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RealDVD Gets Its Day in Court

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on April 21, 2009

Remember RealDVD from Real Networks? The software, which let you rip a copy-protected DVD to a hard drive for viewing on your computer, barely made it out of the door before the DVD Copy Control Association and a group of studios won a temporary restraining order blocking its sale. It took six months, but a judge in U.S. District Court in San Francisco will finally begin considering the legal merits of the case in a hearing on Friday.

The studios and DVDCCA contend that RealDVD violates the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that prohibit “circumvention” of technical means of preventing the copying of copyright-protected content. Real contends that it has a license from DVDCCA and that it is not circumventing the Content Scramble System used to protect DVDs.

The case seems to have gotten more complicated since it was filed, but the heavily redaction of the version of the briefs (PDF) made public makes it very difficult to understand just what the additional arguments are about. It seems that the studios have added a charge that RealDVD also circumvents Sony's ARccOS and Macrovision's RipGuard protection. Real denies the charge, but the heavy editing, apparently intended to keep proprietary or sensitive details of the technologies from becoming public, renders large parts of the discussion incomprehensible.

The hearing could result either in the temporary restraining order being lifted, in which case RealDVD sales could resume, or turned into a preliminary injunction, in which case they would be prohibited indefinitely. But the wheels of justice grind slowly, and neither is likely to happen any time soon.

Of course, folks in the know were ripping DVDs before RealDVD came out last fall and have gone on ripping them--or downloading the results of others' ripping efforts on BitTorrent--since the sale of RealDVD was barred. The advantages of RealDVD were simplicity and the promise of legality. I'd love to see it back on the market, but I'm not holding my breath.

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Reader Comments

Stephen McCoy

April 22, 2009 10:41 AM

I just want a simple, legal method of storing my DVD library so that it remains easily accessible and viewable to enable me to create some physical space to store my now increasing blu ray library. I really cannot understand why the Hollywood studios believe everyone wants to defraud them.
If you want to it is extremely easy to purchase / download pirate copies or even download software to ‘rip’ your existing collection


April 24, 2009 01:46 PM

I saw on a different story a link to the witness lists for both sides. I wish the judge would listen to the public that we want a legal and simple way of storing our legally owned DVD's. If we can do it with CD's why not DVD's. It is just Hollywood's way of wanting to keep control over extra charges for purchasing a digital copy of a dvd.
I am traveling a lot more and would love to have a simple and legal way of doing the copying to allow me to view movies while in flight etc.
I am hoping RealDVD goes back on the market. I imagine they will have a lot of sales.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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