ReplayTV 4000, a ‘personal’ digital video recorder that allows users to skip commercials could be forced to reveal to US networks and studios how its buyers use the device – allegedly, say the media plaintiffs, to infringe their copyright.

On April 26 a number of broadcasters and program-makers – among them NBC, ABC, CBS, UPN, Disney, Paramount, MGM, Universal and Columbia – sought a magistrates’ court order to commandeer the information. A hearing was granted although no date for this has been set.

Meantime, ReplayTV’s California-based manufacturer SONICblue plans an appeal, insisting it is merely helping people watch TV how they want.

The controversial device has two features that have the networks and studios running scared: an ‘AutoSkip’ facility that edits-out commercials and another option that will let users email recorded programs to others via the web.

Plead the plaintiffs in their court filing: “Advertisers will not pay ... when the advertisements will be invisible.” Ripostes SONICblue’s attorney, Laurence Pulgram: “If dodging commercials is against the law, you'd have to strap people in their chairs and snatch the remote out of their hands.”

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff