"MY SKY" not your SKY after all
The recent failure of the SKY satellite had another surprise for thousands of new “MY SKY” digital video recorder customers.
30 March 2006
“MY SKY” is the new digital video recorder sold by Sky that allows its subscribers to theoretically view Sky programs whenever they want, and has been widely promoted recently by SKY TV.
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When the MY SKY customers found that normal Sky TV broadcasts were unavailable due to the recent satellite malfunction, they reached for their remotes to play back other programs recorded earlier.
That is when they got the second nasty surprise. Their previously recorded programs started to play back but would then suddenly freeze with a message over the picture which said:
“No satellite signal is being received. Sky PDR requires a signal to be able to play back programs.”
So not only could they not watch the normal programming during the satellite blackout, they found that their playback equipment was crippled and reliant on an incoming SKY TV signal.
No satellite …no playback!
Industry experts are surprised that SKY has apparently made the MY SKY machine playback dependent upon a SKY broadcast signal, saying that there cannot be any reason for this other than for SKY to try to control the viewing of its subscribers. This appears to be contrary to SKY’s position that it allows viewers control over their entertainment.
Although suspicians are aroused, the exact cause of the playback problem is still unknown. Certainly there is no technical reason as to why any modern digital recorder should be tethered to a broadcast signal in order for it to operate in playback mode.
One school of thought is that Sky has built in a type of DRM (Digital Rights Management) that allows SKY complete control over what you watch and when. Certainly, this is the type of control that the makers of the new generation of DVD players, such as Blu-Ray and HD DVD are planning. They want to be able to update the DVD players with new restrictive software regularly, and even disable completely any player that plays an unauthorized copied disk. It remains to be seen if consumers will accept these types of controls or if they will simply avoid this new technology.
The current problem where MY SKY customers could no longer use their SKY video recorders even to play back programs highlights the potentially serious issues that can arise when complex DRM systems go wrong. Certainly it was a lesson Sony had recently with its “root-kit” DRM system built into audio CDs that resulted in a massive consumer backlash and law suits.