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Backup DVD copies legal says EFF

Championing the public’s rights to use and innovate with media, EFF is filing a friend-of-the-court brief supporting 321 Studios’ challenge to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). EFF, along with co-signers Public Knowledge and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, argue that tools such as 321’s DVD X-Copy, which enables a user to make a personal backup copy or excerpt of a DVD, must be lawful because they are necessary to the public’s fair use of digital media.

The movie studios on the other side of the 321 lawsuit claim that DVD X-Copy — and any hardware or software tools that would allow viewers to back up or extract snippets from DVDs — is an unlawful circumvention device.

However, many people use DVD X-Copy for other purposes than copyright circumvention. Videographers are duplicating their work, professors are preparing classroom examples, and parents are creating backups for their children using DVD X-Copy and similar tools.

“To preserve meaningful fair use rights for the public, we must ensure that technologies remain available to exercise those rights,” said EFF Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer. “Copyright law should balance public interest with private protection, and the DMCA’s anticircumvention provisions distort that balance.”

321 Studios filed suit on April 23, 2002, against MGM Studios, Tristar Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Time Warner Entertainment, Disney Enterprises, Universal City Studios, The Saul Zaentz Company, and Pixar Corporation. All of the major motion picture production companies except Sony Pictures Entertainment and Pixar Corporation filed a counterclaim on December 19, 2002.

The EFF amicus brief builds on public frustration expressed in comments to the Copyright Office’s recent anticircumvention rulemaking. EFF helped 242 people document the harm they have experienced from technologically restricted CDs and DVDs.

The Northern District of California court, San Francisco Division, will hear the case at 9:00 am on April 25, 2003.