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TiVo and JVC copy-protection follow-up

Last fall, we encountered problems when connecting the TiVo Series3 DVR to a JVC A/V receiver. Now, both companies have followed up on the problem.

JVC/TiVo testing schematic
JVC engineers failed to duplicate the glitch

There's still no word on whether the TiVo Series3 will be seeing a price cut in the near future. But in the meantime, it's worth visiting an issue that cropped up during our testing of the box back in the fall of 2006. At that time, we noticed that the Series3 analog-video outputs exhibited some strange behavior when connected to JVC A/V receivers via HDMI--essentially, the composite and S-video outputs wouldn't work when playing back recordings that were flagged as "restricted" by the content provider.

Both TiVo and JVC have since followed up on the issue, but neither was able to duplicate the problem as experienced by CNET. A TiVo representative suggested that the copy-protection flag was inserted by the local cable company (the New York City Time Warner Cable franchise). That's why, the rep theorized, neither TiVo nor JVC could recreate the problem when recording the exact same programs from the same channels elsewhere in the country (neither company is located in New York).

It's also worth noting that Macrovision--which we originally identified as a possible culprit in the JVC problem--has nothing to do with the digital copy protection on the Series3. To clarify the issue, TiVo has long since updated its online support documents, separately listing the four levels of digital copy protection ("copy not restricted," "no further copying is permitted," "one generation copy is permitted," and "copying is prohibited").

For their part, JVC engineers even diagrammed their testing regimen, reproduced here:

We can't retest the problem ourselves because our Series3 review sample was returned to TiVo months ago. So, it is unknown whether the problem was due to a Time Warner, NYC-specific, copy-protection flag, or it was simply a temporary glitch that's been corrected by a subsequent software update to the TiVo. For all we know, it may still crop up in New York (or elsewhere) when and if the programs get flagged as such. I'm still peeved that such copy protection flags exist at all, but I applaud the engineers at TiVo and JVC for following up on the issue, and doing the best they could to get to the bottom of it.