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Hollywood Vs. Consumers?

15 Oct, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

Attorneys for a handful of powerhouse Hollywood studios will ask a federal magistrate today to bar the consumer watchdog group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) from accessing some information as it represents consumers in a case brought to squelch features of personal video recorders (PVRs) like SonicBlue's ReplayTV 4000 series and TiVo.

At issue in the underlying case are features that allow consumers to skip commercials and pass programming on to their friends, both of which Hollywood perceives as threats to income streams.

But the issues today focus on the studios -- Universal, Time Warner, Columbia, Paramount, Disney, Fox, MGM, Viacom and NBC Studios -- trying to prevent information about their political lobbying activities and discussions with the federal Department of Justice regarding proposed video-on-demand Web sites Movielink.com and Movies.com falling into EFF's hands. Also included in the arguments, according to studio motions, are studio business plans, financial documents and "security and content protection information."

Magistrate Charles Eick is scheduled to hear arguments in the lawsuit the studios brought against SonicBlue today in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The studios argue that EFF has a business or political bias against them and would be likely to misuse or disclose proprietary information, including information about lobbying efforts.

EFF, on the other hand, contends "The entertainment companies are seeking a broad court order prohibiting EFF attorneys from reviewing, or using in any way during the case, the vast majority of the documents the court has ordered the companies to provide as part of the usual legal discovery process."

At least 19 bills pending on Capitol Hill today are backed by Hollywood interests. Most involve digital rights and/or fair use.

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