Thursday, October 02, 2008

MPAA, RealNetworks Sue Each Other Over DVD Copying

On Tuesday the MPAA and RealNetworks filed lawsuits against each other over a dispute about whether RealNetworks' DVD-copying software violates movie studios' copyrights.

The Motion Picture Association of America filed its suit in Los Angeles federal court, accusing RealNetworks of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by making it possible for people to bypass copyright protection and make copies of movies on a PC. The studio organization also asks the court to stop RealNetworks from selling its RealDVD software. (MPAA Press Release - PDF)

The plaintiffs in the suit against RealNetworks include Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures, Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures, News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox, General Electric Co.'s Universal, The Walt Disney Co.'s Disney studio, and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros.

RealNetworks, on the other hand, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Northern California, asking the court to rule that the company's software fully complies with the DVD Copy Control Association's license agreement. The DVD-CCA develops the studio-sanctioned data-scrambling technology in DVDs that makes it difficult to copy the content. RealNetworks is a licensee. (RealNetworks Press Release)

The Nuts and Bolts of it:

The MPAA is alleging that the RealDVD software enables users to engage in an illegal practice known as “rent, rip and return,” where a person rents a DVD from a legitimate business like Blockbuster or Netflix, uses the RealDVD software to make multiple permanent illegal copies of the movie (they are illegal since you don't own the movie), and returns the DVD to repeat the process over and over again. The same scenario could occur when borrowing a friends' DVD collections, simply borrow the DVD, rip it to your PC and return it.
"The incentive for the consumer is obvious and all but overwhelming," the studios said in a request for a temporary restraining order. "'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?'"

The problem is that RealNetworks has said the software only enables DVDs to be copied onto up to five computers. The one holding the main RealDVD license and up to four extra PCs holding program licenses and does not alter the discs' encryption technology meant to prevent wide-scale piracy. The cost involved includes $50 for the first retail copy as well as $20 for each additional license, who in their right mind is going to pay that just to rip and return DVDs?

RealNetworks claims that RealDVD does not remove or alter the CSS encryption and even adds additional DRM to the file saved on the hard drive. A ripped file supposedly cannot be played on another computer unless that computer runs another license of RealDVD (at the extra cost) as well. So in order to share these copies with anyone outside your licensed circle of PCs they'd also need to be RealDVD license owners.

The MPAA of course isn't agreeing with RealNetworks' argument. In its suit, the organization said RealDVD should be called "StealDVD." The group said the purpose of the copyright protection on DVDs is to prevent any copying of the content without the permission of movie studios. "The RealDVD software illegally circumvents this copyright protection system," the group said in a statement.

The movie studios have always claimed that illegal mass distribution of ripped movies across the Internet is their main concern. This scenario of illegally copying and sharing DVDs simply is not supported by RealDVD in any way. File sharers aren't going to shell out $50 for a program that relies on such a heavy use of DRM.

With the amount of freely available software available that will perform the same functions with extremely less limitation, it is hard to imagine a scenario where someone wanting to perform any of the acts that the MPAA are concerned would purchase RealDVD. Personally I really don't see why someone would purchase RealDVD to begin with.

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