Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Do DVRs Infringe on Copyright When Networked and Remote?

That's what a federal district court said about Cablevision's proposed DVR service. Apparently, while there is a long precedent of legal recording rights for media consumers (from cassette recorders to Tivo), those rights are invalidated by the subsitution of individual DVR appliances in consumers' homes for a DVR system controlled remotely in Cablevision's network.
Cablevision is appealing the ruling that prohibits it from launching the service:

"We continue to believe strongly that remote-storage DVR is permissible under current copyright law and offers significant benefits to consumers, including lower costs and faster deployment of this popular technology to our digital cable customers," Tom Rutledge, Cablevision's chief operating officer, said in a statement. "Our remote-storage DVR is the same as conventional DVRs, and merely enables consumers to exercise their well-established rights to time-shift television programming."

Could this also be a matter of first amendment rights to free speech, as an issue of prior restraint?
And how exactly could shifting the locus of a stored, recorded digital program be construed as copyright infringement?
Sounds kind of crazy to me...
[Not surprisingly, the suit that started this whole debate was filed by "several Hollywood studios and TV networks" (Marguerite, Reardon, "Cablevision to fight ruling blocking networked DVR" CNETnews.com)]