Film studios, RealNetworks battle over DVD copying

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Technology company RealNetworks and major film studios on Tuesday squared off in a legal battle over a new product allowing consumers to make computer copies of DVDs that the studios claim is illegal.

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RealDVD, a software product from RealNetworks subsidiary RealNetworks Home Entertainment Inc, allows users to create a copy of a DVD for their computer’s internal or portable hard drive.

RealNetworks said RealDVD gives consumers the ability to do with movie or TV show DVDs what they already do with music CDs, and RealDVD eliminates the hassle of searching for a missing DVD or dealing with a scratched and unplayable disc.

The company also said its product allows customers to view DVDs while traveling with a computer.

But the Motion Picture Association of America, which represents Hollywood’s major film and TV studios, disagreed and its member companies sued RealNetworks seeking a temporary restraining order to stop it from selling RealDVD software.

“RealNetworks’ RealDVD should be called StealDVD,” Greg Goeckner, executive vice president and general counsel for the MPAA, said in a statement.

“RealNetworks knows its product violates the law and undermines the hard-won trust that has been growing between America’s movie makers and the technology community,” he said.

But the company argues RealDVD has built-in encryption to prevent saved copies of DVDs from being shared or stolen.

“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,” RealNetworks said in a statement.

The Seattle, Washington-based company said it planned to file its own lawsuit on Tuesday seeking a declaratory judgment against DVD Copy Control Association Inc, Disney Enterprises Inc, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp, NBC Universal Inc, Warner Bros Entertainment Inc and Viacom Inc, in U.S. District Court in northern California.”

RealNetworks seeks a ruling that RealDVD complies with its DVD Copy Control Association’s license agreement.

The MPAA’s suit accuses RealNetworks of violating the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act by circumventing the copyright protection technology built into DVDs. The MPAA contends the law supersedes fair-use protections that RealNetworks said apply to its RealDVD.

Disney Enterprises is part of The Walt Disney Co, Twentieth Century Fox is owned by News Corp, NBC Universal is run by General Electric Co, and Warner Bros Entertainment Inc is part of Time Warner Inc.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte, Richard Chang