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Cablevision: Remote DVR Service Creates Copyright Challenges for Content Providers

By George C. Lewis, J.D., P.E. and David St. John-Larkin

On June 29th, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court denied without comment a Petition for Writ of Certiorari filed by several film studios and television networks. The Court’s denial of the Petition leaves in place a Second Circuit decision that Cablevision can not be held directly liable for copies of program content made by Cablevision subscribers using a network-based digital video recording (DVR) system proposed by Cablevision. While the Court’s decision may permit Cablevision and other media distributors to deploy a new form of DVR service (assuming an avalanche of IP assertions does not overwhelm Cablevision or other distributors adopting similar technology), its decision also leaves many questions unanswered.

In March of 2006, Cablevision announced and began marketing a new type of DVR service that would operate much like the traditional DVR services provided by TiVo, Inc. and various satellite and cable companies to record content (i.e., television shows). Instead of the traditional recording and time- shifting of content by a hard drive located within a set-top-box, Cablevision’s proposed service would record and time-shift content using a hard drive remotely located at the cable system’s headend. In broadcasting, the term headend refers to the broadcaster's facility or facilities from which the content stream (i.e., the radio, television or cable programming) is transmitted. 

Cablevision’s p...

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