Ahh, the DVD. Love it or hate it, it’s still one of the best ways to store data. I’ve yet to meet a hard drive that can survive for 5 years without failing, but as long you’re not using them for frisbees, the DVD can easily make it a decade or more without being damaged. There may be a question about whether or not we’ll have DVD players to play them with by then, but rest assured your data should be there.

Given my fondness for the scrappy little format, I thought it was interesting to see that TiVo was awarded a patent yesterday afternoon (Aug. 16th) for burning TV shows onto DVD. Just about anyone who has ever used a DVR has experienced hard drive related anxiety at one point or another. With the sheer amount of television out there, it’s easy to fall behind on your favorites and run out a space. Offloading programs to a DVD library is an excellent way to free up your hard drive without having to miss out on programming that you wanted to see. In the past, I’ve found this to be especially useful for archiving syndicated TV shows that aren’t always shown in their original order.

The abstract of the patent from TiVo’s application,

“According to an approach for storing digital content onto a DVD, digital content is received from a source, such as a DirecTV link, an over the air (OTA) broadcast, over a cable television link, or any other type of communications link, including the Internet. The digital content is formatted to comply with the MPEG standard to create MPEG digital content and stored on a non-volatile storage. Text-based information is received that describes one or more attributes of the received digital content. A set of DVD subpicture graphics is generated based upon the text-based information. The set of DVD subpicture graphics may represent a structure that can be navigated by a user when the DVD is played. The MPEG digital content is retrieved from the non-volatile storage, converted to DVD format and stored on the DVD with the DVD subpicture graphics. “

On the surface, the patent itself does seem a little bit obvious, but it’s also important to remember that it took the patent office almost 7 years to approve the application. Microsoft’s Media Center may have been using infringing :) on this technology for years, but I’m not sure that they had it in place prior to 2004. I think it’s also worth pointing out that even though TiVo now owns the patent on this technology, they don’t actually offer the service to their customers. Fortunately, the TiVo Community has managed to scrape together a way to do this on your own, but it would be nice to see a more elegant solution built directly into TiVo’s software.

Given it’s antique status, some may view this development as irrelevant, but because of the complex licensing issues that are tied to media, I believe that the DVD will have a much longer shelf life than most. When you consider how the studios are using artificial windows to try and dictate when you can and can’t watch certain things on Hulu and Netflix, it’s clear that if you don’t want to become a victim of disappearing windows, consumers will need the ability to archive content on their own.