A federal court today ruled to end a case brought by five ReplayTV digital video recorder (DVR) owners after 28 entertainment companies promised not to sue them for copyright infringement for using the "commercial advance" or "send show" features of their DVRs.

"Skipping commercials is not illegal and neither is sending television shows from your home to your office, as one of our clients does," said EFF Staff Attorney Gwen Hinze. "We're pleased that we were able to protect our clients against unjustifiable copyright claims for exercising their fair use rights."

"This may be first time that the entertainment companies have backed down from a claim of copyright liability," added Cindy Cohn, EFF's Legal Director. "Consumers deserve the full benefits of the digital revolution and specious copyright claims should not stand in their way."

EFF brought the case on behalf of the five plaintiffs in June of 2002 after the entertainment companies sued the creators of ReplayTV arguing that the device infringes their copyrights because it allows consumers to skip commercials and send recorded programs from one device to another. Responding to the lawsuit and to claims by a top industry executive that people who skip commercials are "thieves," EFF asked the court for a declaratory ruling that using the DVR to skip commercials and send shows between devices is fair use.

EFF had asked the court to give affirmative relief to all owners of ReplayTV DVRs with the "commercial advance" and "send show" features. The court declined to do so on the grounds that the entertainment companies promised not to sue here and had indicated no intention to sue any of the other owners. The court did, however, leave open the possibility of relief in the event that the entertainment companies change their position and seek to sue owners of ReplayTV DVRs.

Assisting EFF in this litigation were Ira P. Rothken of San Rafael and Richard R. Wiebe of San Francisco.


Gwen Hinze
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation