CDT and Allies Urge Court To Protect Cloud Computing

Written by David Sohn

Efforts by Aereo and an apparent copycat service called FilmOnX to deliver broadcast television over the Internet have prompted multiple copyright lawsuits and drawn considerable media attention. Yesterday, CDT and several trade associations warned the DC Circuit that the stakes in this litigation extend well beyond television. In an amicus brief in an appeal involving FilmOnX, CDT urged that whichever party prevails, the court must take care not to disturb the key legal principles that have enabled the rise of cloud computing.

The history here dates back several years to the litigation over Cablevision’s “remote storage DVR.” Back in 2007, CDT helped lead a coalition that defended Cablevision’s right to offer a digital video recorder device that stored user-recorded programs on a remote server instead of on a hard drive in a set top box. Our point was that copyright law shouldn’t discriminate against products that use the Internet to provide storage and computing functions from remote locations — in other words, cloud computing. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately agreed, establishing a crucial legal foundation for the growth of cloud computing.

Now, in the litigation over Aereo and FilmOnX, skeptics of the earlier Cablevision decision are urging courts to subvert or even abandon key legal principles from that decision. Our brief this week stressed that adopting such an approach would call into question a variety of established and mainstream services; create an irrational legal preference for local technologies over networked ones; and threaten the great promise of cloud computing for individual users, businesses, and economic growth. When the DC Circuit decides this case, it should take care not to question the validity of the Cablevision decision or otherwise articulate a test that would undermine cloud computing.

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