Cablevision to fight ruling blocking networked DVR

Argues its new service letting subscribers remotely store movies and shows is no different copyright-wise than other DVR products.
Written by Marguerite Reardon, Contributor
Cable operator Cablevision Systems said Tuesday that it's appealing a federal court ruling blocking the company from rolling out a new digital video recorder service that stores programs on servers in its network.

In March, a U.S. District Court in New York barred the company from launching the service after Cablevision lost a suit that was filed by several Hollywood studios and TV networks. They claimed the new service violates copyright laws.

The service would allow Cablevision customers to record and store movies and TV shows on servers that reside in Cablevision's network instead of on boxes that sit in viewers' living rooms.

Networked DVRs could allow Cablevision and other cable companies to expand their services much more rapidly and cheaply, because they would not need to outfit every home subscribing to the service with a special set-top box that includes a hard drive for media storage. Instead, the service could be delivered using lower-cost set-top boxes. Networked DVRs could also reduce the amount of technical issues that customers experience, because cable operators would have more control of the devices recording and storing the programming.

Cablevision put trials of the service on hold after the suit had been filed in the Manhattan court. Time Warner Cable faced similar legal challenges when it first started testing its network DVR product called Mystro. But instead of offering remote storage for movies and TV shows, Time Warner now offers a version of the product called "start over" that allows subscribers to watch a program already in progress from the beginning by hitting a button on their remote control.

Cablevision has argued that its service doesn't infringe copyright laws, because the control of recording and playback is still in the hands of consumers.

"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."

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