that term. Our resolution of this issue renders it unnecessary for us to determine whether any copies produced by buffering data would be de minimis, and we express no opinion on that question.
II. Direct Liability for Creating the Playback Copies
In most copyright disputes, the allegedly infringing act and the identity of the infringer are never in doubt. These cases turn on whether the conduct in question does, in fact, infringe the plaintiff’s copyright. In this case, however, the core of the dispute is over the authorship of the infringing conduct. After an RS-DVR subscriber selects a program to record, and that program airs, a copy of the program—a copyrighted work—resides on the hard disks of Cablevision’s Arroyo Server, its creation unauthorized by the copyright holder. The question is who made this copy. If it is Cablevision, plaintiffs’ theory of direct infringement succeeds; if it is the customer, plaintiffs’ theory fails because Cablevision would then face, at most, secondary liability, a theory of liability expressly disavowed by plaintiffs.
Few cases examine the line between direct and contributory liability. Both parties cite a line of cases beginning with Religious Technology Center v. Netcom On Line Communications Services, 907 F. Supp. 1361 (N.D. Cal. 1995). In Netcom, a third-party customer of the defendant Internet service provider (“ISP”) posted a copyrighted work that was automatically reproduced by the defendant’s computer. The district court