Cablevision Remote DVR Doesn't Infringe; Decision Shows How New Tech Twists Copyright

from the copyright-law-is-a-mess dept

As TiVo and other DVRs became increasingly popular, various cable companies realized it probably made sense to offer similar features themselves. While some started selling home DVRs, a few realized that perhaps they could short-circuit around this by offering a remote, centrally-managed DVR instead. Time Warner was one of the first to announce such a project -- but almost immediately, the other half of Time Warner (the content guys) freaked out, and Time Warner's eventual offering was neutered of any really useful feature.

Basically, the various broadcasters are still freaked out about the idea of time shifting and commercial skipping -- even though both are perfectly legal. However, that won't stop them from doing whatever possible to stop such innovations from coming to market. So, two years ago, when Cablevision also decided to create its own remote DVR solution, various TV networks sued to stop it. Even though the actual offering was almost entirely identical to a perfectly legal TiVo, a district court ruled that Cablevision's remote DVR system infringed copyrights. This, by the way, highlighted how the entertainment industry lied when it insisted it would never use copyright law to stop a new consumer electronics offering from coming to market.

The good news, today, however, is that an appeals court has reversed the decision and sent it back to the lower court -- effectively pointing out that if using a DVR at home is legal, it's difficult to see how using a DVR that is based at your cable provider is any less legal. However, if you read the full ruling, you'll get a sense of just how ridiculous copyright law has become today, and how it is not at all equipped to handle modern technology:
As you read through that decision, you'll certainly see the points that Rasmus Fleischer highlighted earlier this year, when he pointed out how silly it was to distinguish between where something is stored, and whether it's accessed locally or remotely. However, copyright law is simply not set up at all to handle this simple fact, and tries to make silly distinctions between where copies are made, how stuff is transmitted and what counts as a performance and what doesn't. That leads to all sorts of twisted logic, which resulted in the initial ruling -- and the order overturning it and sending it back to the lower court (while the right decision) is equally twisted in spots. Basically, if there's anything to get out of this ruling, it's that copyright law is simply not equipped to handle the internet.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2008 @ 1:06pm

    I simply cannot fathom why the talking-bobble heads of the entertainment industry refuse to acknowledge the impact of technology on their businesses or, when they do assert technology's impact, why they insist the effect is entirely negative.

    The reality is that electronic media can be copied, time shifted, format shifted and parsed to the average user's whim. The internet coupled with a user's hardware is basically a great big editing and copy machine yet the industry seems stunned every time a user hits the virtual 'Copy' button.

    Users are shifting to on-demand, custom tailored content. Market to that consumer correctly and you can make a lot of money, just not the way you used to profit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Overcast, Aug 4th, 2008 @ 1:53pm

    As a gamer, I watch very little TV as it is now. Most of what I do - is either on DVD, Pay-Per-View, or has been DVR'ed - I still watch commercials, well sometimes - it really depends.

    If I was unable to DVR any shows, it would cut out 50% of the little time I watch TV now. The rest of which - is completely commercial free anyway (Pay-Per-View/DVD) - while I'm commercial skipping, I still tend to catch the idea of half the commercials as they go past.

    Perhaps a change in the style of advertising is more fitting. Frankly, I can find other stuff to do if advertisements or hassles make my enjoyment level go down. A central DVR system would be very cool, and perhaps it could be augmented with one or two leading commercials and maybe some quick 30 second spots here and there.

    I've noticed a lot of 'fluxuation' in the time commercials will run now - some blocks run for quite a while and others are very short. I guess this is to 'throw off' the DVR commercial skipping. Perhaps it's time for marketing to evaluate a new system that would work, rather than try to force us to stick with the old system, like the RIAA has done.

    As in the case of the RIAA as well - there are many more things to do in general now. It's not the 70's anymore where broadcast TV, ans listening to the radio are the only sources of home entertainment - with a pretty limited selection. We have PC games, Console Games, tons of movies, all manner of digital toys. I don't consider outdoor activities there, as they are for the most part unchanged - at least in terms of a person's personal interests anyway.

    Really, the best answer might be more 'in-show' advertising or shorten the blocks and charge more to advertisers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    David McMillan, Aug 4th, 2008 @ 2:46pm

    We really need to get away from this one Judge (or small group) deciding how the laws apply to certain bleeding edge technology. This old system works OK for making laws about how people and people interact, how a person interacts with a group, or groups interact with groups. We have had 6000 years to figure this stuff out. On the other hand new technology is coming out every day.

    PS just joking about the age of the earth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Willton, Aug 4th, 2008 @ 4:56pm

    Re:

    We really need to get away from this one Judge (or small group) deciding how the laws apply to certain bleeding edge technology. This old system works OK for making laws about how people and people interact, how a person interacts with a group, or groups interact with groups. We have had 6000 years to figure this stuff out. On the other hand new technology is coming out every day.

    If that's the way you feel, what method would you propose?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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