Three US TV networks are suing the manufacturers of a new digital video recorder.
NBC, ABC and CBS say the ReplayTV 4000 would let users distribute copies of their programmes over the internet - and allow viewers automatically to remove commercials.
The networks filed a lawsuit in a federal court in California on Wednesday to try to prevent the new video recorder going on sale.
SONICblue, the manufacturers of the device, say it already incorporates technology which prevents the unlimited distribution of programming.
The company says it has limited the number of times a user can send a TV show to another ReplayTV 4000 owner via the internet - to 15.
SONICblue's chief technology officer Andy Wolfe said the internet distribution function was no different from taping a show on a VCR and giving the tape to a friend - or sending files attached to an e-mail.
"It's just like taking a video cassette and sending it to somebody - it's a very personal transaction," he said.
He added that the ReplayTV 4000's features allowed users to skip commercials, rather than delete them - in a manner similar to the fast forward function of a VCR.
The ReplayTV 4000, which recently won an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for technological and engineering achievement, will go on sale later in November.
But the TV networks' suit alleges that the device will enable users "to make perfect digital copies of the plaintiffs' copyrighted programs" and says it will allow users to distribute them to "many other people - through high-speed internet connections".
In a joint statement, the media companies said the ReplayTV 4000 deprives them of revenue and reduces their incentive to create new TV programmes.
Earlier versions of the Replay recorder and similar digital devices from TiVo, which allow users to copy TV shows and keep them for later viewing, have been on sale for several years.
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