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Cablevision wins appeal on remote storage DVR

A federal appeals court has thrown out a lower court decision, granting Cablevision the right to introduce new remote storage digital video recording technology. The decision by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York could have important implications for the cable and satellite industries.

Cablevision tried to roll out “remote-storage” DVRs that would play programs off its servers instead of storing shows locally on the subscriber’s hard drives. The plan was shelved when film studios and TV networks sued over the concept, claiming that separating content storage from playback would constitute rebroadcast and infringe on their copyrights.

The court found otherwise, ruling the remote storage DVR “would not directly infringe plaintiffs’ exclusive rights to reproduce and publicly perform their copyrighted works.”

The networks won in the lower court in March, 2007, but the technical distinction between local and remote storage wasn’t enough to convince the higher court that Cablevision was “broadcasting” anything. The court lifted the injunction barring Cablevision from supplying remote DVRs to its customers and sent the case back to the federal district court for additional proceedings.

Until now, video providers have offered DVR services that allow subscribers to record, store and play back movies and TV shows on their set-top boxes. Cablevision’s Remote Storage DVR service would offer the same functionality, but without the home set-top box. The service resides on Cablevision’s network instead.

The film studios and television networks suing Cablevision included Time Warner, News Corp., Walt Disney and CBS. It is uncertain whether they will appeal the decision.