RealNetworks DVD Copier Nixed - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers

RealNetworks DVD Copier Nixed

A federal judge has ruled that RealNetworks' DVD-copying software violates Hollywood studios' copyrights and licensing agreements.

Meanwhile, the DVD-CCA said it was "grateful for Judge Patel's thorough review and thoughtful decision in this matter."

"The association, which represents the interests of the personal computer, consumer electronics, and content industries as well as DVD consumers, is committed to enabling high-quality entertainment to be available for use at home and elsewhere," the group said in an e-mailed statement. "The ability to make that entertainment available depends upon a set of guidelines upon which all participants in these industries can rely."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit consumer-rights group, said Patel's ruling was troubling in the restrictions it places on the legal concept of fair use, which is the right for consumers to copy digital content for personal use.

"The heart of Judge Patel's ruling is her interpretation of the DVD-CCA license agreement, and since large portions of those agreements remain confidential, it is difficult to evaluate the merits of her reasoning," the EFF said in its blog. "However, she does make the troubling suggestions that fair use is never a defense when you circumvent an 'access control' like encryption on DVDs."

The EFF went on to say that the ruling is likely to send a "chilling message to any innovator interested in delivering new products" that interact with the DVDs people own. In addition, the decision is unlikely to make a dent in the widespread availability of free, unauthorized DVD rippers available on the Web.

"In other words, as we've said before, this case has nothing to do with 'piracy,' and everything to do with Hollywood using the DMCA to control the pace and nature of innovation for DVDs, to the detriment of those who legitimately buy their DVDs," the EFF said.

If RealNetworks appeals the ruling, then it will likely take at least a year to get RealDVD on the market, if it was to win in an appellate court.

Patel was the presiding judge in the record industry's lawsuit against file-sharing site Napster. In 2000, she ruled that Napster was responsible for policing its network for copyrighted material, a landmark decision that was upheld on appeal. The ruling effectively led to the demise of the site.

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