Judge Bars Cablevision from Distributing Remote Storage DVR

Mar 23, 2007  •  Post A Comment

A New York federal judge barred Cablevision Systems from giving viewers devices to remotely copy content and replay it later, siding with the Cartoon Network, Twentieth Century Fox, Time Warner, Disney, CBS and NBC that the plan infringes programmers copyrights.

The fight is the latest indication of some of the copyright issues developing as technology to record and store programs becomes more easily available. The decision by Judge Denny J. Chin could be appealed.

Cablevision said it was reviewing its options but meanwhile is continuing to offer home DVRs as an alternative.

The controversy started with Cablevision’s announcement in March 2006 that it would test a cheaper alternative to providing home DVRs. Some subscribers would get space on a hard drive at the cable system’s head end to remotely store programs there and replay them. The system is called remote storage DVR or RS-DVR.

Cable programmers immediately cried foul, arguing Cablevision copying, temporarily holding its work and then retransmitting it was copyright infringement.

Cablevision argued its subscribers were making copies and transmitting the shows to themselves.

In his decision handed down late Thursday, the judge sided with the program providers, saying that Cablevision’s system uses multiple pieces of equipment and is engaged in the copying, therefore making its actions far different than a customer simply using a VCR.

“I conclude that Cablevision and not just its customers would be engaging in unauthorized reproductions and transmissions of copyrighted works,” the judge wrote.

Cablevision said it was “disappointed” by the decision. We “continue to believe that remote-storage DVRs are consistent with copyright law and offer compelling benefits for consumers – including lower costs and broader availability of this popular technology,” it said.

“Obviously we are very satisfied with the result; and we are pleased that the Court has accepted our view of the rules of the road: head end based copying requires a license,” said a Turner spokesperson.

Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, a consumer group active in media ownership issues, called the decision “nonsensical.”

“This short-sighted decision makes no sense in an era of technological innovation, he said. “This is a decision that if upheld will stifle innovation and consumer choice. It is nonsensical at best and extremely harmful at worst. The only saving grace is that it shows the need for Congress to update our copyright laws to conform to today’s technology.”

(Editor: Romanelli)