Attaway said that even if TiVo's system prevents mass Internet distribution, if each of TiVo's customers add 10 devices to a registered group, many potentially unrelated users would be able to see the copied show.
The NFL, meanwhile, is concerned that a user could send a copy of a game to someone in another time zone, where the game is blacked out. Burger responded that at current bandwidth, such a transfer would take 144 hours.
Burger would not say what would happen if the FCC rules against TiVo's system, saying the company respects the content owners' concerns and wants to work with them. But TiVo would be at a significant disadvantage if its device is not certified for the coming increase in digital programming.
Mike Godwin, policy counsel for Public Knowledge, an advocacy group for consumer digital rights, said the fight highlights the danger of requiring technologies to be approved by government agencies.
"We've always thought that once the FCC got into the role of approving content protection technologies that the content companies would leverage this to use the agency to throttle various technologies," he said.
An FCC official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for the commission, said a decision on approved technologies is scheduled to be made in the next couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would significantly broaden user rights. The bill would exempt from copyright law technologies enabling users to zap objectionable parts of shows and movies to make the programming more suitable for children.
Directors and studios oppose the bill as giving people the right to alter copyrighted material.
On the flip side, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony today on a bill that would ban any technology that "induces" a copyright violation, in a direct attack on file-trading services.
One of those scheduled to testify is Marybeth Peters, the government's register of copyrights, who will endorse the bill, according to prepared testimony obtained by The Washington Post. Peters plans to testify that Congress might need to change the law to invalidate a Supreme Court decision that established a key underpinning of fair-use rights, which is that developers of technologies cannot be held responsible for the actions of those who might use them to violate copyrights.