Courts Can DVD Copying Hardware, Software

By Roy Mark  |  Posted 2009-08-13 Print this article Print

Two legal decisions send a stark message to innovators and consumers that DVD ripping and development of DVD-copying hardware and software is illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Hollywood studios scored two major legal victories this week in their efforts to keep consumers from being able to make hard drive copies of DVDs. The studios maintain that designing hardware and software to accomplish the feat is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Content Scramble System license.

In the first case, a San Francisco judge Aug. 11 granted a preliminary injunction against RealNetworks (PDF) and its RealDVD software that allows users to burn DVDs to their hard drives. RealNetworks was also blocked from offering a video jukebox that combined a DVD player and a hard drive.

A day later, a California appeals court reversed a lower court order allowing Kaleidescape to produce its video jukebox. The court sent the case back to the lower court to reconsider whether Kaleidescape's home movie server violates the DMCA, which prohibits making copies of DVDs.

"This is a victory for the creators and producers of motion pictures and television shows and for the rule of law in our digital economy," MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman said of the RealNetworks decision. "[The] ruling affirms what we have known all along: RealNetworks took a license to build a DVD player and instead made an illegal DVD copier. Throughout the development of RealDVD, RealNetworks demonstrated that it was willing to break the law at the expense of those who create entertainment content."

RealNetworks said it was reviewing the decision and would comment at a later date, but an appeal of the decision is likely. The company said it believes that the Hollywood DVD license could be read to permit DVD copying under fair use rules.

"Unfortunately, given the pace of the federal appeals process, this means that the RealDVD products will likely stay off the market for at least a year," the Electronic Frontier Association said in an Aug. 11 blog post. "And whatever the outcome of that appeal, this ruling sends a chilling message to any technology innovator interested in delivering new products that interact with the DVDs you own."


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