October 2, 2008

Film Studios Sue to Block DVD Copying Software

By Brad Stone

Six major movie studios have sued RealNetworks, the Seattle- based digital media company, over its new $30 software program that allows people to make digital copies of DVDs.

As the opening warning on nearly every DVD indicates, Hollywood has bitterly opposed such copying. The studios have argued that it threatens their emerging business of digital downloads and can motivate buyers to rent, copy and return DVDs instead of buying them.

RealNetworks, the company behind RealPlayer software and the Rhapsody music subscription service, said Tuesday that RealDVD gave users the freedom to do things like make backup copies of favorite discs or take movies along on a laptop while traveling. It has argued that RealDVD is now legal because of a favorable decision last year in a case against Kaleidescape, a U.S. manufacturer of high-end media servers.

RealNetworks also said that RealDVD conformed with Hollywood rules on DVD protection by encrypting the digital copies, which prevents unlawful online file sharing.

"We are disappointed that the movie industry is following in the footsteps of the music industry and trying to shut down advances in technology, rather than embracing changes that provide consumers with more value and flexibility for their purchases," RealNetworks said Tuesday.

For their part, the studios argued in legal filings that the software violated the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act because it bypassed the anti- copying mechanism built into DVDs.

"RealDVD should be called StealDVD," said Greg Goeckner, executive vice president and general counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America. "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."

Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, the Walt Disney Co. and Sony are suing RealNetworks in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, seeking an injunction to bar the company from selling the software.

RealNetworks countersued the studios in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Tuesday, asking a judge to find that the program did not violate Hollywood's DVD license.

Originally published by The New York Times Media Group.

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