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November 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Movie studios, struggling to stay one step ahead of technology in order to keep their home-video units from being crushed, now have a new worry — an online service that allows viewers to use their computers as a DVR — to record streaming video onto their hardware to play back later. Thus, movies streamed on, say, Netflix can be retained on a user’s hard drive as if they had been copied from the original disc. The service, called Play Later, which bills customers $5 a month, does indeed include Netflix as one of the 30 sites from which streaming video can be converted into a permanent file. (The service works only with PCs; it will not work with Apple products, including Macintosh computers, iPads, iPods, or iPhones.) Jeff Lawrence, CEO of PlayOn, which offers the service, insisted in a Sunday New York Times report that the service is “legal for the same reason that using a VCR and a DVR is legal.” However, some experts are not so sure. The Motion Picture Association of America has in the past succeeded in halting the distribution of software that allows users to copy DVDs, arguing that they could simply rent the discs, make copies, and return the originals, paying only the rental fee for an exact copy of the DVD. Denise Howell, an intellectual property attorney, told the Times that the streaming sites risk irritating the studios that provide their content if they continue to do business with PlayOn.