Kaleidescape vs. DVD CCA: Judge Rules Against Movie Servers
Tentative ruling in landmark DVD-copying case suggests Kaleidescape knew its movie servers might be in violation of DVD CCA licensing agreement. Case has broad implication for media-server market.
Kaleidescape, a prominent manufacturer of high-end movies servers, has lost a major battle in its eight-year war against the DVD Copy Control Association, the organization that licenses the Content Scramble System (CSS) for DVD players.
The DVD CCA sued Kaleidescape in 2004, arguing that its products violate a licensing agreement that expressly prohibits the copying (ripping, archiving) of DVDs.
Judge William J. Monahan of the Santa Clara County Superior Court in California issued a tentative judgment favoring the DVD CCA on Jan. 9, 2012. Discovered by CE Pro after an anonymous tip, the unpublished ruling is subject to revision pending input from the two parties. If it stands as written, the DVD CCA can permanently prohibit Kaleidescape from selling its DVD movie servers, unless the manufacturer adds some kind of authentication mechanism, such a carousel that stores the physical discs. The DVD CCA also can collect court costs.
This landmark case could set a precedent that would make virtually all current DVD movie servers illegal – that is, all servers whose makers have a license with the DVD CCA.
“We are very disappointed by the tentative decision,” Kaleidescape CEO Michael Malcolm tells CE Pro. “The DVD CCA is controlled by the six large movie studios in concert with some of Kaleidescape’s competitors. They object to the innovations of the Kaleidescape System, and want new Kaleidescape Systems to require the presence of the DVD in a disc vault, as with Blu-ray Discs today. Despite the evidence presented at trial, Judge Monahan has tentatively adopted a statement of decision that was drafted by the DVD CCA, which goes far beyond anything in the license.”
Malcolm adds that Kaleidescape has filed objections to the order “and if those objections are not successful, we plan to appeal.”
Background of DVD CCA v Kaleidescape
CE Pro has been following this lawsuit and related cases since 2004, and a history of DVD-ripping legality can be found here.
Briefly, the DVD CCA licenses the CSS digital rights management (DRM) technology required for all (legal) DVD players to play copy-protected content.
Kaleidescape, a DVD CCA licensee, makes high-end movie servers that are populated with movies copied to the device. The DVD CCA has claimed that its CSS licensing agreement bars such copying.
Kaleidescape has maintained that the contract says no such thing; in any case, archiving DVDs is legal under the “fair use” doctrine and Kaleidescape servers make bit-for-bit copies so that the DRM provisions of CSS are preserved.
RELATED OPINION: What the ruling means for innovation and future of media servers
After several appeals and counterclaims, Judge Monahan ruled that the CSS licensing agreement does in fact require a disc to be present in a DVD player for playback. Kaleidescape servers – and countless similar products from other manufacturers – skirt this requirement, which is the “law of the case and thus is binding on this Court,” Monahan asserts.
At the heart of the matter is Section 1.5 of the General Specifications that states CSS is “intended to prevent casual users from unauthorized copying of copyrighted materials recorded in [DVDs].”
The DVD CCA, as well as content owners represented by the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA), have argued that even bit-for-bit DVD transfers don’t prevent users from renting a movie and copying it for their permanent use, the so-called rent-rip-return practice.
To thwart this practice, the CSS agreement requires disc authentication including bus encryption and bus decryption, which does not occur in the case of Kaleidescape servers “because the DVD disc is eliminated from the playback process….” Monahan notes. “Instead, they [discs] are intercepted and diverted to the Kaleidescape System’s server.
From the ruling (citations omitted):
Kaleidescape contends that the Kaleidescape System can detect that an imported DVD is rented when the DVD has been marked as a rental DVD and that some rental DVDs are so marked. The Kaleidescape System cannot detect if an imported DVD is a DVD that the user has borrowed. After the Kaleidescape System copies the DVD content to the server, it displays a message that states that it is illegal for a user to import a DVD that the user does not own and that the user must delete the copy if the DVD is not owned. The message further states that the user must click “Agree” to signify that the user either owns the imported DVD or that the user will delete it. The Kaleidescape System does not, however, provide any mechanism for confirming that a user actually owns an imported DVD. Furthermore the Kaleidescape System itself cannot delete the imported DVD – the user has to delete it using a personal computer.”
Kaleidescape had considered some options for extra protections when it began product development in 2001, according to court documents. The company contemplated a carousel that would hold the discs and a “DVD-destruction” scheme that would kill the DVD once it was copied. Both ideas were rejected (although the carousel method is employed in Kaleidescape’s latest Blu-ray servers).
Monahan says Kaleidescape was aware before entering into the licensing agreement that a physical disc might be required for DVD playback, noting that “Kaleidescape rejected proposed alternative products that would have played back DVDs from the physical DVD disc, not because it concluded that the License Agreement would allow the play back of DVDs from permanent copies stored on a server, but rather, because of marketing considerations.”
In numerous interviews with CE Pro and in court, Kaleidescape has said that the CSS requirement is too vague with regards to DVD copying, but an earlier court ruled that it is “not so vague that the court cannot tell what it requires – it requires that playback of DVD content by a Drive plus Decryption device be performed utilizing the physical DVD.”
It was up to Monahan to determine whether the Kaleidescape system is a Drive plus Decryption Module. He judged that it is such a device.
Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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