US court liberates Cablevision 'remote DVR'
No hard drive? No problem
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. ®
Bad deal for some customers.
I'm glad for the court ruling but not the off-site storage.
I for one would rather pay for my own hard drive and retain the copy of the video. Under Cablevision's proposed system if the cable goes out you can't watch any of your shows, and if you want to quit your cable service, whether it be due to switching providers (someday it's bound to be more possible) or having to move to another residence outside their area, you have just lost all your recordings.
What would the hard drive cost, maybe $50 in bulk when the cable service itself is probably as much or more?
This type of service was available in the UK from www.tvcatchup.com between about 12th Dec 07 and 16th Feb 08 but they were suddenly shut down by the broadcasters (The lawyers complained, and the admins shut down the site without a fight. However, after talks with the aforementioned lawyers, they have apparently reopened the service, although only to closed beta users for the time being).
Also, the average Joe does care about whether or not the storage is remote or local, because local storage has limited space before the user has to start deleting things. Remote storage has no theoretical limit (only artificial ones that can be changed any time, when the service provider adds HDDs). Plus, local storage has no bandwidth issues, whereas remote storage can have problems (My Dad would be considered an 'Average Joe', but we are unable to use BT Vision because we cannot receive Freeview in our part of London, and our BT Broadband is not stable enough to use the On Demand features and be able to guarantee a watchable service. The fact that the service would be free because my Dad works for BT is not enough incentive to use something that doesn't work).
Video on demand is a service that allows the subscriber to watch any movie or TV show that the cable company themselves decides to store and make available. The network itself determines how long these shows will be available, and who can access them.
Yes it is similar, but it isn't the same thing as the individual subscriber deciding which shows he/she wants to record, is the only person able to play back those recording decisions and the only person that decides how long to store them.
The court decision was absolutely bang on. What difference the length of wire separating the recording from the TV? If you record shows on a VCR with a really long cable, how long does the cable have to be before you say it's a violation of copyright?
In this case it's a hard disk and a broadband connection (via cable or satellite). If everyone had access to your recordings (and were actively downloading them), the studios might have a point. These are personal recordings stored in a remote location. Nothing in copyright law says this is illegal.