Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Cablevision Remote DVR Case: Good News, For Now
from the at-least-for-a-little-while dept
Well, here’s a bit of good news this Monday. It appears that the Supreme Court has listened to the Solicitor General, and refused to hear the appeal concerning Cablevision’s remote DVR offering. This is good for a variety of reasons. We’ve discussed how this is an important case on a variety of levels, but also a tricky one. The appeals court ruling got the right results (saying a remote DVR was legal, and that buffer copies were not infringing) but really had to twist itself into a knot to explain why — demonstrating just how ridiculous copyright law is these days.
The basic facts are quite straightforward. A DVR, such as a TiVo that sits next to your TV is perfectly legal. Time shifting content has been shown as legal, and not infringing by the courts in the past. That’s great. However, Cablevision effectively built a remote DVR. It sat in Cablevision’s datacenter, rather than next to your TV. Otherwise, it did exactly the same thing. From a user’s perspective, it was almost identical. You could save shows and forward and rewind shows. Functionally identical. Hollywood insisted that by moving where the box lived, it somehow made it illegal, coming up with absolutely ridiculous arguments about how it’s like Cablevision setting up a gun for someone to shoot by pushing a button — ignoring that in the equivalent reality, no one’s getting shot, they’re just doing something that’s already been found to be perfectly legal (time shifting).
That said, this question is hardly over. While the appeals court decision came to the obviously correct conclusion, the fact that it did so in such a roundabout, and at times tortured, way, actually suggests that we’ll be seeing this issue come up elsewhere in other courts in some manner. Eventually there’s likely to be a split of some sort, and perhaps then the Supreme Court will weigh in. Still, given how screwed up the Supreme Court seems to get when it comes to copyright, delaying that seems like a good thing. It’s quite strange that the Supreme Court seems to do such a good job with patent law, but gets totally twisted around when it comes to copyright law. Still, in the meantime, Cablevision can move forward with its remote DVR, and at the least, folks in the Second Circuit can rest assured that buffered copies are not infringing.