Are ReplayTV Users Breaking the Law? Are You Sure?

Is ReplayTV user Craig Newmark a criminal? The EFF wants to expand the ReplayTV case to include users, but will its new suit protect the right to use ReplayTV with unofficial software?

Electronic Frontier Foundation attorneys Robin Gross and Fred von Lohmann, along with Ira Rothken of the Rothken Law Firm, announced that they are suing the major movie studios for a declaratory judgment stating that it's legal for people to use ReplayTV personal video recorders. Even if won, however, the judgment could end up falling short of protecting viewers' right to transfer recordings to non-ReplayTV devices.

The plaintiffs in the suit are five ReplayTV customers, who von Lohmann said "have a very legitimate concern that their rights will be adjudicated without them being involved." The movie studios are currently suing ReplayTV manufacturer Sonicblue.

"They're filing against technology companies and there isn't an opportunity for consumers to be heard," Gross said. In addition to the movie studios, ReplayTV is also named as a defendant in the suit, which Rothken said is for "procedural reasons". He said he wants the new case to be combined with the existing case against Sonicblue. It's possible that our case may even be tried first, he said.

In a conference call today, the EFF attorneys told the Mainstream Media that ReplayTV PVRs simply give viewers the same time- and space-shifting capabilities that they now have with VCRs. The suit asks a Federal court to rule that ReplayTV owners are within the law when they digitally record TV programs, skip commercials, and send recorded shows to other devices.

But Rothken said that it is as yet unclear whether those users have the right to use third-party devices to transfer shows to non-ReplayTV devices, as plaintiff Craig Newmark, founder of Craig's List said he does.

Von Lohmann said the current case against Sonicblue alleges that ReplayTV users are using the device for copyright infringement but that the five plaintiffs will show ReplayTV is being used for legitimate purposes. "These five individuals are not sharing video with millions of people around the world. "Let's look at what real people are doing and how fair use applies to what they're up to," he said. One plaintiff, Shawn Hughes, said he uses the ReplayTV because, "during prime time there's no educational programming on television."

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Re: Are ReplayTV Users Breaking the Law? Are You Sure?

brianlane's picture

ReplayTV (and the others) can't strip out all the commercials. Remember that the latest 'idea' the advertisers have come up with is to shrink the screen and add their advertisements to the bottom. This results in a squashed looking movie, and an irritated consumer who only remembers the product being advertised so that it can be avoided during the next shopping trip.

The industry's argument that all their commercials are being lost doesn't completely hold water. But they are driving people away with their desprate attempts to grab our attention.

The solution is to provide user selected content on demand. Instead of charging me a monthly rate for a stream of garbage that I never watch they should allow me to pick my own channels and shows and charge me accordingly. They could even charge a little more for non-commercial service, etc.

But the media industry obviously isn't interested in giving anyone a real choice, they're only interested in cramming content into our brains, even at the cost of suing us.

Brian