Judge Upholds Temp Ban on RealNetworks DVD-Copying Program

Says RealDVD may violate copyright laws.

US District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel decided yesterday to uphold a recent decision to temporarily bar RealNetworks from selling its RealDVD software since its purpose to copy DVDs may violate US copyright laws.

Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and other Hollywood studios represented by the Motion Picture Association of America contend the company’s RealDVD program will facilitate piracy and violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by circumventing "…both the access-control and copy-control technological measures of CSS." The 1998 federal law bans technologies or devices that circumvent controls over access to copyright material.

The MPAA successfully persuaded Judge Marilyn Hall Patel to keep in place an Oct. 4 temporary restraining order barring sales of RealDVD.

Patel said she will appoint a technical expert and hold a hearing sometime after Nov. 17 about how the product works.

"I’m not satisfied that in fact this technology is not in violation of the DCMA," Patel said at a hearing in San Francisco. "The harm is far less to RealNetworks than it would be for who knows how many copies being made."

The argument really centers around the ability of consumers to make a copy of their purchased DVDs.

"This is literally a bit for bit copy of the dvd," said RealNetworks attorney James DiBoise. "This is literally a bit-for-bit copy of the DVD." He argued that consumers had a "fair use right" to make a copy of purchased DVDs for personal use.

The MPAA argues that consumers are not allowed to make copies of a DVD if it means circumventing access controls.

"You are not allowed to copy it, your honor," MPAA attorney Bart Williams told Judge Patel.

The Copyright Alliance, a nonprofit consortium of entertainment industry heavyweights like Viacom, NBC Universal, Time Warner, AT&T, and the MPAA among others, and surely a mouthpiece of the latter, makes the argument that until the movie industry sells a digital copy, perhaps alongside a physical one, consumers can’t go ahead and make one on their own.

Patrick Ross of the Copyright Alliance argues: "…the motion picture industry is doing what everyone eight years ago was shouting at creative industries to do — develop new business models. But each of those business models is predicated on the notion of certain use rights associated with certain price points. When a consumer can voluntarily expand the rights that come with one of those services — in essence open the door to multiple copies of a work not licensed for that — that eliminates any monetization models except one: selling full use rights to the work at one fixed price. That’s the path RealNetworks has put us on."

In other words, if consumers don’t allow the movie industry to make money from a variety of different sources then everybody will be punished and have to pay the same price. Worse yet, we may all have to subscribe to some sort of movie distribution service if were not careful.

Until Judge Patel sorts the matter out consumers will have to just continue using illegal programs like DVDFab, DVD Shrink, or DVD Decrypter.

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