download all my movies.
posted by Sir Mildred Pierce at 11:12 PM on November 19, 2004

Sir Mildred Pierce: I'm not sure, but they're doing a damned fine job of it. It's making moving to Russia (Land of the Pirated DVD) sound like an excellent idea.
posted by Plinko at 11:48 PM on November 19, 2004

Here's the text of the bill; section 112 contains the referenced material. This summary from Tech Law Journal give a pretty easily digested overview of the antics leading to the language in question.

Basically, it seems that this whole section of the bill was originally constructed to explicitly protect those companies that make and market altered, "family-safe" versions of films by cutting out "objectionable" scenes. But foreseeing other consequences, the addition of language prohibiting cutting advertisements was added.

Potential effects are definitely chilling; besides technically making it illegal to fast-forward through ads, etc., imagine a scenario in which your local video/dvd store sold only the legally protected "cleaned up" versions of films due to pressure applied by certain groups or even, perhaps, local obscenity laws.
posted by taz at 12:26 AM on November 20, 2004

Regarding video/dvd stores selling only "cleaned up" versions of films, isn't that standard practice at Blockbuster already?
posted by nightchrome at 1:08 AM on November 20, 2004

This is probably just an exaggerated claim made in order to grab your attention and get you interested in reading the article. Surely no one in congress is talking about sending you to jail for something so trivial as fast forwarding through a commercial.
posted by meh at 1:55 AM on November 20, 2004

"no changes, deletions or additions are made by such computer program or other technology to commercial advertisements, or to network or station promotional announcements, that would otherwise be performed or displayed before, during or after the performance of the motion picture."

What if your TiVo records a movie but doesn't record the station ads before and after the movie? You see, it gets tricksy.
posted by taz at 2:07 AM on November 20, 2004

meh, you have to entertain extreme possibilities. I remember a quote from LBJ:

>When considering passing a law, one must not only consider the good it will do if applied correctly, but the harm it will cause if misapplied.

And just like the secondary effects of drugs, laws have "other" consequences, too.
posted by gsb at 2:54 AM on November 20, 2004

--->And just like the secondary effects of drugs, laws have "other" consequences, too.

I see your point. Reminds me of The Corporation, a documentary I saw recently, which argued that one of the secondary effects of the 14th ammendment was to cause corporations to be treated as "persons," (a legal loophole?) thus paving the way for a whole new kind of being. (The movie further argues that this being, if human, would be considered psychopathic.)
posted by meh at 3:12 AM on November 20, 2004

"no changes, deletions or additions are made by such computer program or other technology to commercial advertisements,"

I can at least understand the point of this bit, if it's to protect against some of the problems people have with Google Ad Words. Say Tivo sell pop-up context based ads, and company X puts the highest bid for their ad to appear when "Cola" is mentioned.

I'd be pretty pissed if I spent thousands of pounds to place an ad at a prime time, and then some Tivo like system popped, or even replaced, rival ads over the top, for a fraction of the price.

All the problems we have with ads and hijacks on the internet now, will be on video, DVD etc. in the near future.

Looks like they've least a little and are trying to legislate before the events happen. Just a shame you cant have beta tests on laws.
posted by ModestyBCatt at 3:19 AM on November 20, 2004

I'm with Sir Mildred Pierce.

I've found that if I've missed a show, a little research online and I can find someone's TiVo capture, sans ads, within a couple of hours of broadcast. Not too shabby. This isn't universal, but pretty damned widespread.

"Surely no one in congress is talking about sending you to jail for something so trivial as fast forwarding through a commercial."

You know, while maybe they don't expect to send legions of violators to jail, they probably DO expect campaign contributions from the companies whose interests they're serving. And hey, as Jiuliani showed in NYC, it doesn't hurt to have yet another reason to legally detain someone.
posted by Busithoth at 5:53 AM on November 20, 2004

So how long will it be before pop-up blocker software is illegal? Why would that be any different?

This absurdity adds more proof to my contention that Congress shouldn't be allowed to legislate anything concerning technology without wide scale competency testing.

Maybe Microsoft could come up with a Certification test...
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:55 AM on November 20, 2004

Coming up soon, legislation by Fritz "Senator Disney" Hollings requiring you to watch 2-3 hours of TV every day.

