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Digital VCR customers sue for right to skip ads

Customers of ReplayTV, a digital video recorder, yesterday sued the entertainment industry in a bid to protect their rights to skip over commercials when recording television programs for later viewing.07 Jun 2002

The five individuals are being represented by civil liberties group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) which filed a federal lawsuit in Los Angeles asking the court to rule that their use of the ReplayTV device is legal under copyright law. The lawsuit names AOL Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation and Viacom among others. Studio representatives had accused the users of Replay TV of theft.

"The studios are using their copyrights as an excuse to control what individuals do with their own property in the privacy of their own homes," said EFF lawyer Robin Gross.

"Rather than encourage innovation and provide customers with an experience worthy of attention, Hollywood intends to outlaw a new and promising technology," added his colleague, Fred von Lohmann. "It's just as alarming as the Betamax case of the 1980s when Hollywood tried to ban VCRs."

Last October, dozens of Hollywood movie and television studios sued ReplayTV’s maker, SonicBlue for making and distributing personal video recorders, claiming that consumers' use of such devices constitutes copyright violation and seeking a broad injunction that would prevent the further use, support, or sale of the machines.