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MPAA Sues RealNetworks over RealDVD
September 30, 2008
Thomas Mennecke
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The latest foray into DVD copying software is turning out just as badly as any other, as today the MPAA announced that it has sued RealNetworks for distributing RealDVD. RealDVD thought they were averting legal trouble, as their product retained the CSS (Content Scrambling System) copy protection and locked down the copied DVD image. But as DVD copying software has proven, no matter how much lipstick applied, it's still a pig in the eyes of the movie industry.

The MPAA and the movie industry have fought a lengthy war against software manufacturers who thought they came up with inventive and legal ways to copy DVDs. The highest profile case was against DVD Jon, aka Jon Lech Johansen, who managed to defeat the movie industry twice in Norway.

There, he helped create DeCSS, an engine which many software manufacturers used to create DVD copying software. DeCSS basically stripped the weak protection out of DVDs, and allowed the end user to copy/transfer files like any other unencrypted disc. 321 Studios, which created DVD X Copy, used the DeCSS engine in their product. The company believed it was operating under the fair use provisions of the DMCA, because it only copied the movie and contained a warning screen when the movie initially played. In this high profile case, the MPAA successfully litigated this company into submission.

But that was back in 2003.

Move the clock forward to September 8, 2008. RealNetworks, the company behind the MP3 store Rhapsody and RealPlayer, releases RealDVD. RealDVD is a DVD copying implement that claimed legality by not defeating the CSS copy protection. Instead, all the copy protection and DRM goodies are transferred onto the hard drive, barring the individual from exporting the image to P2P networks, blank DVDs, iPods, etc.

"RealDVD makes it easy to save DVDs to a PC or portable hard drive and watch them later without the physical discs. Unlike existing consumer applications on the market today, RealDVD is licensed DVD software that saves a secure copy of a DVD to the hard drive without removing or altering the CSS encryption."

Sounds like a great idea right? Most people aren't interested in transferring movies online or any other nefarious acts, so it would seem this is a great way for honest consumers to enjoy their movies without relying on physical discs. Well, guess again.

In Los Angeles Court today, the MPAA has officially sued RealNetworks, dashing any hopes that DVD copying would come to the masses. Ok, not really, but here's what the MPAA has to say, and they don't seem very pleased:

“RealNetworks’ RealDVD should be called StealDVD,” explained Greg Goeckner, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). “RealNetworks knows its product violates the law and undermines the hard-won trust that has been growing between America’s movie makers and the technology community. The major motion picture studios have been making major investments in technologies that allow people to access entertainment in a variety of new and legal ways. This includes online video-on-demand, download-to-own, as well as legitimate digital copies for storage and use on computers and portable devices that are increasingly being made available on or with DVDs. Our industry will continue on this path because it gives consumers greater choices than ever. However, we will vigorously defend our right to stop companies from bringing products to market that mislead consumers and clearly violate the law.”

When RealNetworks released RealDVD, there was a lot of head scratching going on in the tech community. DVD technology isn’t dead, but is there any serious demand for DVD copying software? Aren’t DVD Shrink and DVD Copy filling the void? Aren’t video streaming sites plentiful? Additionally, considering the climate against past DVD copying manufacturers, is it worth the risk? Apparently it was, and RealNetworks appears ready to fight this one out and filed a preemptive lawsuit this morning.

"In response to threats made by the major movie studios, RealNetworks this morning plans to file an action for a declaratory judgment against DVD Copy Control Association, Inc., Disney Enterprises, Inc., Paramount Pictures Corp., Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., NBC Universal, Inc., Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., and Viacom, Inc., in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit asks the court to rule that RealNetworks Home Entertainment, Inc.'s RealDVD software, made available to consumers today at, fully complies with the DVD Copy Control Association's license agreement."

An issue considered long dead has been resurrected. By the time the legal arguments surrounding DVD copying are settled, the technological climate may be well play Blu-Ray. In the meantime, its a flashback to earlier part of this decade, and perhaps a resolution for fair use rights.

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Entertainment Industry :: MPAA

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