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Copyright Battle Goes To Court

A federal court in San Francisco will decide whether DVD-copying software from 321 Studios violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

A key copyright battle hits U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Thursday. The case is being closely watched by both the movie industry and consumer-rights groups, which say federal laws protecting fair use of copyrighted materials are at stake. At issue is software created by 321 Studios Inc. that makes it possible to make near-perfect copies of DVDs in less than 20 minutes with a few mouse clicks.

While 321 Studios and other vendors provide commercial versions of DVD-copying software, public-domain apps that do the same thing, such as SmartRipper, are readily available on the Internet.

The Motion Picture Association of America says such software makes duplication too easy for copyright thieves. Proponents of the software contend it has a legitimate use--for making backups. The MPAA took action last year to stop 321 from making its DVD Copy Plus and DVD X-Copy available. It contends that the software violates the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which makes it illegal to circumvent copyright protection technology.

Judge Susan Illston will hear arguments from 321 Studios as well as from opposing council representing seven movie studios--Metro Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, TriStar Pictures, Columbia Pictures Industry, Time Warner Entertainment, Disney Enterprises, Universal City Studios, and the Saul Zaentz Co.

The court is expected to address whether 321 Studios' software adheres to the copyright act as well as tackle the thorny issue of the public's right to fair use of copyrighted works.

The start of the trial comes hours after rumors began to fly on several hacker sites that pirated copies of the highly anticipated sequel Matrix Reloaded are circulating on the Internet.

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