Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation v. Cablevision Systems Corporation

March 22 2007
Cablevision Systems proposed to offer a video playback service for use by its customers. This service would come in the form of DVR system that was remotely operated. In this sense, customers would “own” space on Cablevision’s servers rather than poses the storage medium (HDD) locally. In typical practice, “set-top storage DVRs” (STS-DVRs) stored recorded movies and shows locally on a self contained hard drive (HDD). Through STS-DVRs customers could watch saved programs or view selected programs on demand from the cable company. These video on demand (VOD) programs were offered to customers due to a licenses obtained from the plaintiff.

Twentieth Century Fox filled claim against Cablevisions proposed system due to direct copyright infringement for the reproduction and transmission of copyrighted material. In this case it is not disputed that the works in question are copyrighted works and that the plaintiff is the copyright owner. Cablevision denies the accusation by claiming to be a passive participant in the storing and viewing of the material.
The claim against the defendant for reproducing the content comes in two different forms. The first form is that the reproduction right was violated when the works were stored on the Cablevision servers. In this instance, when the works were saved on the servers they were saved in their entirety. Cablevision argues that they are just a passive service when the reproduction occurs at the customer’s discretion. Cablevision further argued that a license for reproduction was not needed due to their limited involvement. Cablevision cites the Sony beta max case claiming to simply a time shifting device, like the VCR, and therefore protected.
The second form of reproduction infringement is claimed to occur when the works were stored in a buffer before being transmitted or saved. It is argued by the plaintiff that the information in RAM is fixed due to the fact that it is possible to reproduce a work in whole from its contents. Cablevision argued that the medium was not fixed and therefore not eligible as copies.
In regards to the claim against the unauthorized transmission of the work, Cablevision again claims to be a passive agent in the process. Cablevision has no power over what is transmitted due to the consumer choosing the time at their discretion.

It is decided that Cablevision is guilty under all three accusations. In regards to the first reproduction claim, it is ruled that the Beta Max case is not appropriately applied. The remote DVR service is in this case just that, a service. The ability to store copyrighted material on Cablevisions servers is not the same as storing on a local storage unit. Due to being a service, the RS-DVR is not ruled as protected. The claim against the “buffer” copies is justified due to both case law and practice. The court rules that the works are reproduced in whole from the information in the buffer and are therefore a “fixed” medium. The court also cites cases such as MAI v. Peak for verification.
The court decides that due to how the service works, the system is more akin to a VOD service rather than a DVR system. Therefore, the system could only work if Cablevision obtained license for the works as they do for VOD programs.
Summary judgment is granted for the plaintiff.

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