The suit filed against
RealNetworks centered around the company's RealDVD
software, which ripped through protection technology to allow
users to make digital copies of their legally-owned content.
RealNetworks had plans to release a DVD drive/software bundle called
Facet, which would make the process even quicker and easier.
company's business model, though, was put to the legal test. The
Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed suit against the
company over alleged violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright
Act (DMCA) and breach of contract in a lawsuit filed last fall.
The MPAA's assertion was simple -- consumers do not have the right to
copy DVD movies -- ever.
RealNetwork's defense was that the
ARccOS and RipGuard protection technologies it circumvented weren't
designed as anti-copying technologies, and further that anti-copying
technology was built on CSS, something that RealNetworks held patents
on and licensed. It argued that as it owned these rights, it
had a right to alter the resulting software This defense fell
apart when it was established that ARccOS and RipGuard are not, in
fact, included in the CSS license.
In the end U.S. District
Court Judge Marilyn Patel ruled against RealNetworks, ordering it to
stop selling software. Wrote Judge Patel in the decision,
"RealDVD makes a permanent copy of copyrighted DVD content and
by doing so breaches its (Content Scramble System) License Agreement
with the (DVD Copy Control Association, the group that oversees the
protection of DVDs for the major Hollywood studios) and circumvents a
technological measure that effectively controls access to or copying
of the Studios' copyrighted content on DVDs."
met the verdict with elation. MPAA Chairman and CEO Dan
Glickman states, "We are very pleased with the court's
decision. 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. Judge Patel's ruling affirms what we have known all
along: Real took a license to build a DVD-player and instead made an
RealNetworks has complied with the
ruling and has suspended sales on its website, though it will likely
try to appeal the decision.
The case represents a landmark,
precedent-setting ruling in terms of fair use. It sets the
precedent that not only declares that media-copying software which
circumvents copy-protection technologies is illegal, but also adds
legal credence to the MPAA and RIAA's argument that consumers making
copies of legally purchased DVDs and CDs is
While enforcement of such laws on individual
citizens is prohibitively expensive for these organizations, it gives
them room to lobby law enforcement to take on the fiscal burden and
begin investigating and prosecuting citizens for such offenses.
The ruling also raises questions about what
exactly amounts to infringement.