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Movie studios revive the RIAA's "making a copy" equates to "stealing one copy" argument

The RIAA and music labels gained a bit more notoriety when one of its associates, Sony BMG's head of litigation Jennifer Pariser, remarked during a case, "When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Making "a copy" of a purchased song is just "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy'."

Now the MPAA, which typically follows closely in the RIAA's footsteps, is suing software maker RealNetworks and making similar remarks.  In a similar mentality, which some say punishes the paying customer,
Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, the Walt Disney Company and Sony have all filed suit against the company, which claims it only wants to provide content owners with a means of backing up their DVDs.

Greg Goeckner, executive vice president and general counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America, says that users shouldn't get to copy their DVDs -- even those they own.  He states, "RealDVD should be called StealDVD.  RealNetworks knows its product violates the law, and undermines the hard-won trust that has been growing between America’s moviemakers and the technology community."

Seattle-based RealNetworks found itself targeted after it released its RealDVD software, available for $30.  RealNetworks is no rogue operator -- rather it’s the software giant behind the RealPlayer software and the Rhapsody music subscription service, the second largest legitimate online music retailer.  Nonetheless, it found itself the target of the MPAA's aggressive campaign, which seeks to block any private DVD reproduction. 

RealNetworks is standing tall against the MPAA and blasted back in a tersely worded statement Tuesday.  The statement read, "We are disappointed that the movie industry is following in the footsteps of the music industry and trying to shut down advances in technology, rather than embracing changes that provide consumers with more value and flexibility for their purchases."

RealDVD conforms to all Hollywood’s rules on DVD protection by encrypting the digital copies.  This is intended to prevent filesharing.  Still, studios claim the program violates the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, an all-reaching act used for everything from web takedowns to filesharing cases.  The studios say that by overriding anti-copying mechanisms on the DVD, RealDVD is breaking the law.  The studios are seeking an injunction to prevent the program's sales.

A frustrated RealNetworks fired back with a countersuit of its own against the studios in a federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday.

This case will like bear major ramifications on the movie industry, and DailyTech will be following it closely.

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By Chris Peredun on 10/1/2008 9:20:32 AM , Rating: 2
We can argue until we're blue in the face about the morality of the underlying DMCA making the creation of an archive copy illegal, but as it presently stands, it is still illegal.*

I can only hope that the judge and jury in this case have children, and have made backup copies of DVDs badly scratched by mishandling or over-use.

*Which, to put it colloquially, "sucks."

By SunAngel on 10/1/2008 9:44:10 AM , Rating: 2
Not sure if you were aware of this or not, but for a small nominal fee (e.g. disk + shipping charge), you can mail in your scratch/cracked/broken disk and receive a replacement.

There is a no doubt we will get to the digital domain era of video downloads, but it definitely won't be lead by those that hide behind the "the dog ate my homework" excuse.

By ebakke on 10/1/2008 9:50:07 AM , Rating: 5
But the argument then becomes: Why should I have to pay for the same thing twice, when a mechanism to prevent this entire situation already exists and the only reason I can't use that mechanism, is because these guys want more money?

By Lord 666 on 10/1/2008 10:05:11 AM , Rating: 3
What if the DVD is out of print? The way Disney releases movies and then pulls them off the market, would I still be able to get a replacement of Lion King or Snow White through the studio as they are no longer sold.

By JasonMick on 10/1/2008 11:00:54 AM , Rating: 2
The Disney site does not disclose how/if it deals with out of print titles. I'd say there's a fair chance you'd mail them your dvd and get it returned to you, or worse yet get nothing back (if anyone has done this, feel free to correct me).

Also for those interested the "nominal fee" mentioned by Chris is typically around $6.99 (that the amount Disney charges...). Considering that a new DVD for many titles costs as little as $4-$5 at Best Buy/Target/etc., I think its pretty clear that the movie studios intend for you to buy a new one if you damage your old copy.

Perhaps if the studios eliminated the "nominal fee" or greatly reduced it, they would have a leg to stand on, but in its current form, this is an unquestionably bad policy imo which does nothing to stop piracy, merely hurts customers trying to be honest and pay for their content.

By Mitch101 on 10/1/2008 11:05:08 AM , Rating: 2
I love that Disney Marketing BS. Scare mongering like this is truly lame. If you don't sell it then that makes a pirate copy all that more attractive.

What this does is cause panic for the copy software and spur people rushing to buy the copy software before its no longer available.

By omnicronx on 10/1/2008 11:17:13 AM , Rating: 2
Disney has been doing this for years, and long before the DVD existed. They release a movie, take it off the market a year or two later, and than re-release it every 7-10 years later as a special edition... and then back to the 'Disney Vault'.. I don't even want to guess how many times snow white has been re-released.. not to mention that it has been re-released in theaters 7 times.

By Tanclearas on 10/1/2008 9:12:35 PM , Rating: 4
That is absolutely NOT always true.

