Maker Of DVD-Ripping Software Will Appeal Judge's Ruling

The president of 321 Studios promises to fight the decision by a California judge preventing the company from distributing the technology, saying it misinterprets the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The founder of a company that provides software for copying protected DVDs promised Monday to fight a California district court decision preventing 321 Studios from distributing its DVD-ripping technology. Rob Moore, president of 321, said during a news conference that he fully intends to comply with the order of Judge Susan Illston by removing the ripping features from 321's line of DVD X Copy products if the company is unsuccessful in obtaining a stay of Illston's decision by later this week--but that regardless of that outcome, the company will appeal the ruling.

Moore says the decision misinterprets the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which he said was intended to prevent copyright-infringing activities. Illston's ruling, he says, condemns legitimate tools that are designed for legal fair-use purposes. "This is like outlawing the automobile because people use it for speeding or outlawing the crowbar because people use it for an infringing purpose," Moore says. "This is a slippery slope."

The suit represents a counterclaim from the major movie studios, which contend that 321 Studios' software is used to decode the "contents scramble system" technology that protects many encrypted DVDs, thus violating the copyright act. 321 Studios had filed suit against the studios in April 2002, seeking clarification on the language of the act and confirmation that consumers who buy DVDs are entitled to make personal backup copies. The section of the act in question prohibits the distribution of any technology that "is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing protection afforded by a technological measure that effectively protects a right of a copyright owner under this title in a work or a portion thereof."

During Monday's news conference, Moore argued that even if 321's products can be used to create pirated copies of copyrighted DVDs, the software is designed to let consumers make copies of their movies for their own use--to play on devices with different formats or to broadcast over a home network, for instance. He also argued that software for circumventing the contents scramble system is abundantly available on the Internet and that creating personal backup copies of DVDs is considered fair use under copyright laws.

Moore said he didn't envision having a legal battle with Hollywood when he started 321 Studios in his St. Louis home, but he's prepared to exhaust his financial resources to ensure that consumers can copy and use the DVDs they purchase for personal use. "It's cost a lot," he says, "but it's going to cost us a lot more as a society if we don't effect a change."