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DoJ: Butt Out of Cablevision RS-DVR Case

Jeff Baumgartner
5/29/2009

Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC)'s controversial Remote Storage-DVR (RS-DVR) may avoid any further legal entanglements after the U.S. Department of Justice suggested Friday that the High Court keep its nose out of the case.

"Network-based technologies for copying and replaying television programming raise potentially significant questions, but this case does not provide a suitable occasion for this court to address them," DoJ Solicitor General Elena Kagan noted in a brief to the High Court obtained by Cable Digital News.

The U.S. Supreme Court asked the DoJ to weigh in the RS-DVR matter in January, a few months removed from a U.S. Appeals Court decision that essentially gave Cablevision the green light to deploy the RS-DVR. The appeals court agreed that Cablevision's approach, which requires customers to make their own recording requests while the system writes individual copies of those recordings, does not directly infringe on copyright rules and should therefore be granted the same protections already governing home-side DVRs and VHS recorders. A group of programmers and studios, including ABC, NBC Universal, and Paramount Pictures, filed a complaint in May 2006 that Cablevision's RS-DVR would infringe on their copyrights. (See Supremes Consider Cablevision's RS-DVR and Court Resurrects Cablevision's Network DVR .)

"From the consumer’s perspective, [Cablevision's] RS-DVR service would offer essentially the same functionality as a VCR or a set-top DVR," Kagan added, noting later that shifting from local to network-based recording and playback "appears largely irrelevant to the determination of who would 'make' the copies."

Despite the specter of a possible run-in with the Supreme Court, Cablevision recently told an industry analyst that it intends to deploy the RS-DVR this summer, but the MSO has yet to reveal an exact date or pricing on the feature. (See Summer Debut for Cablevision Network DVR.)

The DoJ opinion bolstered Cablevision's view that the RS-DVR is on solid legal footing.

“We’re obviously pleased with the Solicitor General’s recommendation and continue to believe in the legality of remote-storage DVRs, as validated by the unanimous Second Circuit decision," Cablevision said in a statement issued Friday afternoon.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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