October 1, 2008

Movie Studios Try To Block DVD Copying Software

RealNetworks Inc. was sued on Tuesday by Hollywood's six major movie studios.  The lawsuit is an attempt to try and block the company from distributing DVD copying software that the studios believe will allow consumers to copy DVDs outright.

Hollywood studios could lose a large chunk of their estimated $14 billion revenue this year if consumers are able to copy rental DVDs from outlets like Blockbuster and Netflix.

The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents Hollywood's major studios, is seeking a restraining order to stop RealNetworks from selling the RealDVD program.

"The incentive for the consumer is obvious and all but overwhelming," the studios said in their complaint. "'Why,' he or she may ask, 'should I pay $18.50 to purchase a DVD when I can rent it for $3.25 and make a permanent copy?'"

"RealNetworks' RealDVD should be called StealDVD," said Greg Goeckner, executive vice president 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," he said.

"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," said a RealNetworks spokesperson.

The RealDVD program, released by RealNetworks on Tuesday, can be purchased for $30, and can be used to copy DVDs to computers or other portable devices, though the programs prevents copies from being transferred to other users.

The RealNetworks website claims the program is "100 percent legal" on its Web site.

"This is not a product that enables Internet piracy," said Bob Kimball of RealNetworks.

RealNetworks says the software enables DVDs to be copied onto up to five devices if $20 licenses are purchased, but the company says the program does not alter encryption technology that prohibits wide-scale piracy.

According to Kimball, the program locks copies of DVDs to the hard drive where it is stored, and "fair use" laws protect copying one's collection of DVDs.

RealNetworks is trying to discourage consumers from copying rental DVDs, but acknowledge that it is a possibility.

"We are very open to coming up with solutions to that problem that will require industry participation," he said.

Last week Hollywood studios asked RealNetworks not to launch the new product.

According to the studios, the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Acts makes it illegal to distribute technology that can potentially break copyright laws.

The studios argue that a ruling made last year in a California state court, which allowed a company to sell entertainment centers that were capable of copying DVDs, is irrelevant to their request for a restraining order on RealNetworks new program.

Viacom Inc., Paramount Pictures, Sony Corp., Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Brothers are all listed as plaintiffs against RealNetworks.


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