Rewind: Cablevision Loses Digital Recorder Lawsuit

Cablevision Systems Corp will need to rewind the tape.

Its newfangled DVR-system, which would house movies, TV programming and other content at the cable system's head-end, has been stopped by a New York federal judge. The judge sided with the Cartoon Network, Twentieth Century Fox, Time Warner, Disney, CBS and NBC, saying the move would infringe on programmers' copyrights.

Cablevision is backing this system because it eliminates digital set-top boxes in Cablevision--effectively placing the storage drive at the company. The cable operator started testing the new system, called "remote storage DVR" or RS-DVRs, over a year ago. For some time, Cablevision has offered home DVRs as part of its monthly cable service.

Since last March, TV content providers have complained that Cablevision has been violating copyright laws by temporarily holding content. In effect, that Cablevision now owns content they didn't pay for and could, in theory, re-sell it for revenue gain.

But Cablevision argued it wasn't in control of the digital copies--it was still in the hands of its customers. Cablevision says the technology allows it to send the show to consumers only when they requested it. The judge rejected such arguments. He said Cablevision was using many pieces of equipment to copy and store the content--rather than a single home DVR that its customers use. As such, it was in violation of copyright laws.

In response, Cablevision says its decision to test and use the technology was consistent with copyright laws, and that it would only help lower the costs of digital recording to its subscribers. The cable giant may appeal.