LOS ANGELES – Five customers of a digital video recorder sued the big TV networks and studios, arguing that consumer rights must be part of the unfolding battle between Hollywood and the Silicon Valley.
The federal lawsuit filed Thursday contends that the entertainment industry is violating rights to free expression and privacy by trying to kill ReplayTV.
The action follows a lawsuit filed by 28 entertainment companies last year against the ReplayTV recorder and its manufacturer, SONICblue. That suit alleged that the recorder contributes to copyright infringement by allowing users to store and trade large libraries of recorded TV shows without commercials.
“We want the court to hear from consumers before they make a decision,” said Robin Gross, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the civil rights group representing the five consumers.
For more than 20 years, consumers have been allowed to record programming, build personal libraries and skip commercials using a VCR, she said.
“Just because products are now digital now does not mean our rights should be curtailed,” she said.
“These Hollywood guys want to stop me from using my digital video recorder like I use my VCR,” plaintiff Craig Newmark said. “I want to give my nephews and nieces a break from the rampant consumerism on TV by using ReplayTV’s commercial skipping feature,” he said.
“This complaint mischaracterizes the nature of the case against SONICblue and ReplayTV,” the Motion Picture Association of America said in a statement. “We have never indicated any desire or intent to bring legal action against individual consumers for use of this device.”
Digital video recorders store TV programming on a hard drive instead of video tape. SONICblue’s ReplayTV 4000 series also connects to the Internet and allows users to send files ranging from personal photos to full-length copyrighted movies over the web.