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
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.