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US court liberates Cablevision 'remote DVR'

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A US appeals court has given the thumbs up to Cablevision's new-age DVR, which stores recorded shows on remote servers rather than in-home hard drives.

Reversing an earlier decision from a lower court, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled that despite the remote-server setup of Cablevision's RS-DVR, end users would still be the ones making copies of any copyrighted material.

"Cablevision would not directly infringe plaintiffs' under the Copyright Act by offering its RS-DVR system to consumers," the ruling reads. And yes, the plaintiffs are a who's who of the Hollywood old guard, including movie studios Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures and Disney and TV broadcasters ABC, CBS and NBC.

In backing Cablevision's "remote-storage DVR," the court concluded that the system is not unlike a VCR. And we know all know that VCRs are backed by the Supreme Court's 1984 Sony Betamax ruling.

"The person who actually presses the button to make the recording supplies the necessary element of volition, not the person who manufactures, maintains, or, if distinct from the operator, owns the machine," the ruling continues.

The plaintiffs also argued that when shows are replayed, the Cablevision is "engaging in unauthorized public performances" of their copyrighted works. But the court buried this argument too. "Because each RS-DVR playback transmission is made to a single subscriber, we conclude that such transmissions are not performances 'to the public,' and therefore do not infringe any exclusive right to public performance."

Speaking with the Associated Press, "a senior cable analyst" said that the court's decision "sent shock waves to every corner of the media landscape." He also said that the decision would expand the reach of digital video recorder technology from 25 per cent of all US homes to 50 per cent.

He's an analyst, so take everything he says with a grain of salt. But Cablevision's next-gen DVR would be significantly cheaper - and easier to deploy. ®

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