But why would he legislate for a lower average # of TV viewing hours?

(N.B.: "The indoctrination will be televised...")
posted by fairmettle at 6:33 AM on November 20, 2004

I can see it now, a guy in jail for fastforwarding through a Verizon ad sharing a cell with a guy that taped baseball without the express written consent of Major League Baseball.

Yeah, I know, they're not going to be sending anybody to the bighouse JUST for skipping through the commercials, but they'll end up using it nail somebody when another technicality doesn't stick.

I can see it being used to bust somebody that, say, doesn't share the same political views you do. On lunch at work he brings in a tape of a TV piece that opposes your political views and a few people watch it. If the company has no policy against watching a video on lunch and the first amendment still protects your right to free speech, there's now this option of copyright violation to hit you with if you skipped through the commercials. It just seems like a bad precedent to start. Are you allowed to TALK during the commercials? What if I'm using a DIFFERENT glass cleaner when the Windex commercial comes on?
posted by HifiToaster at 6:42 AM on November 20, 2004


Ah well, the majority of the television I watch is downloaded already due to the fact that the commercials are edited out.

I know it's bad, but it has got to the point where I can't watch regular television. The commercials really distract me from the actual content of whatever I'm trying to watch and I find it a very unpleasant experience.

Bravo, Showtime, PBS, and TVO have got it right. It's too bad that their formats have never caught on with other networks.
posted by purephase at 6:44 AM on November 20, 2004

I think bdragon hit it on the head. They aren't going to come into your home and take away the FF button, but they will make it illegal to create new devices that allow you to do so. One existing step in this direction is the broadcast flag that will make it illegal to record or time shift certain shows (at the broadcaster's discretion). Another example is the continued harrassment of ReplayTV that forced them to remove their commercial skip feature.

"They" know that if they enact sweeping, draconian reforms that cripple VCRs that people will get angry. However, if they just gradually erode such features in new products, they can eventually get to the same place without public rancor.
posted by bhorling at 7:26 AM on November 20, 2004

In a statement last month, Senator John McCain stated his opposition to this bill, and specifically cited the anti-commercial skipping feature: “Americans have been recording TV shows and fast-forwarding through commercials for 30 years,” he said. “Do we really expect to throw people in jail in 2004 for behavior they’ve been engaged in for more than a quarter century?”

This made me laugh. Has the man never heard of prohibition? Does he not know that people were using opium and smoking marijuana for decades before it became outlawed? And what of abortion? In the event of it becoming illegal in this country, is Senator McCain going to stand up and use this same argument?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:43 AM on November 20, 2004

Thinking about this some more, fine. If they want to make it harder to watch tv the way I want to then I will just watch less and less of the stupid box.

And then I'll really twist the screws on those bastard advertisers (bastardizers?) by going for a walk in the woods where are no ads. Ha, that'll teach them to try and force me to be influenced by their ads.

On Preview: SLoG (which is a waay cooler short name than PP for Paris!). I used to think McCain still had some teeth in him but he's just like that old dog with a bum hip who shows his teeth but is too damned tired to get up and walk all the way over to you to bite you. I feel more pity for McCain than anything else, four years of public emasculation didn't help.
posted by fenriq at 7:48 AM on November 20, 2004

True to most congressional legislation, this one should pass right about the time it's become a moot point. Product placement in movies, television shows and even books will replace commercials - as we know them - within the next 10-15yrs. Most PR firms now accept the data that "conventional" advertising doesn't return the investment. Yes, there is always a case here or there that bucks the system but on the whole, advertising as we know it, is simply not profitable. The majority of internet sites that survived the boom of the 90's, survived from good PR, not advertising. The ones that put all their eggs in the 'advertising' basket, failed.

So now they'll have to draft legislation to eliminate the fast-forward button. Of course, that means you'll have to eliminate the back button too, a can of coke is a can of coke even in reverse.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:24 AM on November 20, 2004

This got discussed to death on slashdot as well -- as can be imagined -- and from what I've been able to see about it, my interpretation is that the wording is directed not at manual skipping of commercials via time-shifting, but rather at automatic devices like TiVos that do the dirty job without human invervention.