I scratched one of my disks of Panzer Dragoon Saga for the Saturn. I contacted Sega, and received a reply along the lines of "Oh well. Go buy another."

It was no longer available for sale, and the game was selling on ebay at that time for well over $100 (they made a very limited number).

As far as I am concerned, if a publisher implements any form of copy protection, they should be legally forced to provide replacement services indefinitely. No, I do not see that as unreasonable. If they implement a mechanism that prevents me from carrying out my own means of protecting my investment, then they should be the ones responsible for replacement. Plain and simple.

By tastyratz on 10/1/2008 9:47:30 AM , Rating: 2
and that's just it, its absolutely true. While we may be allowed to create 1 backup copy of purchased media we are not allowed to break copy protection schemes. That in itself prevents anyone from ever being able to make a legal backup of a dvd or bluray disc (and why its legal to burn a backup copy of a music cd)

there are exemptions to the dmca:

(best easy to understand source: )

Audiovisual works included in the educational library of a college or university’s film or media studies department, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of making compilations of portions of those works for educational use in the classroom by media studies or film professors. (A new exemption in 2006.)

That means that there is indeed a legal use for their software product. How they market it is where the legal gray line is.

By Proteusza on 10/1/2008 10:03:24 AM , Rating: 4
Thats why the CSS encryption isnt broken at all - the whole DVD is copied byte for byte. Read the ArsTechnica piece on it, its very informative. There was even a similar thing launched a while ago that was declared legal.

By Chris Peredun on 10/1/2008 11:26:15 AM , Rating: 2
Mea culpa - I didn't realise that RealDVD actually did a bit-for-bit copy of the DVD. From the articles linked in this article, I was given the impression that the CSS encryption was broken and then reapplied. Evidently that's not the case.

I shall sit in my assigned space in the corner of the room.

(While legally archiving my DVDs.)

By Master Kenobi on 10/1/2008 6:17:42 PM , Rating: 1
This isnt the first piece of software to do this. There are a couple of bit-for-bit DVD copying programs out there but to make them legal they refuse to copy DVD's they find encrypted with CSS. Solution..... use another program to always return a false negative :)

By omnicronx on 10/1/2008 10:25:06 AM , Rating: 5
DMCA states that you can not circumvent the copy protection, from the articles I have read on how RealDVD works, it does not circumvent anything, it copies all of the content including menus, video and css copy protection to your hard drive, and then burns it to DVD. So the CSS encryption still exists and is not circumvented. I know it is a gray line, but don't be surprised to see Real win this one.

By SunAngel on 10/1/2008 10:36:22 AM , Rating: 1
i think what you mean is css is stripped when the dvd is read then reapplied when written. otherwise it is impossible for RealNetworks to bypass css.

i don't see it as a gray line. they remove encryption then reapply it. this is not the same as coming over the top of css. there is no other known way to get pass css than decss and decss breaks css. windows or linux will not allow an encrypted disk to be copy. the only way is to decss the disk. so, there is no gray line, white line, black line, or any line that would allow circumventing css without the expresses consent of the U.S. Congress.

By michal1980 on 10/1/2008 10:46:03 AM , Rating: 2
not if it does a bit for bit copy.

By omnicronx on 10/1/2008 10:58:03 AM , Rating: 2
i think what you mean is css is stripped when the dvd is read then reapplied when written. otherwise it is impossible for RealNetworks to bypass css.
No, this is not what happens, and this is not the reason Real is getting sued. If you read other articles it plainly states that they are suing Real over the misuse of their CSS license, and not the fact that the CSS was bypassed.
Specifically, MPAA says that Real agreed to abide by the CSS Specifications, which require licensed products to ensure that a user can’t watch a DVD on computer without a physical DVD being in the drive. Such violations, MPAA says, cause irreparable damages justifying a permanent injunction not only because it interferes with DVD sales but also because it undercuts the studios’ ability to sell content through iTunes, Amazon and DigitalDownload DVDs.
Reals system leave the CSS encryption totally intact, (I mentioned before that you can make a DVD copy which is not true, as this software only makes local copies on your hard drive). The reason that this differs from actually copying a DVD is that the CSS encryption is normally located on lead-in area of the disc, which can not be reproduced properly with normal burning software. But when copying straight to the harddrive, CSS and all its glory can be copied without circumventing or cracking the protection. It is not cracked and re-initialized.

This is why it is a gray area, and until proven otherwise, technically legal.

By wempa on 10/1/2008 12:37:27 PM , Rating: 2
People are confused over how the CSS works. All of the video files (VOB files) are encrypted with CSS. You can copy them anywhere, to a hard drive if you like, but they are still encrypted. Decryption is accomplished by using a key that is created by data in the DVD lead-in area combined with a player key. For PCs, the player key is within the software playing the DVD. DVDs cannot be copied to recordable DVD, because the lead-in section is not-writable on recordable DVDs. So, if the encrypted VOBs were copied and the disc put into a DVD player, it would be missing part of what it needs to decrypt them. There is no way to do a perfect bit for bit copy because of the missing lead-in area. Therefore, the only way to copy a DVD to recordable one is to break the encryption. Now, it sounds like RealDVD is doing something different. If they aren't breaking CSS, then I'm guessing that they copy the VOBs and the data from the lead-in area to the HD. Then later on, they can use the software key to decrypt and play the video files.

