Understanding DRM and Recorded TV content when using a Digital Cable Tuner with a CableCARD

Many of you that use Windows Vista Media Center probably have some familiarity with the term "digital cable tuner with CableCARD" and some might even know it as an OpenCable Unidirectional Receiver (OCUR) tuner.  Those of you that are actually using a Windows Vista Media Center PC with an OCUR and CableCard are hopefully enjoying Live and Recorded TV in digital, and perhaps even HD, bliss.

When using an OCUR tuner with Media Center, *all* Recorded TV is protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM) and bound to the PC that you recorded the content on.  This means that you cannot copy any recorded TV programs to another PC, DVD for playback on another PC or DVD player, or external device such as a Zune.  However, you can ‘extend' your viewing experience of your DRMed recorded TV content through a Windows Vista Media Center Extender.  As this particular blog isn't intended to debate the pros and cons of DRM, I won't go into details as to why this is the way it is.  If you want to know (or debate) more on the pros/cons of DRM, there are plenty of external websites that cover this :-).

So what happens to your Recorded TV content if you decide to reformat and reinstall Windows Vista on your OCUR PC?  Or what happens if you decide you want to do a hardware upgrade, such as upgrading the processor, on your OCUR PC?  Due to DRM, after performing one of these actions, your Recorded TV content will then be unplayable.  Unfortunately, at this time there isn't a publically available tool to back up Recorded TV DRM licenses to get around this.

As such, your best bet if you don't want this to happen is to either:

  • Do entire backups of your Windows partition periodically in the event you need to restore (no need to back up Recorded TV content).

  • Don't upgrade the processor on the PC.

  • Make sure you've watched all of your Recorded TV content before performing an upgrade or format/reinstall.

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