Court considers legality of DVD backup copies

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Postby Greg » Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:46 am

I think this will all be academic in the fairly-near future, as DVDs will be replaced with pay per view on the Internet.

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Postby Sonic Youth » Fri Apr 24, 2009 8:40 am

Court considers legality of DVD backup copies
Ryan Kim, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

Friday, April 24, 2009

The movie industry is set to face off against a softwaremaker today in San Francisco federal court in a case that could determine if consumers have the right to make personal copies of DVDs as they do with compact discs.

RealNetworks of Seattle is battling for the right to sell a software program called RealDVD, which the company contends allows consumers to make a "fair use" single backup copy of a purchased DVD.

"This is really all about the studios having the ability to control how consumers watch and view DVDs and the technology by which they do that," said Bill Hankes, a spokesman for RealNetworks. "They believe that consumers want this right, and they're producing products that allow them to do it. They just don't want us to do it."

The Motion Picture Association of America is countering that RealNetworks is violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which prohibits the circumvention of encryption protections. And the MPAA alleges that RealNetworks is breaking its contract as a licensee of the content-scramble system technology used to protect DVDs.

"RealNetworks acted in bad faith by taking a license to build a DVD player and instead built a copier that violates the circumvention rules of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act," said Greg Goeckner, general counsel for the MPAA in a statement.

A lot is riding on the outcome of the case, which is being heard by U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel. A win by RealNetworks would establish that consumers have the fair use right to make digital copies of their content. But Hollywood studios claim a loss could cause them significant harm, encourage piracy and frustrate the movie industry's own legal efforts to provide digital copies of movies.

RealNetworks initiated the litigation in September, when it released RealDVD over the objections of the movie studios. Sensing that the MPAA was preparing a lawsuit, RealNetworks preemptively sued, prompting a countersuit from the studios, which halted sales.

The software, which sold for $29 at launch, allows a user to make one digital copy of the DVD to a computer. Additional encryption written by RealNetworks ensures that users can't share that copy.

RealNetworks will try to replicate the legal success of Kaleidescape, a Sunnyvale maker of high-end digital movie players, which won a case in Santa Clara County Superior Court in 2007 against the MPAA. A judge ruled that Kaleidescape did not violate its license for the content scramble system by allowing consumers to copy their DVDs to Kaleidescape's devices, which sell for thousands of dollars. The MPAA is appealing the decision.

Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said RealNetworks will try to exploit the same loopholes in the content scramble system license, which he said doesn't expressly forbid copying. He said RealNetworks could still lose, which would deal a blow to innovation and also force consumers to pay more for content.

"If Hollywood wins, we have to pay a second time to put a copy on an iPhone or a laptop," he said.

The MPAA contends the studios are working with technology companies to enable digital usage. Online sites like Hulu, download services such as iTunes and new bonus digital copies of movies sold with DVDs are examples of Hollywood catering to the tastes of consumers, officials said.

"The development and introduction of the RealDVD software is not consistent with today's positive collaborative reality between the technology and entertainment communities," Goeckner said.
"What the hell?"
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