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Sonicblue wants court order reversed

A federal magistrate has ordered the company to monitor customers' recording and duplicating activities. But Sonicblue is fighting back, and it's backed by privacy advocates.

Sonicblue on Monday requested the reversal of a recent court order requiring the company to track the activities of subscribers to its digital video recording service.

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Sonicblue's ReplayTV recorders and digital video recording (DVR) service allow consumers to record live TV shows, store them on a hard drive, skip commercials, and send TV shows to other ReplayTV owners over the Internet. Entertainment companies filed suit against Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sonicblue, claiming that distributing shows infringes on copyright laws.

Earlier this month, Sonicblue was ordered by a federal magistrate to monitor customers' activities to find out what TV programming they record, duplicate or send to others, and to give that information to the plaintiffs. The order would require Sonicblue to develop new monitoring software within 60 days, which the entertainment companies would have to pay Sonicblue to create.

Sonicblue requested an immediate stay and a reversal of the order Monday. The company also said that creating the software would cost about $400,000 and take four months to complete.

The order has raised the ire of numerous privacy groups, as well as the company, and has once again pushed "digital rights management" into the realm of public debate.

Sonicblue called the order "breathtaking and unprecedented" in its request for a reversal. The company also objected to the order because it requires "a redesign of a product" and "demands that 'all available information' be collected not in aggregate, but identifiable by individual user numbers."

Media powerhouses, such as AOL Time Warner, MGM, Vivendi Universal, Paramount and Walt Disney, as well as TV networks CBS, ABC and NBC, are among the plaintiffs.

The company asked that in the event the order was not reversed it be modified so that consumers would be allowed to opt in or out of the data collection. This way, data could be collected in aggregate form, and it could be held for only a limited time.