During Dish Network’s press conference at the International CES Monday, I saw a more likely future for TV on the go than the one promoted by Dyle and the Open Mobile Video Coalition. Those are the groups that think viewers will want to watch live TV when they are moving but not driving, not in an airplane, and not in a subway. As I’ve written before, that type of mobile video is a weak solution for a limited audience. On the other hand, Dish showed its answer for everybody on the go.

As part of its new Hopper with Sling receiver technology, Dish announced Hopper Transfers, a system where the receiver prepares and copies a DVR recording to a viewer’s iPad. Then that viewer can watch the show anywhere using that iPad, even on an airplane or in a subway.

Dish already provides TV Anywhere, so viewers with Sling-enabled receivers can watch live programming from smartphones and tablets through the internet, but there are some places the internet won’t reach. The answer there isn’t live TV in a few settings, it’s viewer-selected TV that’s available anywhere he has his iPad.

Todd Spangler wrote more about the press conference in his article at Multichannel News, so you should go read that for the most information about what happened. About the only thing he didn’t mention was that Dish said it will offer an over-the-air dongle for its Hopper with Sling receiver. Sorry I don’t have a picture of that dongle, but it looked like a USB stick, pretty close to the one I’m using to pick up a couple dozen OTA channels on my laptop here in Vegas. (2nd Update: The Dish booth confirmed the dongle is this one, released in late 2012.) My ViP 922 receiver back home uses an optional, modular piece that slides all the way in to a panel in the back of the unit. I wonder why Dish couldn’t make room for an internal OTA antenna in the receiver it hopes to use to differentiate its service from cable and DirecTV, and to keep viewers from cutting the cord. Even if it’s just the cord to the satellite dish.

You've been ownedYesterday, the US Copyright Office published updated rules governing what consumers can do with some of the stuff they “own”. (The Electronic Freedom Foundation has more details.) You might be surprised what’s illegal.

Want to rip your DVD to put on your iPad to watch during a flight? Illegal, even if you own the DVD and no one else watches it.

Want to modify your Kindle Fire to run non-Amazon applications? Illegal, even if it’s just to change the background image.

The good news is that now it’s officially okay to extract video snippets from a DVD for fair use in creating noncommercial works. And it’s still okay to jailbreak smartphones, just not tablets.

The bad news, albeit not strictly related, is that the US Supreme Court will soon decide whether it’s still legal for you to sell your stuff on eBay. You see, there’s a old, common-sense principle called the “First Sale Doctrine”. When you buy something new, you have to pay (through the supply chain) royalties to the folks who created it. But after that first sale, you own that physical thing, whether it’s a book, a dress, or a DVD. You can use it as often as you want, give it to a friend, or sell it on eBay without anyone’s permission.

For what’s going on, let’s turn to Marvin Ammori’s article in The Atlantic.  “John Wiley & Sons, a textbook publisher, sells expensive versions of the textbooks here and less expensive versions abroad. Supap Kirtsaeng, a foreign graduate student at University of Southern California, decided to help pay for his schooling by having relatives buy him copies of the foreign versions abroad, send them to him, whereupon he’d sell those books on eBay to willing students. He’d make money, the students would save money, but Wiley might have fewer sales of its pricey American versions.”

The problem is that some lower courts have held that such foreign-created works are not bound by the first-sale doctrine. And there are a whole lot of things for sale in the US that were made elsewhere – those iPads, for instance. If it meant keeping control of secondary sales, companies might manufacture even more of their stuff overseas.

Some folks hate the idea of seeing their work freely resold. Almost 20 years ago, Garth Brooks withheld his new CDs from any store that sold used copies for that very reason. The big copyright holders would love to get another excuse to squeeze more cash from consumers.

In this ever-shrinking world, the notion of artificially raising prices in one region while selling for less elsewhere just seems silly. I don’t know if it’ll do any good, but the populist group Demand Progress is planning a day of action for Monday, October 28. You can find out more information at YouveBeenOwned.org. Maybe if enough citizens let their government know what’s right, they’ll do the right thing. Maybe.

Voom logoIn a modern-day clash of titans, the 4-year-old lawsuit between Voom HD and Dish Network has reached a trial, which started today. Billionaire cable pioneer Charles Dolan will face off against billionaire satellite pioneer Charles Ergen in a case to be decided by a jury of their peers.

Dish abruptly dumped the Voom channels in May 2008, claiming that Voom hadn’t spent enough on its programming, as its contract with Dish had required. (As a Voom viewer, I can say that during its last year, Voom’s shows seemed to be about 90% repeats.) In today’s trial, “Cablevision attorney Orin Snyder said Dish was ‘hell-bent’ on getting out of a contract covering a high definition channel package offered by Voom HD,” according to a Reuters article.

