SONICblue Not Required to Track Customers

SONICblue Inc. recently won a decision to overturn a magistrate judge's ruling in April requiring the company to rewrite and implement software to monitor the viewing habits of customers who use its ReplayTV 4000.

ReplayTV is a personal video recorder that allows users to store television programming to hard disks for later viewing and use VCR functionality, including the ability to skip commercials. Television studios sued SONICblue and won a court order in California forcing the company to remotely install software on customers' PVRs to monitor usage without the users' knowledge. The monitoring program was designed to allow the studios to collect evidence of copyright infringement to be used against individual viewers in possible lawsuits.

Several privacy and consumer electronics groups supported SONICblue's efforts to overturn the order. "Forcing a company to change its product in order to conduct surveillance on its customers is unreasonable and inappropriate," said Michael Petricone, vice president of technology policy for the Consumer Electronics Association. "We were concerned about the potential chilling effects a ruling of this type could have on consumer behavior and technological innovation."