Copycat on prowl

Replay recorder rolls out despite lawsuits

HOLLYWOOD — Despite a lawsuit by the film and television divisions of AOL Time Warner, Viacom, Disney and NBC alleging the device violates copyright laws, Sonicblue said Wednesday it will ship its new digital video recorder, dubbed the ReplayTV 4000, this week.

Similar to TiVo, the device enables consumers to digitally record television programming onto hard drives and pause live TV. But the ReplayTV 4000 also allows consumers to skip commercials during playback and email shows or movies to other ReplayTV 4000 owners.

‘Perfect digital copies’

It’s this function that prompted Hollywood’s major players to file a lawsuit against consumer electronics maker Sonicblue last month, alleging the devices allow consumers “to make perfect digital copies of the plaintiffs’ copyrighted programs” and distribute them to others through high-speed Internet connections.

The devices, which can hold 40 to 320 hours of programming, threaten to deprive television networks and filmmakers of revenues, the lawsuits said.

Although the TV networks amended their lawsuit by dropping from it Sonicblue’s Go Video Dual Deck VCR, the plaintiffs still plan to battle Sonicblue in court.

Control issues

“The lawsuits are another attempt by the entertainment industry to control the living room,” Sonicblue CEO Ken Potashner said in a statement. “We believe we should be thought of as a potential partner in expanding the industry, not as an adversary of content creators.”

Sonicblue acquired ReplayTV and its products in August. The ReplayTV 4000 is Sonicblue’s first foray into the DVR market.

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