A coalition of consumer and industry groups is supporting an appeal by cable company Cablevision against a ruling preventing it from launching a network video recording service. They include the Consumer Electronics Association and USTelecom, the trade association which represents telecommunications service providers, notably AT&T and Verizon.
The New York cable television company is appealing against a recent court judgement that its proposed RS-DVR remote storage digital video recorder service would infringe the copyright of major movie studios and national television networks.
A brief in support of the appeal was jointly filed by 16 industry groups, ranging from trade bodies to library associations.
The brief submits that Cablevision is not liable for direct copyright infringement as its remote digital video recorder carries out user commands on a fully automated basis.
The groups argue that the widespread availability of broadband internet connections has led to new forms of processing, storage and retrieval, enabled by remote, interconnected computers. The interaction and interdependence of network devices blurs the distinction between devices and services.
“Remote and network-based computing promote efficiency and economic growth, and benefit the public,” they contend. “If suppliers and operators of remote and network-based devices are potentially liable for direct copyright infringement based on the activities of their customers, including non-infringing uses, then new technologies and services will be discouraged for no legitimate copyright purpose.”
Among those supporting Cablevision is USTelecom, a Washington lobby group which represents 1,200 members, ranging from local telephone companies to major corporations like AT&T and Verizon.
Cablevision faces competition from Verizon which is rolling out its FiOS broadband service, but they have a common objective in wishing to reduce the requirement to deploy digital video recorders to their customers. A system based on central storage could be cheaper and easier to provide and maintain.
“Network-based services may prove to be both cheaper and technologically superior, providing better service at reduced costs to consumers. But these benefits that many consumers now take for granted could disappear if this District Court decision is not overturned or significantly revised,” USTelecom chief executive Walter McCormick said in a statement.
“The District Court’s decision could chill technological progress aimed at providing consumers the best and most flexible solutions for delivering the video content they want.”
Other cable companies have been less forthcoming, but are understood to be watching the outcome of the appeal with interest.