[Reader-list] Yet another Copyright violation [supposed...

Jaswinder Singh Kohli jskohli at fig.org
Sat Feb 16 01:28:22 IST 2002

This is yet another Copyright violation though only acc.
to the major Hollywood studios this time against Replay TV
On LA Times
February 11, 2002
Studios Assail ReplayTV Technology

Courts: Lawsuits claim the key functions of personal video recorders
violate copyrights.
As the makers of personal video recorders broaden the appeal of their
revolutionary devices, a group of Hollywood studios is attacking the
recorders' core functions.

PVRs are the digital successor to videocassette recorders, storing
programs digitally on a high-capacity computer hard drive instead of
removable tapes. They play tricks with live programs--pausing, rewinding
and replaying them in mid-broadcast--and make it simple to find and
record shows that match one's tastes.

Two of the leading PVR brands, TiVo and ReplayTV, recently announced
plans to deliver more types of entertainment through their devices,
including digital music services and online video programming. Sonicblue
Inc., the Santa Clara-based firm behind ReplayTV, plans to sell a
version of its recorder this fall for less than other PVRs on the

Sonicblue is steaming ahead, despite four lawsuits filed by Hollywood
studios just as the ReplayTV 4000 was being introduced in November.

The lawsuits, which were brought by the largest TV networks and all
seven major Hollywood movie companies, say the ReplayTV recorders
violate copyrights by enabling users to send videos to other ReplayTV
boxes over the Internet and skip commercials automatically.

The suit filed by MGM, Fox, Universal Studios and Orion Pictures goes
furthest, arguing that it's illegal to let consumers record and store
shows based on the genre, actors or other words in the program
description. This claim threatens not just the ReplayTV devices, some
copyright experts say, but all recorders like it.

Unlike VCRs, which require users to record shows by time slot or unique
number, PVRs record based on a show's name or program description. Users
don't need to know when "Friends" is on. They just need to know the name
or a leading actor. Once a program is found, the device can be set to
capture it whenever it's on the air.

The MGM lawsuit contends that ReplayTV 4000's expanded storage and
sorting features encourage consumers to assemble libraries of
copyrighted material, eating into the market for those shows.

"If a ReplayTV customer can simply type 'The X-Files' or 'James Bond'
and have every episode of 'The X-Files' and every James Bond film
recorded in perfect digital form and organized, compiled and stored on
the hard drive of his or her ReplayTV 4000 device, it will cause
substantial harm to the market for prerecorded DVD, videocassette and
other copies of those episodes and films," the lawsuit states.

The problem with this argument, several copyright attorneys say, is that
consumers already can compile such libraries with a VCR, albeit less

"This is not a feature that couldn't be duplicated by someone with even
a minimal amount of effort," said J.D. Harriman II, a patent and
entertainment attorney with Coudert Bros. law firm in Los Angeles. "And
because all these TV guides are online already, it wouldn't be that

Mark Lemley, a UC Berkeley law professor, said, "It's troubling to say,
'This thing that everybody does has been illegal for 20 years. ... We're
just getting around to catching you.'

"Nobody's suing people who actually infringe copyrights anymore.
Everyone is suing people who make devices," Lemley said. "The [studios]
are going after the creation of new technology."

A spokeswoman for the studios involved in the MGM suit said that
although the studios favor new technological advances, "new technology
must go hand in hand with copyright protection." She declined to comment
on the claim that keyword-based recording violates copyrights, focusing
instead on ReplayTV 4000's ability to send shows over the Internet and
delete commercials automatically.

The fundamental question posed by the MGM suit is whether the financial
effect on the studios trumped consumers' ability to copy programs for
personal use, said Douglas Wood, a New York attorney who specializes in
intellectual-property and advertising law. If MGM wins on that point, he
said, "We'd be left with plain old VCRs."

He's not betting on the studios, though, given the Supreme Court's 1984
ruling that consumers could legally record programs for the sake of
watching them later.

"What difference does it make how I do it?" Wood said. "The dilemma is,
the technology is turning the business model upside down. But that
doesn't mean it's copyright infringement."

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at
latimes.com/archives. For information about reprinting this article, go
to http://www.lats.com/rights/.


Jaswinder Singh Kohli
jskohli at fig.org
The Uni(multi)verse is a figment of its own imagination.
In truth time is but an illusion of 3D frequency grid programs.

More information about the reader-list mailing list