Remote-storage DVRs still in play

Cablevision will seek expedited review of its appeal

Cablevision will continue its fight to bring remote-storage DVRs to the masses.

The cabler is set today to appeal last month's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin that declared RS-DVRs, sometimes referred to as network DVRs, off-limits because they infringed on the copyrights of studios.

Chin, siding with such plaintiffs as Time Warner, News Corp., Viacom and the Walt Disney Co., ruled that because an RS-DVR calls for Cablevision to store programming on its servers, the concept is too similar to VOD, minus profits due the content owners.

Conventional DVRs, popularized by TiVo, store content not on massive servers controlled by cable TV companies but on set-top boxes residing in users' homes.

But an RS-DVR, Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge argued Monday, should be permissible under copyright law because, like a regular DVR, they merely enable "consumers to exercise their well-established rights to time-shift television programming."

Rutledge said Cablevision's appeal will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and that plans are to seek expedited review of its appeal. Cablevision also maintains that an RS-DVR benefits consumers and blocking the technology will stifle innovation, and some public interest advocacy groups agree.

"Essentially, what the studios are saying to their customers is, 'take a hike,' " Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn said. "The length to which Chin went to differentiate a network DVR from a TiVo is remarkable and unsustainable, considering they both do the same thing."

Countered Gayle Osterberg, vp corporate communications at the MPAA: "This is not unexpected. But we believe the court's decision was the right one. We are breaking no new legal ground here. Companies cannot simply take what they want from others without authorization."