By omnicronx on 10/1/2008 1:39:15 PM , Rating: 2
Your post is 100% correct, the confusion lies with the fact that RealDVD does not make a direct copy to a writable DVD, it merely copies the files to your hard drive. So the CSS encrypted VOB files are left untouched and the keys from the lead in are merely copied with it. As you said, there is no way to get around CSS if you plan on making a copy of the DVD, but it is possible to make a copy to the hard drive, which is the method RealDVD employs.

By wempa on 10/2/2008 12:36:33 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for clearing that up. That's what I figured it was doing. I just wanted to clear up the CSS confusion because I see some posts seemed to be implying that you can create an exact copy of a DVD, which is not possible.

By eyebeeemmpawn on 10/1/2008 10:58:43 AM , Rating: 2
sounds pretty black and white to me, if it doesn't break the encryption, it is legal.

By eyebeeemmpawn on 10/1/2008 10:33:16 AM , Rating: 5
How much longer will respect our government when laws are bought and paid for by companies looking to bend our nation to suit their business model?

Oh, the laws say they can legally copy DVDs? Let's just encrypt all dvds and make it illegal to break the encryption.

We need campaign finance reform to end our epidemic of legalized corruption.

By wempa on 10/1/2008 12:38:33 PM , Rating: 2
Amen to that !

By myhipsi on 10/2/2008 8:26:52 AM , Rating: 2
Sh*tty, unjust laws are meant to be broken. Anybody who knows anything about making backups of their media is not going to use this real networks DRM'd garbage anyway. The FREE program DVD Decryptor, plain and simple. Region free and DRM free, the way it was meant to be. Oh and before some holier-than-thou, do-gooder accusses me of stealing, just know that I have a 2 year old who loves to "play" with her DVDs and consequently damage them beyond repair. I have a Dvico Tvix media player, so I rip her DVDs and upload them to the Tvix. Now she can watch her movies, and at the same time I can store the original DVDs for safe keeping. It may be technically illegal, but it's sure as hell moral, fair, and just and I'm not hurting anybody (or anybody's profits) from doing so.

By rcc on 10/2/2008 3:26:36 PM , Rating: 2
Allow me to be today's "holier-than-thou, do-gooder". No, sh*tty unjust laws are not made to be broken. They are, however, made to be changed. If you don't like it and it's that important to you, get off your tail and work at changing it.

Our system is set up so that anyone with the will, and the support of a group of people, can change the way laws are written. The problem is that most people today can't be bothered, they just whine, and sometimes steal, then try to justify it. So, the only ones driving the laws are those trying to make money at something.

Who was it that said that democracy is the only system where you get exactly what you deserve? Or, a republic for that matter. : )

By myhipsi on 10/3/2008 8:57:31 AM , Rating: 2
Honestly, if people had to "get off 'their' tail and work at changing it" as you suggest, then nobody would have the time nor the money to do anything else, like work a job, raise a family, and have a life. I'm sorry but as much as your suggestion sounds good in principle, it's not practical unless we're talking about something serious like human rights abuses, etc.
If enough people break unjust laws, then they cannot be enforced and must eventually be revoked or at the very least ignored. These days with corporate lawyers, and off-the-charts collusion between corporate lobbyists and government, your chances of actually changing the law as an individual with money and lawyers is slim to none and if you try to protest it, You have a better chance of being tasered than changing any law :P

I'm not suggesting anybody "whine" or "steal", I'm saying that if a law is unjust than break it if it's moral and ethical to do so. Stealing is neither of those things, but making a backup copy of a movie you legitimately bought is certainly within the realms of being moral and ethical. And let's face it, nobody's busting down your door for making backups of your movies.

Copyright laws should be used to bust street vendors selling the latest DVD rips for profit, not to bust a company trying to provide a legitimate way for the average joe to make backups of his home movie collection.

By Jimbo1234 on 10/1/2008 10:31:25 PM , Rating: 4
By putting DRM/Encryption on the disc, they are essentially in violation of the fair use clause. So who should be suing whom?

By jonmcc33 on 10/3/2008 7:41:44 AM , Rating: 2
Pretty much. I've purchased every single Disney DVD released since 2002, when my daughter was born. Now none of them play at all. They are so badly scratched or have crap smeared on them. Not to mention that the only thing my daughter didn't destroy out of my HT was the Onkyo receiver. The Sony WEGA TV and Infinity speakers were both destroyed by my daughter.

Sorry MPAA but I don't really care about your "rules". I'm not made of money. I wish I would have backed up all those DVDs.

But really, RealNetworks? Who uses that? There are tons of DVD cracking and ripping software out there.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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