Judge rules against RealDVD movie copying software

RealNetworks may have lost its bid to sell software that lets people copy DVD movies to their computer hard drive after a ruling on Tuesday.

Judge Marilyn Patel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted a preliminary injunction against the sale of RealDVD, extending a temporary injunction that has been in place ever since several Hollywood studios, including Paramount, Sony, Universal Studios and Walt Disney filed suit against RealNetworks last September.

In a 58-page ruling that negates most of RealNetworks’ argument in favor of RealDVD and appears to lay the groundwork for a final ruling, Patel said that despite the convenience RealDVD may offer users to back-up their movies, the software violates federal law and the CSS (content scramble system) license agreement RealNetworks signed with the DVD Copy Control Association.

“As a licensee to the [CSS] Agreement, Real had no authority to make RealDVD products that copy DVD content,” wrote Patel, who also presided over the Napster music sharing case in 2001. “Other courts have come to this same conclusion...The RealDVD products, by their very nature, open a veritable Pandora’s box of liability for Real.”

The case will now go to trial, although no date has been set.

RealNetworks has argued that RealDVD is an attempt to make a law-abiding way for people to back-up their home DVD movie collections on a hard drive, far different from the many DVD copying software packages available at the snap of a Google search, which can decrypt movies. CSS was cracked a decade ago.

RealDVD, which was briefly on sale for $30, prevents users from burning new DVDs of their movies.

“We are disappointed that a preliminary injunction has been placed on the sale of RealDVD,” RealNetworks said in a statement. “We have just received the judge’s detailed ruling and are reviewing it. After we have done so fully, we’ll determine our course of action and will have more to say at that time.”

One concluding remark the court docket makes that RealNetworks may take issue with is that RealDVD “circumvents a technological measure that effectively controls access to or copying of the Studios’ copyrighted content on DVDs.”

Far from protecting DVD movies, the proliferation of movie and song sharing Web sites such as The Pirate Bayand Isohunt, DVD ripper software and cheap pirated DVD movies for sale at tourist markets in China, Thailand and other parts of Asia, or flea markets in the U.S., indicates CSS may not be very effective.

The movie studios had to post a $1 million bond to compensate RealNetworks for losses in the event the injunction is reversed or vacated.

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