License quibbles (aka Hiro & linux pt 2)

Since my last post regarding the conversion of media from Channel 9’s Catch Up service, I have been in discussion with the company behind this technology, Hiro-Media. My concerns were primarily around their use of the open source xvid media codec and whilst I am not a contributor to xvid (and hence do not have any ownership under copyright), I believe it is still my right under the GPL to request a copy of the source code.

First off I want to thank Hiro-Media for their prompt and polite responses. It is clear that they take the issue of license violations very seriously. Granted, it would be somewhat hypocritical for a company specialising in DRM to not take copyright violations within their own company seriously, but it would not be the first time.

I initially asserted that, due to Hiro’s use (and presumed modification) of xvid code, that this software was considered a derivative and therefore bound in its entirety by the GPL. Hiro-Media denied this stating they use xvid in its original, unmodified state and hence Hiro is simply a user of rather than a derivative of xvid. This is a reasonable statement albeit one that is difficult to verify. I want to stress at this point that in my playing with the Hiro software I have NOT in anyway reverse engineered it nor have I attempted to decompile their binaries in any way.

In the end, the following points were revealed:

  • The Mac version of Hiro uses a (claimed) unmodified version of the Perian Quicktime component
  • The Windows version of Hiro currently on Channel 9’s website IS indeed modified, what Hiro-Media terms an ‘accidental internal QA’ version. They state that they have sent a new version to Channel 9 that corrects this. The xvid code they are using can be found at http://www.koepi.info/xvid.html
  • Neither version has included a GPL preamble within their EULA as required. Again, I am assured this is to be corrected ASAP.

I want to reiterate that Hiro-Media have been very cooperative about this and appear to have genuine concern. I am impressed by the Hiro system itself and whilst I am still not a fan of DRM in general, this is by far the best compromise I have seen to date. They just didn’t have a linux version.

This brings me to my final, slightly more negative point. On my last correspondence with Hiro-Media, they concluded with the following:

Finally, please note our deepest concerns as to any attempt to misuse our system, including the content incorporated into it, as seems to be evidenced in your website. Prima facia, such behavior consists a gross and fundamental breach of our license (which you have already reviewed). Any such misuse may cause our company, as well as any of our partners, vast damages.

I do not wish to label this a threat (though I admit to feeling somewhat threatened by it), but I do want to clear up a few things about what I have done. The statement alleges I have violated Hiro’s license (pot? kettle? black?) however this is something I vehemently disagree with. I have read the license very careful (Obviously as I went looking for the GPL) and the only relevant part is:

You agree that you will not modify, adapt or translate, or disassemble, decompile, reverse engineer or otherwise attempt to discover the source code of the Software.

Now I admit to being completely guilty of a single part of this, I have attempted to discover the source code. BUT (and this is a really big BUT), I have attempted this by emailing Hiro-Media and asking them for it, NOT by decompiling (or in any other way inspecting) the software. In my opinion, the inclusion of that specific part in their license also goes against the GPL as such restrictions are strictly forbidden by it.
But back to the point, I have not modified, translated, disassembled, decompiled or reverse engineered the Hiro software. Additionally, I do not believe I have adapted it either. It is still doing exactly the same thing as it was originally, that is taking an incoming video stream, modifying it and decoding it. Importantly, I do not modify any files in any way. What I have altered is how Quicktime uses the data returned by Hiro. All my solution does is (using official OSX/Quicktime APIs) divert the output to a file rather than to the screen. In essence I have not done anything different to the ‘Save As’ option found in Quicktime Pro, however not owning Quicktime Pro, I merely found another way of doing this.

So that’s my conclusion. I will reply to Hiro-Media with a link to this post asking whether they still take issue with what I have done and take things from there.
To the guys from Hiro if you are reading this, I didn’t do any of this to start trouble. All I wanted was a way to play these files on my linux HTPC, with or without ads. Thankyou.

4 thoughts on “License quibbles (aka Hiro & linux pt 2)”

  • As a longtime free software and Linux user in particular, I’ll be very interested to see how this one pans out, please do keep as much info as you can about this online.

    I agree with what you say, firstly it seems that you have done nothing wrong, nor broken any agreements or licences in your actions, though it certainly might seem like they have, at least at this point in the communications you’ve posted.

    I’m watching this one with keen interest.

    Between the issues with the Underbelly file pointed to in the howto thread comment, actual huge size of the files themselves, thinly veiled threat from Hiro (I’ll call it that if you won’t), and complete lack of any sort of answer to my email to Ninemsn customer service on why I can’t view the file, it makes me wish I had have just pirated it from a torrent site in the first place and not bothered trying to support what Ch9 are doing.

    At least Ch10 and ABC seem to have their online content well sorted!

  • First-and-Foremost, well done.

    I too cannot believe the gaul of Hiro-Media’s Pot?-Kettle?-Black? indignant protest of a response to your endeavors so far.

    I can’t help but feel that their response has been motivated by the now-shaky ground they now-stand-on, by having to now-face-the-raw-legal-power of a quite likely pissed-off Channel Nine.

    You can’t ‘defend’ a now-it’s-got-holes-in-it pseudo-DRM Player to a Media Conglomerate, especially after you told them – and then billed them – for a system you touted as ‘bulletproof’.

    (It seems as though the Hiro-Media Player is about as bulletproof as each of the dead characters portrayed within ‘Underbelly’ – the Series this Media Player is supposed to protect…)

    I too will be watching with great interest at how this little gaff unfolds – and make no mistake, if any of these retards attempts to take a legal swing at you – I’ll be the first to kick a hundred dollars towards you standing up for what is true, fair and just, (which is what GPL is all about anyway…)

    Second, I’m curious if there is actually a need to have ffmpegX carry out any of this transcoding to begin with.

    Is it possible to just use the Hiro-Media’s installed Quicktime component to just allow the file to be played while being ‘filtered’ in real-time?

    If I have a Mac ‘fast enough’, could I have the file ‘dumped to screen’ frame by frame, instead of into a file?

    Or, as you mentioned previously about using QuickTime-Pro’s ‘Save as Movie’ option, would this result in a ‘quicker’ outcome from a time-wise perspective instead?

    Again, well done my son – and keep at’em…

    Regards,

    J-L
    (c:=

    • @Nunya-Biz

      Thanks for the support!

      I’ve been meaning to play with this again but just haven’t had the time lately (Beyond weekly downloads/transcodes of Underbelly that is). To answer your query, there is almost certainly a way to have the filtered content sent straight to screen, however I don’t really understand the point. If you just want to watch the file, you can do it through Quicktime directly on a mac. The problem I have is that my HTPC is linux based and that’s where I want to watch the files, hence the need to convert them to a file.

      QuickTime-Pro’s ‘Save As’ option is almost certainly quicker as it uses all the HW acceleration in OSX. That said though, I’m certain there is a way to dump the frames as filtered xvid rather than recoding with x264 as its this recoding that makes it so slow. I’ll try and have a play with it this week.

  • Anything further with regards to just dumping the raw and clean xvid frames into a new file – instead of actually recoding each frame with x264?

    And as a side note, how do I use QuickTime/QuickTime Pro to just play each file in its more desirable filtered state ‘straight-up’ – without needing to ‘pre-prepare’ each file, by first combing through it frame-by-frame…

    Nevertheless, still impressed outright – with your nous’n insight,
    (Keep me updated with any ‘need’ that you may have for that first one hundred of mine as well…)

    Regards,

    J-L

    (c:=

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