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SonicBlue will challenge court order

Chair-CEO calls customer tracking 'violation of privacy'

SonicBlue, maker of the ReplayTV digital video recorder, will challenge a court order to track the viewing practices of customers and send the data to TV networks and film studios, the company said Friday.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Charles Eick told SonicBlue to create software within 60 days to monitor every show customers watch, every commercial they skip and any programming they transmit to others via the Internet.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm must then turn over the data to networks and studios that are suing SonicBlue for contributing to copyright infringement.

‘Violation of privacy’

“This forces us to spy on our customers,” said Ken Potashner, chairman-CEO of SonicBlue. “We have to give them individual files they could align with identities, which is a blatant violation of privacy.”

The court order requires SonicBlue to gather information on each viewer and log that data under a unique identification number.

Digital video recorders store TV programming on a hard drive instead of videotape. SonicBlue’s ReplayTV 4000 also connects to the Internet and allows users to send material over the Web.

The studios and networks want the user information to determine the extent of what they consider theft of copyrighted programming.