Appeals Court Gives Green Light to Cablevision's RS-DVR Service
--Cablevision Plans to Launch Service Early Next Year
A US appeals court last month overturned a lower-court decision that Cablevision's Remote Storage DVR (RS-DVR) service would violate the copyrights of the broadcasters and studios whose content would be stored on it. The ruling also removed an injunction that had prevented the operator from launching the service. Cablevision announced the service--which it said would allow individual customers to record and store standard- and high-definition programs in their own dedicated space within the company's headend facilities, using their existing, basic digital set-top boxes, and which it claimed would be "permissible" under current copyright law, because the precedent set by the so-called Sony Betamax case, allows individual consumers to make copies of programs for personal consumption regardless of whether those copies are stored locally or remotely--back in 2006. The operator was subsequently sued by a number of major movie studios and broadcasters, and a lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in March of last year. "This is a tremendous victory for consumers, which will allow us to make DVR's available to many more people, faster and less expensively than would otherwise be possible," Cablevision COO, Tom Rutledge, said in a prepared statement. "We appreciate the court's perspective that, from the standpoint of existing copyright law, remote-storage DVR's are the same as the traditional DVR's that are in use today." The industry body that represents US movie studios, the MPAA, has not announced plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court; however, it said that it is "considering all legal options." Speaking at the Merrill Lynch 2008 Media Fall Preview conference in Marina Del Rey, California earlier this month, Rutledge said that Cablevision will resume tests of the RS-DVR service on its campus this month, plans to conduct a full consumer trial in the near future, and hopes to launch the service commercially early next year. Rutledge also stated that RS-DVR would cost the operator around $100 less per customer than traditional (i.e. local-storage) DVR service. In a subsequent interview with the Associated Press, Rutledge said that the service would launch with 160 Gigabytes of storage and would be priced at around $9.95 a month. "If the functions are exactly the same [as a set-top-based DVR], I don't think we'll price it differently," Rutledge told the AP. The service would be accessed through a new remote control and would present subscribers with a new DVR screen, he said. He added that Cablevision would support DVR boxes in the field for the time being, but eventually phase them out.