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Cablevision Challenges Ruling on Next-Generation Video Recorders

Cablevision Systems appealed a federal court ruling that blocked the New York-area cable TV provider's rollout of a next-generation digital video recorder service.

Cablevision sought an expedited review of the case before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming that the U.S. District Court ruling in New York last month misapplied copyright law to its remote-storage digital video recorder, or DVR.

Cablevision's case has been closely watched in the cable TV industry. If allowed to proceed, the remote-storage DVR could allow companies like Cablevision to dramatically increase the rate at which they introduce digital video recording services to their customers.

DVRs allow cable TV subscribers to record TV programs without the hassles of videotape, letting users pause live TV, do instant replays and begin watching programs even before the recording has finished. Viewers can also skip through commercials, something that worries the TV industry.

Cablevision's system would have allowed any cable subscriber with a digital cable box to have DVR-like service by storing and playing back shows on computer servers maintained by Cablevision.

That could allow Cablevision to offer the service to many more customers without having to install the expensive hard drive-equipped DVR boxes in each home, as is currently the case.

A group of Hollywood studios successfully sued Cablevision, claiming that the remote-storage system would have amounted to an additional broadcast of their programs, something for which they haven't given permission.

Cablevision argued its service was permissible because the control of the recording and playback was in the hands of the consumer. A landmark 1984 Supreme Court case found that Sony Corp. wasn't breaking copyright laws if home viewers used Sony's Betamax videotape recorders to record and play back shows for personal use.

'We continue to believe strongly that remote-storage DVR is permissible under current copyright law and offers significant benefits to consumers, including lower costs and faster deployment of this popular technology to our digital cable customers,' Tom Rutledge, Cablevision's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

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