Cablevision Remote DVR Doesn't Infringe; Decision Shows How New Tech Twists Copyright

Article from Techdirt by Mike Masnick.

As TiVo and other DVRs became increasingly popular, various cable companies realized it probably made sense to offer similar features themselves. While some started selling home DVRs, a few realized that perhaps they could short-circuit around this by offering a remote, centrally-managed DVR instead. Time Warner was one of the first to announce such a project -- but almost immediately, the other half of Time Warner (the content guys) freaked out, and Time Warner's eventual offering was neutered of any really useful feature.

Basically, the various broadcasters are still freaked out about the idea of time shifting and commercial skipping -- even though both are perfectly legal. However, that won't stop them from doing whatever possible to stop such innovations from coming to market. So, two years ago, when Cablevision also decided to create its own remote DVR solution, various TV networks sued to stop it. Even though the actual offering was almost entirely identical to a perfectly legal TiVo, a district court ruled that Cablevision's remote DVR system infringed copyrights. This, by the way, highlighted how the entertainment industry lied when it insisted it would never use copyright law to stop a new consumer electronics offering from coming to market.

The good news, today, however, is that an appeals court has reversed the decision and sent it back to the lower court -- effectively pointing out that if using a DVR at home is legal, it's difficult to see how using a DVR that is based at your cable provider is any less legal. However, if you read the full ruling, you'll get a sense of just how ridiculous copyright law has become today, and how it is not at all equipped to handle modern technology:

As you read through that decision, you'll certainly see the points that Rasmus Fleischer highlighted earlier this year, when he pointed out how silly it was to distinguish between where something is stored, and whether it's accessed locally or remotely. However, copyright law is simply not set up at all to handle this simple fact, and tries to make silly distinctions between where copies are made, how stuff is transmitted and what counts as a performance and what doesn't. That leads to all sorts of twisted logic, which resulted in the initial ruling -- and the order overturning it and sending it back to the lower court (while the right decision) is equally twisted in spots. Basically, if there's anything to get out of this ruling, it's that copyright law is simply not equipped to handle the internet.