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RealDVD Goes to Court Over DVD Ripping Software

Will the DVD CCA's injunction against RealDVD continue? At issue: If someone wants to make a copy of something they own, do they have to pay the studios again?

RealDVD ripping software from RealNetworks (Nasdaq: RNWK) is finally having its day in court.

Soon, we may have a verdict once and for all on the legality of copying DVDs – an issue that has tormented manufacturers and consumers since the great Kaleidescape lawsuit in 2005.

At issue is whether companies can create products than enable users to duplicate copy-protected DVDs – even ones that they own -- onto a hard drive.

The case against Kaleidescape (a high-end bit player in the scheme of things) is in remission, but the bad guys went after a much bigger threat in September 2008 when they sued RealNetworks over its $50 RealDVD copying software.

Lawsuits were filed by the DVD CCA (Copy Control Association), which licenses the Content Scramble System (CSS) software for decrypting DVDs; the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA); and some of the top movie studios.

A couple of months later, the courts banned the sale of RealDVD after the "afflicted" parties filed a temporary restraining order.

At issue now is whether that temporary injunction will stay in place until the case is resolved.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – a champion of digital rights -- Real's attorney told the court Friday that such an injunction would be the "death knell" for RealDVD.

Pay Twice for DVD You Own?

Not surprisingly, RealDVD argued in court that copying a DVD falls under the realm of fair use.

And the bad guys insisted that fair use does not include the right to copy a DVD. The studios, they argue, should be paid for every copy made of a protected work. The DVD CCA says that, in fact, its CSS license outright forbids the copying of a DVD – a contractual argument that the DVD CCA lost in the Kaleidescape case.

In a statement filed on April 24, 2009 (pdf), Real argues that it "faithfully follows the CSS License specifications."

It just so happens, Real explains, that the studios don't like the end result: "allowing consumers to save a copy of DVDs they own to their hard drives."

Real further argues:

The CSS License makes clear that CSS technology is intended to prevent "unauthorized" copying. Hence the question – what is "unauthorized copying? The CSS documentation provides no simple sound bite of a definition, but it does provide a simple answer: an unauthorized copy is a copy that does not meet the requirements of the CSS specifications. … The RealDVD Products comply [with CSS] to the letter.

The studios and the DVD CCA are trying to convince the court that products like RealDVD will be the death of Hollywood, most notably because the technology encourages consumers to "rent, rip and return" rather than buying DVDs.

That's not Real's problem, their attorneys say.

In a motion filed in March 2009 (pdf), Real argues:

To the extent "rent-rip-and-return" is even a potential problem, it is a problem the Studios always had the power to eliminate. [blacked-out text] Were they to do so, the RealDVD Products could easily be updated to detect that a DVD was rented and then prevent it from being saved. To date, the Studios have refused to implement the simple fix. The ideal of "rent-rip-and-return" is worth more to them as a live legal argument against the RealDVD Products than as a dead threat in the real world."

Real argues that it abides by the CSS license because its product not only wraps CSS around every copy made, it adds another layer of DRM protection, the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

So the issue becomes, as Real's lawyers argued in court: "If someone wants to make a copy of something they own, do they have to pay the studios again?"

The studios say yes.

The rest of us say no.

Studios Would Rather We Buy DVD Ripping Products Offshore?
As studios work to quash legitimate products like RealDVD, offshore providers of DVD ripping software -- like AnyDVD developer SlySoft -- are reaping the rewards.

DVD Ripping: The Whole Picture
Kaleidescape vs. DVD CCA: Judge Rules Against Movie Servers
Tentative ruling in landmark DVD-copying case says Kaleidescape knew its movie servers might be in violation of DVD CCA licensing agreement that prohibits copying of DVDs.
DVD Ripping: The Latest on the Legal Front
This compilation of articles on the legality of DVD ripping, and related fair-use cases, will be updated continuously.
Understanding the Kaleidescape, RealDVD Cases
What have the courts really decided on DVD copying, and what are the implications for the future? We debunk the myths about the the two lawsuits and clarify the current legal state of DVD ripping.
Is DVD 'Ripping' the Same as 'Archiving?'
Is the term "ripping" generally understood as the "illegal" form of copying a disk? Likewise, is "archiving" known as the bit-for-bit "legal" way of doing it?
Can You Be Sued for Helping Clients Rip DVDs?
EFF attorney Fred von Lohmann explains some of the legal issues involved in selling and installing products that enable users to copy DVDs.
Is Your DVD Server Legal? Manufacturers Say Yes!
Developers of movie-ripping products insist their products are legal. Here's how the manufacturers justify their solutions.
Copy Protection Group Sues Kaleidescape (2005)
Kaleidescape has a license from the DVD CCA to employ CSS decoding in its media servers, which it does. Now, DVD CCA is suing Kaleidescape for breach of contract.
Would Studios Rather We Buy DVD Ripping Products Offshore?
As studios work to quash legitimate products like RealDVD, offshore providers of DVD ripping software -- like AnyDVD developer SlySoft -- are reaping the rewards.
Industry Insider: DVD CCA Is an Innovation-Stifling Cartel (2005)
The DVD Copyright Control Association (DVD CCA) is a bunch of bullies. The organization manages to coerce all manufacturers of DVD players to sign away their rights to innovation.

