THE SUPREME COURT ruled more than 20 years ago that recording TV shows on your VCR is legal. Nowadays, technology allows your cable company to essentially keep those shows on its VCR, not yours. Yet a federal court has ruled that this system violates copyright law.
What's the difference? This is not a case of technology changing behavior. It's a case of the law failing to adjust to new technology.
Cablevision Systems Corp., a Long Island-based cable TV operator, offers subscribers set-top boxes with built-in digital video recorders for $9.95 a month. A year ago, it announced plans for a system that put the recorder in Cablevision's offices instead of in subscribers' homes.
Hollywood reacted in typical fashion, suing to stop Cablevision from offering the "network DVR" service. U.S. District Judge Denny Chin sided with the studios, saying Cablevision's recorder had little in common with the VCR that the Supreme Court blessed in 1984. Cablevision would be making the recordings itself, Chin ruled, albeit at consumers' requests, and it would be selling a service, not a product.