MPAA Kills RealDVD for Good: The End of DVD Copying?
Instead of appealing a decision that deemed its DVD-copying software illegal, Real Networks caved to the studios and will pay $4.5 million.
March 04, 2010 by Julie Jacobson

Kaleidescape prevailed against the DVD CCA over a secondary contract-related issue. That decision was overturned on appeal. Now the real case heads to trial.

Even if Kaleidescape wins that case, however, the company is still vulnerable to lawsuits under the DMCA. The Real verdict seems to set a precedent that it is illegal to make DVD-copying products; however, that is only a single court’s opinion.

Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation tells Electronic House sister publication CE Pro:

The RealDVD ruling is not a binding precedent on anyone. Other judges can ignore it. However, it is likely to be persuasive to any judge evaluating a similar case. This is particularly true where there are relatively few precedents to draw on (which is true for the DMCA).

The Alternatives

Many manufacturers of DVD movie servers are playing it safe.

There’s a nifty “My Movies” tab for Windows Media Center, for example, but the customer must bring their own (probably illegal) DVD-ripping software to the party.

Companies like Crestron (ADMS), Imerge and Envive won’t let you copy DVDs directly to their hard drives. But as long as the consumer can find a way to get a ripped DVD onto the network, then it’s fair game.

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Dealers typically tell their customers: Do a Google search.

So consumers are encouraged –- by the MPAA and DVD CCA, essentially –- to buy their DVD-ripping software offshore from companies that don’t care about preserving CSS. Perhaps that is one of von Lohmann’s “Unintended Consequences” of the DMCA (below).

Interestingly, it’s not entirely clear about the ramifications for consumers who copy their DVDs. The Real decision only applies to “manufacturers or traffickers” of DVD copying devices, not to individuals that use the stuff.

EFF’s Required Reading

The same day (yesterday) that the RealDVD case was closed, the EFF’s von Lohmann issued the report, “Unintended Consequences: 12 Years Under the DMCA” (pdf).

This is the sixth update to the report, which “aims to catalog all the reported instances where the DMCA’s ban on tampering with DRM have been abused to stymie fair use, free speech, and competition, rather than to attack ‘piracy.’”

Von Lohmann writes:

Although in many cases the DMCA abuser backs down or is beaten in court, the abuses and resulting chilling effect on legitimate activities continues. And even though the U.S. Copyright Office is considering proposed exemptions to the DMCA, that proceeding won’t prevent more abuses in the future.

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Julie Jacobson - Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

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