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Viewing secrets are safe with Sonicblue

A district judge overturns a late April ruling that required the maker of ReplayTV set-top box technology to write and install software to monitor what its customers were watching.

Sonicblue has won a major victory in its fight to keep customers' television viewing habits a secret.

District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper on Friday overturned a late April ruling that required the maker of ReplayTV set-top box technology to write and install software to monitor what its customers were watching.

"This is an important victory for us in the litigation, but most importantly, it's a victory for our consumers," Sonicblue CEO Ken Potashner said in a statement Monday.

The company had already been granted a stay on the monitoring order while awaiting a decision on its request for a reversal. Sonicblue said that complying with the order would be tantamount to spying.

The suit, originally filed in October by several major movie studios and TV networks, including Viacom's Paramount Pictures and CBS network and Disney's ABC network, said Sonicblue's ReplayTV recorders infringed on copyright laws. The digital video recording service allows viewers to record live TV shows, store them on a hard drive, and skip commercials, and to send TV shows to other ReplayTV owners over the Internet.

Potashner said the company will continue working with content providers to develop new revenue models.

"If the networks and studios focused on the inevitable evolution of their business instead of attempts to stifle technology, we believe everyone involved would benefit, consumers most of all," the CEO added.

Privacy and consumer electronics groups also said the results were crucial to protecting emerging technologies.

"We were concerned about the potential chilling effects a ruling of this type could have on consumer behavior and technological innovation, and are pleased that it was overturned," said Michael Petricone, vice president of Technology Policy for the Consumer Electronics Association.

Separately, Sonicblue on Monday unveiled its ReplayTV 4500 series, the next generation of its 4000 series devices. The new version adds modem support for standard phone lines, new software and pricing between $449.99 and $1,749.99. The 4500 is designed to boost the product's appeal to mainstream consumers and retailers. It will be available shortly at retailers such as Good Guys, Amazon.com, The Wiz and Tweeter.