A New York judge has declared legal a service that provides remote access to networked digital video recordings (DVR) from a standard cable TV box.
US cable TV provider Cablevision has won its case in the Second Circuit New York appeals court against a consortium of US content providers, including Fox, Turner, CBS, NBC and ABC.
The judgment has serious implications for programme advertising, say media analysts.
Whereas most DVRs are set-top boxes fitted with a hard disc, Cablevision provides DVR capabilities to TV boxes without hard drives by recording programmes on its own servers and then piping them to subscribers' set-top boxes.
The ruling by Judge Walker overturns a previous finding in March 2007 in favour of the content providers. They argued that Cablevision's service constitutes a video-on-demand service and therefore the company should pay them appropriate licence fees for copying and transmitting copyrighted material.
But Judge Walker decided the service did not violate the content providers' rights.
That means Cablevision can now provide the service to its three million subscribers. But it also means that any other cable company can set up a similar service, making every set-top box a DVR.
Media analysts say that at stake are the millions of dollars of in-programme advertising that owners of DVRs routinely fast-forward through.
Lawyers for the consortium have said they will appeal to the US Supreme Court.
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