Judge Halts Sales of RealDVD

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Less than a week after it went on sale, a court has issued an order temporarily requiring RealNetworks to suspend distribution of its DVD-copying product RealDVD. The action comes in response to a lawsuit brought against RealNetworks by the MPAA, alleging RealDVD enables users to bypass the Content Scramble System (CSS) used to protect DVDs from unlicensed copying. RealNetworks maintains that making a copy for personal use is permissible under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and points to Kaleidescape’s successful victory over the MPAA in a case where Kaleidescape hardware enabled users to copy DVDs into a personal library.

For the moment, the RealDVD Web site reads “Due to recent legal action taken by the Hollywood movie studios against us, RealDVD is temporarily unavailable.” RealNetworks maintains RealDVD’s capabilities are permissible under licenses it executed for DVD technology; however, the MPAA categorizes RealDVD as a product that only exists to promote piracy. “RealDVD should be called StealDVD,” said MPAA VP and general counsel Greg Goeckner, in a statement last week.

The temporary restraining order issued by the court will be in place until a judge for the Northern District of California has time to review pertinent documents; currently, the court is scheduled to issue a ruling October 7 regarind whether the restraining order will remain in effect, and, if so, for how long.

Thanks to the exploits of DVD Jon (Jon Lech Johansen), software that successfully copies DVDs has been available on the Internet for several years, whih casts an odd light on the MPAA’s claims that RealDVD will encourage piracy: anyone who wants to pirate a DVD has been able to do so easily for some time. Nonetheless, the MPAA apparently feels that unless it tries to shut down RealNetworks, legitimate businesses will begin marketing DVD copying software—and that development could set the MPAA up for legal actions brought against it by its own members.

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