SONICblue Can Keep Customer Info Private

Michael Singer

Updated · Jun 03, 2002

Internet convergence player, SONICblue claimed victory Monday in its battle with the entertainment industry affecting anyone who bought one of its ReplayTV 4000 units.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper Friday overturned a Los Angeles Magistrate’s April 26 ruling that demanded SONICblue monitor its customers’ viewing habits.

“This is an important victory for us in the litigation, but most importantly, it’s a victory for our consumers,” said SONICblue president and CEO Ken Potashner. “We have been, and continue to be willing to work with the content providers to develop new revenue models. If the networks and studios focused on the inevitable evolution of their business instead of attempts to stifle technology, we believe everyone involved would benefit, consumers most of all.”

On May 3, Central District Court Magistrate Charles Eick ordered SONICblue to reveal the individual viewing habits of its ReplayTV 4000 customers and pinpoint the frequency with which movie and television shows are recorded and electronically shared with other users.

The suit (Paramount Pictures Corp., et al. v. ReplayTV, Inc., et al.) contends that SONICblue’s digital video recorder device, and machines like it, ultimately siphon off programming revenue by enabling consumers to skip over television commercials.

The decision was immediately criticized by SONICblue as well as other privacy organizations as being too harsh.

The Consumer Electronics Association and three other entities filed Amicus briefs in support of SONICblue’s position on the ruling. The Electronic Privacy Information Center and seven other entities did the same a day latter.

“This decision is a victory for consumers,” said Megan Gray, senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “The prospect of monitoring a consumer’s every action simply because they own a product that has been alleged to be susceptible to some uses the entertainment industry dislikes, is abhorrent to constitutional principles. We’re glad the court recognized this and overturned the ruling.”

“Forcing a company to change its product in order to conduct surveillance on its customers is unreasonable and inappropriate,” said Michael Petricone, vice president of Technology Policy for the Consumer Electronics Association. “We were concerned about the potential chilling effects a ruling of this type could have on consumer behavior and technological innovation, and are pleased that it was overturned.”

SONICblue’s ReplayTV 4000 has been the subject of a series of lawsuits filed on behalf of 28 television and movie studios claiming that the ReplayTV 4000, SONICblue’s most popular digital video recorder to date, enables copyright infringement by allowing users to send files via a ‘Send Show’ feature over the Internet and redistribute entertainment content without permission from copyright holders.

The company was so ecstatic about the judge’s ruling, it began shipping its ReplayTV 4500 series to retailers, including Good Guys, Amazon, The Wiz and Tweeter.

The next generation of SONICblue’s ReplayTV adds modem support for standard phone line connections, a redesigned software package and a service-based pricing model.

Michael Singer
Michael Singer

Michael Singer is a career coach, podcast host, and author to help you step into a career you're excited about. Currently, He is a coach and trainer helping entrepreneurs and executives achieve business and leadership success. He is also an award-winning business journalist focused on the intersection of technology, Big Data, Cloud, SaaS, SAP, and other trending technology.

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