Hollywood vs. RealNetworks Goes To The Judge

The MPAA is accusing the Internet media company of violating its license to use the DVD CCA's Hollywood-sanctioned copyright-protection technology.
A federal judge is weighing arguments over whether to allow RealNetworks to resume selling DVD-copying software that Hollywood studios claim violates their copyrights.

U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in San Francisco took the case under advisement Thursday following closing arguments in a hearing on a previous judge's decision barring RealNetworks from selling RealDVD until its legality can be settled in a trial. The Motion Picture Association of America sued RealNetworks in 2008.

Patel's decision is expected in the coming weeks. Patel was the presiding judge in the record industry's lawsuit against file-sharing site Napster. In 2000, she ruled that Napster was responsible for policing its network for copyrighted material, a landmark decision that was upheld on appeal. The ruling effectively led to the demise of the site.

The importance of the latest case is in the flexibility it could give to consumers in legally copying DVDs. A win by RealNetworks would make it possible for third-party software makers to build applications to let people copy and store DVDs on their PC hard drives. RealNetworks, however, is not arguing that people should be able to share those files. Its RealDVD only allows the content to be shared with up to four other computers for an additional fee.

The MPAA has been joined in its court battle with RealNetworks by the DVD Copy Control Association, which is accusing the Internet media company of violating its license to use the DVD CCA's Hollywood-sanctioned copyright-protection technology. RealNetworks builds on that technology for the security in RealDVD.

During closing arguments, the studios argued that RealNetworks' software would hurt their revenue by diminishing DVD sales.

"This is about Real trying to make money that's not theirs by getting consumers to pay for content that is owned by the studios," MPAA attorney Bart Williams said, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

However, RealNetworks argued that it has significant security in its software to protect studios' interests, and that Hollywood's real motive is to prevent others from competing with its own copying technology. Studios often charge consumers extra for copying a DVD to a PC.

"By preventing Real from making a copy to a hard drive, they are blocking us from providing features that they want to provide themselves," RealNetworks lawyer Don Scott said.

Last week, RealNetworks filed a counterclaim against the studios, accusing them and the DVD CCA of antitrust violations. RealNetworks is asking the court to bar the organizations from anti-competitive activity and for monetary damages that would be determined later.

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