Network-DVR Decision Emphatic

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U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin issued a strongly worded decision Thursday that appears to have effectively squashed Cablevision Systems’ plans to roll out a remote-storage digital-video recorder (RS-DVR), stating that the technology would allow Cablevision and its customers to engage “in unauthorized reproductions and transmissions of plaintiffs' copyrighted programs.”

Chin seemed unconvinced of Cablevision’s key argument -- that its product was merely an extension of set-top DVRs because it would be the customer and not the company who would control what is recorded, stored and watched via the device.

Chin noted that while Cablevision elected to make programming on all of its 170 channels available on the device, it could choose to block certain channels. He pointed to testimony that Cablevision had originally expected to offer 12-50 channels on the RS-DVR device.

“I conclude that Cablevision, and not just its customers, would be engaging in unauthorized reproductions and transmissions of plaintiffs’ copyrighted programs under the RS-DVR.Indeed, the RS-DVR is not a stand-alone machine that sits on top of a television,” Chin wrote. “Rather, it is a complex system that involves an ongoing relationship between Cablevision and its customers, payment of monthly fees by the customers to Cablevision, ownership of the equipment remaining with Cablevision, the use of numerous computers and other equipment located in Cablevision's private facilities and the ongoing maintenance of the system by Cablevision personnel. Accordingly, judgment will be entered in favor of plaintiffs.”

Chin dismissed Cablevision’s counterclaim with prejudice, adding that the Bethpage, N.Y.-based cable company is “permanently enjoined, in connection with its proposed RS-DVR system, from (1) copying plaintiffs' copyrighted works and (2) engaging in public performance of plaintiffs' copyrighted works unless it obtains licenses to do so. Plaintiffs shall submit a proposed judgment, on notice, within seven business days hereof. Costs will be awarded.”

Cablevision said in a prepared statement that it is considering all of its options, including an appeal. It continues to deploy conventional set-top DVRs.

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