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Article Topics

News · Digital Rights · Digital Media · Legal · Legal · Digital Rights · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

18 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Jason Unger  on  04/28  at  09:56 AM

This whole thing is a joke. People have been ripping DVDs for years, and whether or not RealDVD wins or loses won’t change that.

The technology is there. People don’t see anything morally wrong with ripping something they’ve bought. (Rent and rip is a different question)

Ripping CDs basically built the digital music industry. The studios should let ripping DVDs build the media server industry.

Posted by Haktek Eyeondesign  on  04/28  at  10:32 AM

Agree with Jason, I bought the DVDs i own them i can do whatever i feel like it, people dont wanna spent money and the same dvd i burn them before they get mess up make copy to go traveling dont wanna loose my original copy.

Even Rent and copy why do they let them rent movies if its always gonna happen oh well, RealDVD is only one of them and we have a lot more out there so what is the point and messing this guys, there even Free software that do the job well on decrypting those dvd

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  04/28  at  08:41 PM

What a joke.

Person with brain: Everyone is already copying DVD’s. This whole thing is really a waste of time.

CCA: What are our options?

Person with brain: Rather than waste money fighting technology you could direct it towards altering you business model so that your industry can join the rest of the world in 2009.

CCA: So we should sue them and pretend this is not happening?

Person with brain: NO! Im saying you should not sue them, you should join them and maybe even beat them at their own game (while you still have money in the bank).

CCA: Lets sue them.

Person with brain: (shakes head says ok, jumps off bridge on way home)

Posted by Haktek  on  04/29  at  09:03 AM

Lets just start ripping more DVDs now everyone rent and rip dont buy HAHAHAHAHAHAAAA ripping DVDs is legal anyways they make the technology so whats the different hahahahaha…..

Posted by Haktek  on  04/29  at  09:07 AM

Here is the funny part Studio Personel Employees over 100

VS the rest of us over 100 billions you morons everyone rips dvds no matters who you are.

Posted by MHufnagel  on  04/29  at  12:11 PM

What a waste of money. 

I’ve been ripping DVDs I own to a hard drive for years now. Pandoras Box has been opened and there’s no way to close it back up.

Posted by Permanent Poverty  on  04/29  at  01:52 PM

I have a great idea! Let’s all steal DVD’s by renting and ripping, so then nobody will invest money in making movies, then there won’t be any movies to steal!! Then we’ll have permanently screwed ourselves!! Sounds like fun.

The mass stupidity on this site is stunning.

Posted by DSM  on  04/29  at  02:22 PM

The way I’ve always understood the issue is this:  You don’t actually “own” what you think you own.  You only “license” a copy of the media in question.  Since you only license it and do not own it, you cannot copy it.

The way it seems logical in the real world is, if you reproduce and SELL the media, you could get in trouble.  That I get.  Making personal backups is totally different and typically innocent.  Rent and rip, well, if they don’t like it, deploy better copy protection like Sony Studios.

Posted by Haktek  on  04/29  at  02:51 PM

Yeah DSM your right, and who care if they dont make more movies we’ll find a way to make others, there always a solution.

Posted by T.Rex  on  04/29  at  09:14 PM

Let’s face it. Most movies (and music) are an insult to human intelligence these days. Copy DVDs and CDs until the industry stops regurgitating plots, churning out sequels, remaking and even directly sampling great music and promoting the current landfill fodder that is contributing so effectively to the decline of western civilization. If the current movie and music industries ceased to exist tomorrow, I can almost guarantee something superior would take their place in short order. I hope to live to see that day.

Posted by toddious  on  04/30  at  10:55 AM

The copying of movies should be treated just like the copying of any other type of art.

If I were to go buy a Van Gogh painting, and take it home to my house, I could make a copy of that painting and put it in every room of my house if I wanted. Obviously, I could not take these copies and sell them to anyone else, but I can enjoy them for my personal use, and there is nothing wrong with that.

There is no difference between the two…

Posted by T.Rex  on  04/30  at  11:06 AM

I agree. However, we are not talking about Van Gogh’s here. We are talking about bad black velvet paintings. I think the throw away nature of much of today’s entertainment (art?) that is available on optical media is contributory to the lack of respect or sympathy for the copyright holders

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  04/30  at  11:09 AM

t.rex, what ever are you talking about?!

Have you not seen Murderball? Memento? Boy in the Striped Pajamas?!

Posted by T.Rex  on  04/30  at  11:47 AM

I’ve seen “Memento”. Good movie. Haven’t seen “Murderball”. Won’t see “Boy in the Striped Pajamas”. I won’t watch another “evil Nazis” movie until two things happen. A movie gets made about Stalin killing even more Christians in the Holodomor during the 1930s and Israel acknowledging it’s dirty deeds done in the occupied territories. The holocaust industry has worn out it’s welcome in my mind.

Get a big enough slurry pit and a few diamonds will no doubt be found, but the current corporate entertainment media in this country needs a long overdue and thorough spanking. Right now it is my opinion that they are reaping what they sowed.

Posted by toddious  on  04/30  at  12:35 PM

The debate of whether or not the media is any good is a moot point. The fact remains that if you are buying a product (or licensing a version to yourself), you should have the ability to use it for your personal use however you like. You are not licensing the movie for each DVD player in your house, but licensing it for your personal enjoyment. If I want to have 10 copies, and leave one in each DVD player I own, I should have the ability to do so.

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