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AT&T, Verizon support Cablevision's remote DVR plan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some U.S. telecommunications companies, consumer electronics makers and legal experts are supporting a plan by cable operator Cablevision Systems Corp. for a service to record TV shows on network servers.

Several trade bodies and lobby groups, including USTelecom, which represents AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., the Consumer Electronics Association and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) jointly filed an Amicus brief in support of Cablevision’s appeal against a ruling that prohibits the launch of the service.

The brief was filed on Friday at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.

New York-based Cablevision is appealing a March ruling that its proposed Remote-Storage Digital Video Recorder would infringe the copyrights of film studios and television networks owned by companies including Time Warner Inc., News Corp., CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co..

Cablevision’s proposed service would allow users to record and play back programming of their choice on the servers of the cable operator. Such a service could effectively slash costs for cable operators who may no longer have to install new digital video recorder boxes similar to those made popular by TiVo Inc. and Motorola Inc..

The joint filing by the consumer and trade bodies argues that remote and network-based computing promote efficiency and economic growth benefiting the public.

“Network-based services may prove to be both cheaper and technologically superior, providing better service at reduced costs to consumers,” USTelecom Chief Executive Walter McCormick said in a statement.

“But these benefits that many consumers now take for granted could disappear if this District Court decision is not overturned or significantly revised.”

The network DVR case has brought together companies that are at times at odds with each other. Verizon has been aggressively selling advanced video services in Cablevision’s markets, for instance.

Makers of DVR boxes may also be affected by Cablevision’s plan, but believe the principle of the court ruling may have a wider negative impact on other products and services that use remote processing and networked computing.

The Cablevision appeal is supported by a separate joint brief by a team of 28 U.S. legal and business academics including Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons. The brief asked the court not to regard transient copies of programming, carried on Cablevision’s servers for less than a second, as full copies as meant within the Copyright Act.

Timothy Wu, a professor of law at Columbia Law School, filed a third brief in support of Cablevision arguing that copyright law should not discriminate between functionally equivalent technologies and that the district court’s opinion eliminates important protections for socially valuable service with lawful uses.

Lawyers for the studios and TV networks could not be reached.

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