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September 30, 2006

What is High-Definition? Lawyers Want to Know.

The latest big buzz in many high-definition conversations is not about the latest programming to switch over to HDTV but about litigation, particularly the class-action lawsuit that has been filed by California attorney Philip Cohen, claiming he has been given poor picture quality by DirecTV that does not actually qualify as HD, making it false advertising.

The judge ruled against the possibility of arbitration in mid-September, launching a new phase of discussion among proponents of high-definition surrounding this two-year-old case. Cohen claims that the bandwidth for DirecTV's channels has become so crowded that it's compromised the quality of the signal.

The case brings to light the lack of clear and concise definitions of what is and what is not high-definition television. Cohen claims that HD is an advertisement for a level of picture quality that is not currently being delivered by the satellite company, but the signal is certainly better than standard definition television. The possibility of a trial gives some the hope of standardization for high-definition, with legal restrictions clearly defining what can and cannot be labeled as such.

Some degree of latitude exists for using phrases to advertise one's product that may have a bit of hyperbole, most cleverly mocked by Will Farrell's character in Elf, who stops by a New York City shop to buy his newfound girlfriend "the world's best cup of coffee," as the sign says, thinking it would be one of the best dates of her life. But is the claim of HD by DirecTV fraudulent?

James Hibberd provides an informative piece on the whole situation as part of his weekly coverage of issues surrounding high-definition television for TelevisionWeek. He includes interviews with experts on high-definition television, legal experts, and statements from a DirecTV representative.

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