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Cablevision Responds to Network DVR Lawsuit

Jun 7, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Cablevision’s proposed network digital video recorder service is protected under the same legal ruling that allows consumers to use video cassette recorders to tape their favorite television shows, the cable company argued Wednesday.

In a legal response filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, the Bethpage, N.Y., cable company said its planned network DVR does not infringe copyrights. Instead, it is simply an evolution of a practice that dates back more than two decades and is protected under a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that made it OK for consumers to record their favorite television shows.

Cablevision in March announced plans to introduce its so-called “network DVR” to 1,000 homes on New York’s Long Island, drawing the ire of several entertainment companies, which last month filed a lawsuit to block Cablevision from moving ahead with the product on the grounds that it violates copyright laws.

The network DVR service works like a traditional DVR except that the recorded TV shows are stored on a server owned by Cablevision. Cable companies are interested in the concept because it could mean reducing the expenses associated with installing DVR-equipped set-top boxes in consumers homes.

As part of the 18-page response, Cablevision said its service would work much the way the Betamax recorder did in a case the Supreme Court ruled on 22 years ago. In that case, the high court said it wasn’t illegal for a consumer to record a TV show for viewing at a later time. As consumers moved from Betamax machines to VCRs to DVRs, the basis of the Supreme Court ruling has applied, Cablevision said.

Cablevision explained that each subscriber with the network DVR service would have storage space on a server operated by the cable company, and that shows would be recorded and stored much the way DVRs do so today. It is not, as the media companies have argued, a video-on-demand service, Cablevision went on to say.

“[The network DVR]-like the Betamax, the VCR and the traditional set-top storage DVR before it-enables consumers to do nothing more than record television programming for later personal viewing. It does not infringe copyrights,” the company said in its response.

The media companies that have filed suit against Cablevision include News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox, General Electric’s Universal Studios, Viacom’s Paramount Pictures and The Walt Disney Co. Cablevision also was sued by CBS Corp., ABC Television Network, NBC Studios and Time Warner’s CNN and Cartoon Network.