July 23, 2003: ReplayTV's New Owners Drop Features That Riled Hollywood. This is not so surprising (if fairly lame). What caught my eye is the legal argument that it is the fact that Replay's features are easy to use that make them potentially illegal:
The 30-second skip feature has long been available, if not widely used, on standard VCR's as well. But program providers have not taken action against VCR manufacturers because those devices are generally more difficult to use.
"When things become too easy to do, that changes the legal argument," said Mike Fricklas, executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of the board at Viacom, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Sonicblue.
So, while people often think of ease-of-use as an incrementally-changeable attribute, it is (in this view) a qualitative change with the potential to alter the fundamental nature (or at least the legal status) of the product.