Cablevision Files Network-DVR Appeal


Cablevision Systems filed its brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan Wednesday regarding its appeal of a lower-court decision that effectively squashed its plans for a network-based digital-video recorder, taking the expected tack that the lower-court ruling flies in the face of the 1984 Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios decision that allowed consumers to buy and use video-cassette recorders.

In its 77-page brief, Cablevision argued each of the points of U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin’s March 22 ruling that stated that the Cablevision product -- called the Remote Server-DVR -- violated copyright laws.

Chin’s main objection to the RS-DVR -- even though Cablevision said its customers controlled the actual recording and playback of shows -- was that the servers housing that content were controlled by Cablevision. Chin also ruled that because Cablevision would have an ongoing relationship with the RS-DVR customers -- through service fees, maintenance of equipment and the company’s continuing ownership of that equipment -- it constituted a violation of the copyrights of content providers.

In its brief, Cablevision argued that if Chin’s ruling is upheld, it would render moot several currently lawful devices and businesses, like Internet-service providers that provide e-mail service, set-top-box DVRs provided by cable companies and even self-service copy centers.

In its brief, Cablevision argued that none of that equipment is controlled or owned by the consumer -- ISPs own and control their servers, cable companies own the set-top DVRs and do not allow user access to their contents and self-service copy centers own their photocopiers.

“Relying on ‘physical control’ would condemn ISPs and self-service copy shops, which house the systems their customers use,” the brief stated. “And while a subscriber cannot ‘walk into Cablevision’s facilities and touch the RS-DVR,’ a Netcom subscriber cannot walk into Netcom’s offices and ‘touch’ the server where his e-mail is stored.”

The original suit -- brought by 20th Century Fox Film, Universal City Studios, Paramount Pictures, Disney Enterprises and broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC -- was filed last May.

The appellee’s brief is due by June 29 and Cablevision’s reply is due July 20. The appeal will be heard by the court the week of Aug. 6.