Windows Media Center blocks TV Show recordings on request

Martin Brinkmann
May 19, 2008
Updated • Dec 16, 2012

The last days were filled with news that Windows Media Center users were not able to record several NBS TV shows including American Gladiators and Medium. Forums and websites were filled with speculations until an email from a Microsoft representative to clarified the issue.

According to that email Microsoft adheres to broadcast flags included in the video stream that limits the rights of the users on the receiving end. Windows Media Center users however will not be pleased to hear that software and hardware developers do not have any obligations to interpretate the broadcast flags at all but Microsoft apparently decided to side with the content distributors effectively turning against a part of their customer base.

EFF's Danny O'Brien commented on the issue in a blog post at the Electronic Frontier Foundation website. (unfortunately slashdotted right now): "They've imposed restrictions way beyond what the law requires. Customers need to know who Microsoft is listening to and how that affects their equipment. Right now, the only way customers know what Microsoft has agreed to is when the technology they've bought suddenly stops working. Microsoft needs to come clean and tell its customers what deals it has made.'"

It is still unclear if NBC set the broadcast flag to test the waters or if it was an accident that was not supposed to be happening. The most interesting information of the whole incident is the fact that Windows Media Center follows the broadcast flags, that content distributors can regulate what viewers may or may not do with the content stream and that old hardware that was produced before hardware had to be broadcast-flag compliant was not affected at all.


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  1. nonW00t said on February 16, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Goodbye, WMC. Like everything other ms app, time for a replacement. lol

  2. Nick said on May 20, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    NBC programming is garbage anyway. As I’ve been saying my next computer is a Mac.

  3. neill said on May 20, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    don’t you just love your old analog tivo and SVHS? could do whatever you wanted!
    after they tried to stop skipping … now this
    someone will come up with a hack to disable the flag

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