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Judge Combines Industry, Consumer Cases Over PVRs

16 Aug, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

Five personal video recorder (PVR) users who sued SonicBlue Inc. and the major movie studios in a preemptive strike to prevent studios from seeking penalties against PVR consumers will be parties in a case the studios brought to halt some features of SonicBlue's PVRs, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled today.

Judge Florence Cooper denied the studios' motion to dismiss the ReplayTV owners' lawsuit and agreed to combine their lawsuit with an entertainment industry lawsuit filed last fall to limit functions on ReplayTV PVRs.

"[T]he issue of whether the Newmark Plaintiffs' use of the ReplayTV DVRs' send-show and commercial-skipping features constitutes fair use will most likely figure prominently in both the ReplayTV action and the Newmark action," wrote Judge Cooper in her opinion.

granted five ReplayTV owners a voice in the court debate over their rights to record television programs and to skip commercials using digital video recorders (DVRs). The federal court

Responding to the entertainment industry's lawsuit against PVR manufacturers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) petitioned the court on behalf of the five ReplayTV owners to declare legal their use of the set-top devices, also known as digital video recorders (DVRs). EFF seeks to ensure that the legal debate over DVRs will include consumers' concerns along with those of the entertainment and consumer electronics industries.

"We're pleased the court has recognized that the debate about digital video recorders must include the customers who purchase and use the devices," said (EFF) intellectual property attorney Robin Gross.

The entertainment industry claims ad-skipping and show sending features in the devices infringe copyrights and that digital recording aids piracy.

"I'm not a crook if I skip commercials or share a news interview of myself with my mom using the SendShow feature rather than sending her a videotape," said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist.org and a ReplayTV owner. "I shouldn't have to worry about getting prosecuted, but the Turner Broadcasting CEO tells us that taking a bathroom break is criminal. We even have senators urging Attorney General [John] Ashcroft to prosecute people who share files."

Along with Newmark, ReplayTV customers filing the lawsuit with legal representation by the EFF are: Keith Ogden, owner of a financial broker firm in San Francisco; Shawn Hughes, a small business owner in Georgia; Seattle journalist Glenn Fleishman; and Southern Californian video engineer Phil Wright.

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