TV listings data provider Zap2it to get bulletproofed

There's a small uprising among enthusiasts of software PVRs built around the free TV listing data provided by Zap2it Labs, a project of Tribune Media Services. Tribune recently posted a notification on the Zap2it Labs site that the data would no longer be available as of Sept. 1. "Originally, we intended it to support the open source community to keep them from scraping the site," said Andy Heinz, executive director of Tribune Media Services. Heinz said the data was strictly for personal use; for hobbyists making online personal video recording setups such as Isaac Richards' MythTV.

"We found companies producing devices to compete with TiVo and selling them," Heinz said, declining to name specific violators. "We found companies that had deployed commercial products, and the license was very specific about not doing that." The notification on the website said a warning about misuse was first posted in October, 2004. "Unfortunately this misuse has continued and grown," it states.

The commercial version of Zap2it, an online guide to TV, movies, and eventually, IPTV content, will continue to be available. That site gets around 3 million unique views a month. The Labs site provides access to the type of data the commercial site is built upon. Heinz said Tribune planned to "reinvest in bulletproofing" the Labs site. "We'll continue to work with the open source folks," he said. "it's the offenders we wanted to bring to the table." Heinz said "some sort of arrangement with the open source community" would be announced within two or three weeks.

An email query to MythTV Chairman Isaac Richards about the impact of losing Zap2it data received no response at press time. However, the folks at MythTV have since announced their intention to provide a TV listings data source. The software is evidently only part of the project. "We are in need of a good lawyer who is familiar with business contracts and federal nonprofit law--preferably someone willing to work pro bono, at least initially," a statement at the site reads. "We are also looking for a good accountant/CPA… to help with any eventual financial/tax paperwork.

For more:
- the MythTV listings data project Web site is here
- Brad Linder provides a brief review of PVR software here