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Sling_media_logo Sling Media's Slingbox is one of those boundary-pushing consumer-electronics devices that drives Hollywood executives to call their lawyers. So it was quite a surprise yesterday when CBS President Leslie Moonves, in a keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show, touted a new way to copy and share TV clips with the help of the Slingbox and the company's software.

For those who haven't seen one yet, a Slingbox connects your TV source -- i.e., your cable box, satellite TV receiver or digital video recorder -- to your home network and the Internet. When you're on the road, you can link to your Slingbox via a laptop, PDA or cellphone and tell the device to stream through the Internet the TV program you'd like to watch.

The new Clip+Sling feature enables Slingbox users to record and post snippets from TV shows to a special website, then invite friends to view them. The feature, which was unveiled yesterday during Moonves' speech, is slated to be tested this summer.

CBS could just as easily have refused to work with Sling or, worse, threatened to sue the company for encouraging users to violate the network's copyrights. Instead, it seized the opportunity presented here. Unlike YouTube, Sling Media's Clip+Share program intends to make money for copyright holders from its inception. One possibility is to sell advertising around the snippets; another is to let viewers buy entire episodes after they watch the corresponding clip. Whatever Sling Media does, it will be better for CBS than nothing, which is precisely what the network receives from most "user-generated video" sites that host clips posted by the public. At the same time, the clipping feature could promote the network's shows as well as helping to sell Slingboxes. It will be interesting to see whether the other major networks follow CBS' lead and focus on the opportunity presented by shared clips online, not the threat.


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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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