DVR moves forward with US court ruling

5 Aug 2008

As was the case back in the early Eighties, when US television companies were afraid the VCR would kill revenue with consumers’ ability to record TV shows and then fast forward through advertisements, the same issues reared their heads when the DVR (digital video recorder) came on the market. However, a recent court ruling may further the spread of this technology.

US cable company Cablevision has been embroiled in a two-year legal battle following its plans to provide a DVR experience for customers using its existing set-top box by allowing them to subscribe to a DVR service which could be accessed from the company’s central server.

Instead of investing in a TiVo-like piece of technology the user would, in effect, be recording TV shows and accessing them for playback, all from Cablevision’s servers. This  was a bone of contention for a number of media companies, including Turner Broadcasting.

Over two years ago, Turner Broadcasting filed a lawsuit against Cablevision and was soon joined by other US companies, including CBS, NBC and Twentieth Century Fox.

The core of the lawsuit was based on the television companies’ belief that this storage of their content on central servers, which could be accessed at any time by Cablevision subscribers, basically amounted to video on demand (VOD) and as such Cablevision should be paying licence fees for this, separate to broadcasting fees.

Contrary to these claims, at the US court proceedings yesterday a judge ruled that Cablevision’s DVR service was not directly infringing on the copyright held by these media companies.

Tom Rutledge, Cablevision chief operating officer, branded the ruling “a tremendous victory for consumers” as this remote storage version of the DVR makes this kind of technology cheaper and more freely available to the TV viewer.

By Marie Boran

Pictured: Typical DVR hardware: the Sky+ HD box