Which is, of course, also a steaming pile of bull hooey, but it's not quite that bad.
posted by ChrisR at 8:56 AM on November 20, 2004

...ynomrah tcefrep ni ,gnis ot dlrow eht hcaet ot ekil d'I
posted by Balisong at 8:57 AM on November 20, 2004

I'd like to fast-forward reality sometimes...and understand Balisong better, er, I mean retteb
posted by alteredcarbon at 11:03 AM on November 20, 2004

But even Tivo doesn't violate any laws. It's just a simple, automated way to do something most people with VCR's have been doing for years.

And this is going to be moot anyway given the rise of pop-up ads in programming. Eventually, there will be no difference between the programming you see and the commercial breaks.
posted by E_B_A at 11:33 AM on November 20, 2004

like TiVo, they'll show you ads while you're fast-forwarding anyway

Tivo is over-rated. Tme and again Tivo has deonstrated that when the TV or Movie companies say "Jump!" it says "How high?" and screws its users, removing or constraining functionality willy nilly.

My ReplayTV analyzes the record stream and tag the chunks with "content" and "advert" blocks. It then automatically jumps past adverts requiring no user input or remote control fiddling. And it lets me share tens of thousands of shows with other ReplayTV users over the Internet using Poopli. Over the years ReplayTV has lost some functionality, but usually only after losing court cases. Its legal battling is probably the main reason its market share is tiny next to Tivo... for an reasonable comparison for Tivo/ReplayTV think of Microsoft/Apple.

Sounds like this bill makes ReplayTV owners Public Enemy Number 1...
posted by meehawl at 12:27 PM on November 20, 2004

Remotes don't skip commercials, people do.
posted by mach at 1:28 PM on November 20, 2004

What happens if I leave the room during the commercials?
posted by feelinglistless at 2:27 PM on November 20, 2004

You do realize that what will happen is you'll be technologically prevented from fast-forwarding or skipping advertisements on a DVD, HDTV signal/flag, etc.?

They're already doing that. The Shrek2 DVD that we just got will not let you skip the vast amounts of advertising (5-10 minutes, it seems like) that happen before the fbi warning and the dvd menu. Very annoying. Especially when you have a toddler who wants to watch the movie *NOW*.

What happens if I leave the room during the commercials?

Citizen, you will please return to the viewing area until you have been dismissed.
posted by dejah420 at 5:23 PM on November 20, 2004

so now we're going to put "fast forward offenders" in an already overcrowded jail system?

posted by Hands of Manos at 7:02 PM on November 20, 2004

This is America.
posted by walrus at 7:14 PM on November 20, 2004

IANAL, and I didn't read the Slashdot discussion where I'm sure it was discussed in more depth, but, judging from:

the current US copyright law


the proposed changes

It wouldn't appear that skipping commercials, or enabling skipping abilities, would necessarily be made illegal. What the law basically says (I believe) is that, "You can edit a movie for replay, as long as you don't skip commercials". If the original contents are not altered, the law does not appear to apply. I'm sure that will be weaseled around, but, as it stands, this would affect companies like ClearPlay, which modify the playback of movies, but not companies like Tivo, which do not.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong though.
posted by Bugbread at 1:52 AM on November 21, 2004 [1 favorite]

I did a little reading and luckily, for now, both TiVo and RePlayTV are owned by independant companies that are not connected to any of the big programmers.

The same can't be said for XM Satellite Radio which is partly owned by Clear Channel.

I say that to say this:

Everyone is acting like RePlayTV and TiVo are alternatives to the problems of television BUT how long before one or both of these companies is purchased by, say, Viacom? Don't think it won't happen if this becomes a big enough problem with lost revenue.
posted by E_B_A at 7:45 AM on November 21, 2004

I'm not watching commercials or television right now because I'm on the computer, when does Viacom purchase Metafilter?

Do we get stock options?
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:08 PM on November 21, 2004

I didn't know Metafilter was leeching profits from a media conglomerate that might be interested in purchasing it.
posted by E_B_A at 3:23 PM on November 30, 2004

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