Justice Dept. Sides With Cablevision Over Remote DVRs

Cablevision was handed a nice victory this afternoon as the United States Solicitor General recommended that the Supreme Court not take up the case against the cable company’s remote storage DVR (also known as the networked DVR).

The move helps pave the way for Cablevision to roll out its remote storage DVR, something the company says could start doing this summer, according to one analyst’s report last week.

A slew of studios and TV networks including Paramount, Disney, CBS, and NBC were opposed the technology, which moves the recording of TV programs from a home-based set-top box to the cable company, claiming that the remote storage DVR violated its copyrights. The case has been making its way through the courts for years. In 2007, a District Court ruled in favor of the copyright holders, only to be overturned by the Second Circuit U.S. Appeals Court in August of 2008. The case made its way to the Supremes in October of last year and in January the court punted to the DOJ asking for its opinion as to whether or not take the case.

In her recommendation, Solicitor General Elena Kagan wrote:

To be sure, respondents’ RS-DVR service would differ from a set-top DVR in that the tangible devices that would perform the copying and playback would be located in respondents’ facilities rather than in a subscriber’s home. That shift from local to network-based recording and playback, however, appears largely irrelevant to the determination of who would “make” the copies.

Right on.

Gigi B. Sohn, president of citizen’s advocacy group Public Knowledge, praised the decision and issued the following statement: “We wholeheartedly agree with the Solicitor General. Common sense would dictate that a recording is a recording, whether made on a set-top box or in a cable head-end. We hope the U.S. Supreme Court follows this advice and removes any legal obstacles from the Cablevision service going forward.”

We, too, like the idea of remote storage DVRs and are glad to see the DOJ made the decision it did. Of course, we’ve also wondered if technology has leapfrogged the whole mess. With Hulu and just about every network putting its content online, watching TV programs whenever you want is easier than ever. Even cable companies are getting into the online video game with their authentication plans.

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