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Studios Assert RealDVD Violates Digital Millennium Copyright Act

28 Apr, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The second day of a three-day hearing pitting Hollywood studios against RealNetwork’s DVD copying technology saw a computer scientist testify that the RealDVD software circumvented encryption safeguards, thereby violating provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

RealNetworks founder and CEO Rob Glaser reportedly acknowledged that RealDVD, if used improperly, could allow users to illegally copy rented DVD movies. He said the company fervently dissuades users from illegally copying copyrighted material, but added that studios would have to pitch in as well.

“We would need cooperation from the studios to mark [DVDs] some way differently so we would then operate on [the discs] in a different way,” Glaser said, according to CNET.

RealNetworks last September filed a preemptive federal lawsuit against the studios seeking court approval for the software. The studios, in turn, filed a countersuit in Los Angeles seeking a temporary injunction, which they obtained.

The studios say that despite a CCA license, RealDVD’s Content Scrambling System (CSS) DRM cannot differentiate a store-bought DVD from a rental DVD, thereby opening the door to a practice called “rent, rip and return.”

Fred von Lohmann, senior attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties organization, attending the hearing said the studios are banking on the notion that the 1998 DMCA precludes a fair use right of duplication to consumers when encryption technology is circumvented.

The courts have never broached the Fair Use doctrine, which allows consumers to sell legitimately copyrighted material, as it applies to digital content and the Internet.

Encryption witness Robert Schumann said RealDVD bypasses two DVD safeguards, RipGuard and ARccOS, rendering the fair use issue moot.

RealNetworks countered that the CSS license agreement in place does not mandate the physical presence of a DVD in the computer when played back. The Seattle-based company also said RealDVD limits playback of a copied movie to no more than five computers using the software.

Lohmann said Glaser provided an impassioned defense for RealDVD explaining that the idea for the product evolved after he bought his bedridden pregnant wife an expensive Kaleidescape media server.

“Pretty impressive — rips your DVDs, grabs metadata from Gracenote, permits easy access and ability to ‘resume’ playback, sort of like a TiVo for your DVD collection,” Lohmann said in an email.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel could rule as early as April 29.


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