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11/17/2006
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Hollywood Sues to Keep DVDs Off iPods

The suit was filed against a Massachusetts-based company to prevent it from helping people load purchased videos onto iPods and other portable video players.

The major Hollywood motion picture studios have filed suit against a Massachusetts-based company to prevent it from helping people load purchased videos onto iPods and other portable video players.

Earlier this month, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Disney Enterprises, Columbia TriStar Television, and Columbia Pictures sued Load 'N Go Video, alleging that copying DVDs onto portable video players represents unlawful exploitation of copyrighted content and unlawful circumvention of the Content Scramble System that encrypts DVD data.

Founded in 2005 and formerly known as TVMyPod, Load 'N Go Video is no longer accessible online and the phone number listed on a cached version of the site has been disconnected.

Load 'N Go Video described itself as "a value-added service to save both the time and effort of its consumers." The company sold both DVDs and portable video players, and would load purchased movies onto the devices for a fee. It also allowed customers to send in their portable media players to be loaded with purchased content and then returned.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a cyber liberties advocacy organization, says, "[T]he complaint makes it crystal clear that the [Motion Picture Association of America] believes it is just as illegal for you to do the same thing for yourself at home. Apparently, Hollywood believes that you should have to re-purchase all your DVD movies a second time if you want to watch them on your iPod."

The EFF claims that media companies are using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to deny consumers fair-use rights under the Copyright Act. "Before the DMCA, the studios would have had to go to court and prove that 'space-shifting' is not a fair use," EFF attorney Fred von Lohmann argues. "After the DMCA, they simply argue that 'circumvention' of the [Content Scramble System] encryption on DVDs is forbidden by the DMCA, fair use or not."

An MPAA spokesperson disputes that characterization. "We're not suing consumers here," says Kori Bernards of the MPAA. "We're suing a business. Load 'N Go is in the business of offering unlawful DVD ripping services."

Bernards notes that there are licensed services to provide consumers with content for mobile devices and that film studios are working to broaden access to their content for owners of media players.

Asked whether the MPAA intended to pursue consumers for transferring DVDs to PVPs themselves, Bernards reiterated that this suit is against a business.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs sits on the board of Disney, one of the plaintiffs in the case and a distributor of many films for the iPod. Apple also did not respond to a request for comment.

The Content Scrambling System was cracked in 1999 when a group of programmers including Jon Lech Johansen released a program called DeCSS to decrypt DVD content. There are currently many applications available online that offer the ability to copy DVDs onto portable video players.

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