updated 02:20 pm EDT, Mon August 4, 2008
Cablevision DVR Ruling
A Second Circuit of New York appeals court today ruled that Cablevision could go ahead with launching a remote digital video recorder system that potentially changes the approach to offering movie and TV content online. The decision finds that the cable provider isn't infringing on video producers' copyrights by offering a service known as Remote Storage Digital Video Recorder, or RS-DVR, that would let users record shows but store them off-site on servers hosted by Cablevision.
The service is meant to spare users from buying a more expensive DVR with a hard drive and also eliminates the need to upgrade or replace the DVR once the capacity is too small for the user's viewing habits.
Studios had contended that saving copies of the video off of the viewer's home violated licensing rights by duplicating the work but storing it away from the viewers, calling into question notions of fair use. Cablevision has responded by arguing that a networked DVR is simply an extension of a traditional device and doesn't substantially change its core business model.
The move sends the case back to a New York court and isn't final but will at least damage satelite providers if upheld. As fast, direct connections are currently necessary to make RS-DVRs effective, satellite will have to rely on local storage to preserve movies. DVR specialists like TiVo are also under pressure as they depend in part on customers of cable providers for business.
A more permanent ruling may also establish the option of such services for computers and other online services. Online video services have historically centered around either full downloads to the customer's computer, as with iTunes and similar stores, or else web-only streaming services such as Hulu that give the user no control over which content is permanently available and how it can be played.
This in turn would allow "cloud" media storage where permanently recorded or purchased or subscribed content from other digital sources could be stored online for later use. Systems such as the Xbox Video Marketplace already remember users' purchases and let them re-download deleted videos, but don't allow users to upload video themselves or to record specific segments.