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Posted 8 Jun 2002 22:02:07 UTC

Last month, we reported that Jamie Kellner, CEO of AOL Time Warner subsidiary Turner Broadcasting, had publicly likened the skipping of commercials to stealing. On Thursday, the EFF and concerned consumers sued the entertainment industry to ensure that Kellner's claims will remain no more than meaningless hyperbole.

The lawsuit (Newmark v. Turner) was brought by five users of the ReplayTV set-top box, including craigslist.org founder Craig Newmark. These customers are suing Turner Broadcasting and nearly thirty other entertainment companies, which their lawsuit terms the "Entertainment Oligopoly." The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that use of ReplayTV (including its commercial-skipping feature) is legal and is not a form of theft.

The plaintiffs are disturbed not only by Kellner's recent public comments but also by a lawsuit (Paramount v. ReplayTV) which the "Entertainment Oligopoly" brought against ReplayTV last November. That lawsuit alleges that the ReplayTV boxes' commercial-skipping and "share program" features violate the copyright laws, and asks that these features be removed from ReplayTV boxes. The Newmark suit is asking the court to consider the rights not only of the various companies involved but also of consumers while adjudicating the Paramount case.

It is disturbing indeed when consumers have to sue the entertainment industry in order to assert that they have no obligation to watch commercials. The industry seems to have invented a "contract" under which viewers are required to watch the commercials which interrupt the programs they want to watch; the only problem is that no one told the viewers about this contract or asked for their consent. If you are interested in supporting this lawsuit, the EFF, as always, needs your contributions.

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