The Supreme Court on Monday delivered a blow to the television networks when it declined to hear a case about a digital video recorder technology, opening the gate for wider use of DVR systems.
The case began in 2006 when Cablevision Systems, the New York-area cable operator, announced plans for what is called a network DVR system. With it, a customer would use a remote control to digitally record a program like “60 Minutes” but instead of storing the show in the customer’s at-home DVR box, the technology would store the show on a faraway Cablevision server.
The technology would let Cablevision convert set-top boxes into boxes with DVR capabilities without requiring an installation or new equipment.
“It opens up the possibility of offering a DVR experience to all of our digital cable customers,” Tom Rutledge, Cablevision’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. Programmers including Turner Broadcasting System’s Cartoon Network, CNN and television networks sued Cablevision, saying the system violated copyright law. In March 2007, a lower court agreed, ruling that Cablevision “would be engaging in unauthorized reproductions and transmissions of plaintiffs’ copyrighted programs.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York reversed that decision in August 2008. The plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, but the Supreme Court’s refusal essentially reinforced the Second Circuit’s decision.