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Networks Drop Part of Replay Suit

29 Nov, 2001 By: Joan Villa

Major television networks dropped a portion of their copyright infringement lawsuit against Replay TV that objected to an “auto skip” feature on the company’s dual deck VCR.

Viacom, CBS, NBC and Disney withdrew claims against the Go Video DDV2120 but failed to block this month’s release of a digital personal video recorder (PVR), the Replay 4000. That PVR has the auto-skip feature and a “send show” button for transmitting recorded programs through high-speed DSL or cable modem Internet connections.

Sean Bersell, v.p. of public affairs for the Video Software Dealers Association, says it “makes sense” that the networks withdrew their challenge to the VCR, focusing instead on copyright infringement potentially caused by the PVR’s ability to retransmit a program.

Maintaining claims of copyright infringement against the PVR’s auto-skip button, which essentially fast-forwards through commercials in 30-second increments, would conflict with the Supreme Court’s past ruling in the Betamax case that allowed consumers to record programs for later viewing, he adds. The court “understood that in many cases viewers would skip the commercials,” Bersell says.

“I think it would have been very hard for the plaintiffs to convince a court that because [the function] is easier, it is now illegal,” he said.

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