Press Release

Court Should Let Cable Subscribers Benefit From New Technology

June 11, 2007 , ,

Consumers should have the benefits of a new convenient way to record programs from a cable TV system, Public Knowledge and 10 other groups representing a cross-section of industry and public-interest organizations said late Friday in a brief filed with the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City.

The groups asked the appellate court to reverse a lower-court decision in March finding that a digital recording service provided by the Cablevision cable company through its network makes the cable operator liable for copyright infringement even though it performs the same functions as a more conventional set-top box.

Public Knowledge and the other parties on the brief argued that the lower-court ruling “would establish an unprincipled legal bias against remote and network-based services.” If the ruling were left standing, the groups warned that: “Development of new technologies, such as remote data storage and remote computing applications would be chilled.” Consumers will not be able to benefit from the convenience and capabilities of the network-based recording services if the ruling is upheld, the groups said.

“Consumers would clearly be the losers if the law makes an illogical distinction between being able to record shows through a set-top box or through a cable network,” said Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge. “Consumers want to press a couple of buttons on the remote and save a show, and shouldn't have to worry about whether the show is being stored in a box on their TV sets or on a cable company's computer.”

The groups also argued that the lower-court ruling, if left standing, would be a major change in copyright law because it would erode the protections of the landmark Universal Studios v. Betamax case from 1984 that allowed use of the video recorder. The brief argued that “providing consumers the means by which they implement their own choices is not grounds for a direct infringement action.”

“Libraries and educational institutions routinely provide and use the remote services that are threatened by the district court's decision,” said Miriam Nisbet, Legislative Counsel with the American Library Association. “If the district court's decision is upheld, libraries will not be able to serve their patrons in the most efficient and effective manner possible,” Nisbet added.

Also filing the brief with Public Knowledge were Center for Democracy and Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation, NetCoalition, Broadband Service Providers Association, USTelecom, American Library Association, American Association of Law Libraries, Association of Research Libraries, Medical Library Association and Special Libraries Association.

A copy of the brief is here

The case is Cartoon Network v. CSC Holdings, No. 07-1480-cv.