Major TV Networks Sue Replay Over Skipping Commercials 
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Thursday, 01 November 2001

This time the major networks are pissed. ABC, NBC and CBS filed suit in California today against SonicBlue, the new parent company of ReplayTV, according to and Reuters. This main issue is the new ReplayTV 4000 PVR has taken skipping commercials to the next level. In the past, Replay and TiVo units could fast forward though commercials much like you could if you had recorded it on your VCR. With the ReplayTV 4000, you can now accurately skip commercials. The suit also sites Replay’s ability to record "perfect digital copies" of TV shows and then distribute them over the internet.

The suit from the TV networks is a curious one. While the TV networks and movie studios are struggling with what to do regarding the increasing power of the internet for real entertainment. In this case they decided to sue to defend their valuable intellectual property. Unlike past suits, SonicBlue will likely have the cash to fight back. It is hard to say with PVRs (recording devices like TiVo and ReplayTV) on the market for years now, that a more advanced fast forward wasn’t the next logical step in development. And since when did TV viewers sign a contract to agree to watch commercials? If you record an event on your Replay or TiVo and hit fast forward you are skipping the commercials which is the same effect that the networks are upset about. As for the threat of e-mailing or even FTPing (file transfer protocol) entire TV shows through a dialup or DSL Internet connection – good luck.

Even the Gnutella network, which has replaced Napster as the way to swap free music on the net, struggles with painfully slow download speeds. The highly compressed video files on a PVR is far harder to send over the internet. As for the video being a "perfect digital copy" either the network’s lawyers need a new prescription for their glasses or they didn’t actually watch a ReplayTV recording before they filed suit. While the technology is incredibly convenient, it is far from a "perfect" video source. In fact it looks nearly unwatchable on all but the high quality recording setting.

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