The trial is expected to last for several weeks. You might want to check Google News to find some sources who will be covering this. Sounds like it’ll be fun, and it might even be enlightening.

Update: After a train wreck of a trial, with Ergen apparently next up on the witness list, Dish settled by giving Cablevision $700 million and agreeing to carry the AMC channels.

Home screen - SuomiTV iPadThis year, one full meme’s worth of internet buzz has been TV Everywhere (which may or may not be a trademark of Dish Network). It’s a simple idea, that a viewer should be able to watch any video content on any device, assuming that he makes the right payments to the people who bring it to him. TV wants to be free, y’know?

Unfortunately, a couple of news stories from Friday indicate that the TV delivery infrastructure is running away from the online video streaming of TV Everywhere.

John Eggerton, the hardest working man in Washington, wrote in a story for Multichannel News that the FCC may allow its ban on system-specific programming to expire. That’s the rule that requires every network to offer itself to all multi-channel video providers. For example, Comcast must offer its regional SportsNet programming to other providers, such as Dish.

According to that story, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski circulated an order that would decline to renew that restriction when it expires at the end of 2012.

Separately, the Chicago Tribune ran a Bloomberg News story about a possible internet-based TV provider with an unlikely background. Dish CEO Joseph Clayton said that Dish would start such a service if only it could get the network programmers on board.

“There’s no question there’s a group of consumers, mostly around age 18 to 28, that aren’t going to watch 250 channels of TV, pay $100 a month and watch it on a 60-inch flat-panel display,” Clayton said. “Maybe they’ll spend $20 – maybe less, maybe a little more – for a lot less channels and watch them on their iPhone, their tablet and their PC.”

The trouble is that the six corporations who control almost all major TV content don’t want to unbundle their channels to let streamers pick and choose what they want to watch. And they probably aren’t willing to accept the smaller return they’d get through those cheaper IP-based subscriptions.

Those two articles paint a bleak picture for the immediate future of IP-based TV viewing. If the Big Six won’t cut streaming deals with Dish, a huge customer that already has working relationships with them, what chance would the next internet start-up have? And if the Big Six is free to withhold their programming from absolutely anyone, how will viewers find everything they want in one application?

“(T)he public wants fresh meat and the public is never wrong.” That’s what John Goodman’s character said about talkies in The Artist, and it’s true for IP-based TV now. Movie studios in the 1920s recognized and embraced the new direction. Eventually, the Big Six will also come around. The public is never wrong.

Dyle screenshotThere’s an old fable about a dog lying in a manger. The dog can’t eat the hay in the manger, but it blocks the horse from eating. The moral: People frequently begrudge something to others that they themselves cannot enjoy.

So we turn our attention to Dyle, the latest flavor of mobile digital TV. As a service, it’s a dog. It uses TV station bandwidth to send a signal that only Dyle-approved devices can receive, and requires each device to be registered online to work. It’s using free bandwidth, but it only promises to remain free to viewers (which it ominously calls “subscribers”) through the end of 2012.

The problem Dyle purportedly solves is viewing live digital TV while moving, as in a car or train. Based on the FAQs, it might not work inside buildings, so I’m guessing that subways are out. It won’t work in airplane mode, so that leaves flyers out. You wouldn’t watch it while driving. So that leaves passengers on buses, cars, and trains, if they can pick up a signal inside one of those things.

Other reports such as this old Washington Post story suggest another reason for Dyle’s existence: To justify retaining bandwidth instead of letting the FCC hand it to cell phone companies to improve internet access. Or if broadcasters ever have to sell it, to improve that real estate so it isn’t a vacant lot. By creating a competitor to IP-based mobile video, broadcasters have built an plausible alternative to handing over that bandwidth.

Any new service is going to have a chicken-egg problem, but Dyle has few chickens or eggs. Despite some proof-of-concept standalone devices, mobile TV needs to be on the smartphone that’s already in the viewer’s pocket. But it was only last month that Dyle was finally able to announce the first Dyle-compatible phone, which uses MetroPCS service. (I don’t think the major cell companies are going to rush to embrace the technology that will help the FCC deny them bandwidth.) And stations? Dyle has exactly one in Colorado. And that’s one more than in at least 10 other states. In Washington DC, where you’d think they’d be showing it off to FCC staffers, Dyle has five stations. A cornucopia of entertainment it ain’t.

I have zero knowledge of Dyle’s internal decision-making, and I’ve been wrong before, but I see Dyle as a service that takes away free publicly licensed TV bandwidth that could have been used for more digital sub-channels such as MeTV and Antenna, and then spoons it out to the few “subscribers” who might actually use it. I don’t mind setting aside a little room for broadcast mobile TV, but Dyle is a dog.