A cadre of TV's broadcast and cable networks has filed suit against SONICblue
Inc.'s ReplayTV Inc. subsidiary, charging that the company's new personal video
recorder violates copyright laws.
Paramount Pictures Corp., The Walt Disney Co.'s Disney Enterprises Inc., NBC,
NBC Studios Inc., Showtime Networks Inc., United Paramount Network, ABC, Viacom
International Inc., CBS Worldwide Inc. and CBS Broadcasting Inc. jointly filed
suit in U.S. District Court in Northern California, claiming that two features
on the 'ReplayTV 4000' recorder, which starts shipping this month, unlawfully
threaten their businesses.
First, the recorder's 'AutoSkip' button lets viewers digitally record shows
with advertising automatically deleted. This, in turn, would erode the
advertising and subscription value of the programming, the networks argued.
Second, the unit's ability to make perfect digital copies of the networks'
programs, coupled with the 'Send Show' function, would allow viewers to
distribute programming to other people via high-speed Internet connections.
In doing so, 'defendants facilitate and induce the unauthorized reproduction
and distribution of plaintiffs' valuable works and encourage unauthorized access
to subscription programming, in violation of both federal and state law,' the
The networks are not challenging the rights of viewers to record shows for
personal use, as established under a 1984 U.S. Supreme Court case involving Sony
Corp., according to Rebecca Tompkins, manager of corporate communications for
'We're not asking the court to retry the Sony case, we're not objecting to
personal copying for home use with a personal video recorder or a VCR. The issue
specifically is this new technology,' she added.
The networks are asking that ReplayTV remove both functions, in addition to
seeking unspecified damages and legal fees.
With the company's earnings call scheduled Thursday, there were no SONICblue
executives available Thursday morning to comment on the suit.