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Court Case Continues Between Hollywood And DVD Copying Software

May 5, 2009

A San Francisco court could decide this week if DVD users can make personal backups the way people do with audio, as the six big film studios are claiming that a program called RealDVD violates copyright, BBC News reported.

Bill Hankes of RealDVD said the consumer should have the same fair use rights to copy DVDs just as they have for the last decade with music.

The RealNetworks-produced digital copying program allows DVD owners to create digital copies of their discs for their own personal use without having to pay extra fees.

However, some studios let users make a digital copy of a movie onto a computer by paying more for an “expanded edition” of a DVD””creating the argument that the consumer is being made to pay twice for the same movie.

“For 11 years, since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) made it illegal to bypass any digital rights management protection system, the movie and music industries have fought a war ostensibly against piracy,” said Kevin Hunt, who writes the Electronic Jungle column for the Baltimore Sun.
 
“In reality, it has been a war against the consumer, designed to make people pay more than once for the same song or album or movie,” he added.

But the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which represents the movie studios, claim that RealDVD is illegal under the DMCA, saying the software bypasses the copy protection built into DVDs, meaning that users could copy a DVD and share it around.

The studios have described the product as “Steal DVD.” Most fear the technology would enable people to “rent, rip, and return” DVDs without ever having to purchase them from retail stores.

Greg Goeckner, executive vice president and general counsel, MPAA told the BBC in an e-mail statement: “Our objective is to get the illegal choices out of the marketplace and instead focus constructively with the technology community on bringing in more innovative and flexible legal options for consumers to enjoy movies.”

RealNetworks, which makes RealDVD, claims that in actual fact the company has enhanced the security of the product.

RealDVD spokesman Hankes said the company had added an extra layer of security encryption to ensure piracy is not a possibility and a digital version of a movie made using RealDVD can only be played on the computer that made the copy.

Hankes, however, said he had not been surprised by Hollywood’s reaction to the product, adding there has been a tension between Silicon Valley and Hollywood for a long time and this is another example of that.

He said it is not uncommon for content owners to be initially concerned about the manner in which their content will be treated by new technology.

“That is why we went to talk to the studios before we released the product,” he said.

A survey conducted by The National Consumers League, a 100-year-old consumer watchdog group, showed consumers want choice.

Executive director Sally Greenberg said the entertainment industry would be wise to pay attention to the attitudes and purchase desire of the typical American consumer, who, according to the survey, is very interested in being able to back up his or her collection.

But despite the current court case, there are still a number of illegal ways to do what ReadDVD does.

Hankes said consumer behavior is going to continue regardless of what happens in this court case and the real question is can Hollywood and technology get out in front of it so the consumer adopts legitimate behavior.

“Hollywood says that without encryption, the DVD market would collapse. I say, the pirates have already won, the software to copy is free and you’re still selling DVDs,” said Fred Von Lohmann, a senior lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Judge Marilyn Patel, who presided over the Napster case and eventually shut down the original peer-to-peer music file-sharing service, is hearing the case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The hearing is expected to end this week with closing arguments this Friday or the following week.

Judge Patel is expected to deliver her decision in a written ruling in the coming weeks.

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