Company files appeal
Chuck Dolan’s Cablevision has filed an appeal after a federal court ruled last week that the major studios could stop the cabler from harvesting a monetary windfall by altering its DVR service to digital customers.The court said Cablevision was violating the copyright of TV shows and movies owned by Fox, NBC Universal, CBS Paramount, Disney/ABC and Time Warner, the plaintiffs to the original lawsuit filed last spring. The studios argue that Cablevision should not be permitted to transmit shows to customers’ TV sets from a remote central location, thus bypassing individual set-top boxes; Cablevision maintains that the remote-storage DVR is not appreciably different from storing TV shows on the hard drives of individual set-top boxes. Utilizing a remote central location provides enormous cost savings to the cable operator, doing away with the cost of buying millions of set-top boxes and installing them in subscribers’ homes. Remote-storage DVR “is permissible under current copyright law,” said Tom Rutledge, chief operating officer of Cablevision, in a statement. He said this DVR technology offers “significant benefits to consumers, including lower costs and faster deployment … to our digital-cable customers.” But the studios are opposed to remote-storage DVR because the streaming of programming from the remote central location to subscriber TVs represents, they say, a form of on-demand programming. That’s important because cable operators pay a license fee to the studios to get VOD rights; Cablevision is not paying any separate fees to put the same programming on the remote-storage DVR. The studios know that if the court rules in Cablevision’s favor, all other cable operators will follow suit, which could put a severe dent in the VOD business and strip the studios of potentially meaningful revenues.