Published at safelyignored.com.

While I’ve been busy working in other markets, Boxee released their Cloud DVR in the US, which is basically a Tivo that uses network storage rather than a hard drive.

I’m puzzled about the legal status of this. The networks have established case law such that it’s illegal to receive OTA content and stream it online, but it’s legal to record for your own use.

This is why SimpleTV insist you host the server, and Aereo has to resort to crazy one-antenna-per-stream games.

So if you set up a Tivo so others can access it, you’re breaking the law. But as long as you don’t share, it’s okay. On the surface, Boxee TV is just a DVR without a hard drive, clearly in the latter (and permissible) camp.

But in order to scale this, they must be compressing across accounts. So when Jake and Ilan both record The Bachelor, the “cloud” notices the content is the same and only stores it once. This is how Dropbox works.

(Well, Dropbox has to find exact matches. Boxee can get away with “close enough” so Jake’s bad reception doesn’t lead to separate storage.)

Maybe Boxee has found a technical solution (some way to scale with clear partitions between users’ data) or maybe they’ve found a legal workaround. Either way, I’d love to know what they’re up to.