Cable TV operators won a key legal battle against Hollywood studios and television networks on Monday as the Supreme Court declined to block a new digital video recording system that could make it even easier for viewers to bypass commercials.
The justices declined to hear arguments on whether Cablevision Systems Corp.’s remote-storage DVR system would violate copyright laws. That allows the Bethpage, N.Y.-based company to proceed with plans to start deploying the technology this summer.
With remote storage, TV shows are kept on the cable operator’s servers instead of the DVR inside the customer’s home, as systems offered by TiVo Inc. and cable operators currently do.
The distinction is important because a remote system essentially transforms every digital set-top box in the home into a DVR, allowing customers to sign up instantly, without the need to pick up a DVR from the nearest cable office or wait for a technician to visit.
Movie studios, TV networks and cable TV channels had argued that the service is more akin to video-on-demand, for which they negotiate licensing fees with cable providers.
They claimed a remote-storage DVR service amounts to an unauthorized rebroadcast of their programs.
In a statement, the Copyright Alliance, whose members include Hollywood studios and television broadcasters, called the Supreme Court action “unfortunate and potentially harmful to creators and creative enterprises across the spectrum of copyright industries.”
Cablevision argued its service was permissible because the control of the recording and playback was in the hands of the consumer.
Industry experts say the new technology could put digital recording service in nearly half of all American homes, about twice the current number.