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 Goes to Court Over DVD Ripping Software
Julie Jacobson · April 28, 2009

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.

  About the Author

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. Email Julie at [email protected]

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