RealNetworks' New DVD-Burner Triggers Suit And Counter-Suit

RealNetworks released a new $30 program today that allows users to easily burn DVDs to their personal computers. The program also preserves the encryption that's bundled with the disks, so even if people make copies, they have to watch them on a licensed player.

But Hollywood isn't happy, because RealNetworks is making it easy for people to rent movies from Netflix or Blockbuster and burn them to their computers in lieu of purchasing them.

Given the aggressive efforts of the entertainment industry to control how video is distributed, it should surprise no one that litigation has already ensued. This morning, RealNetworks struck first with a lawsuit against movie studios and the DVD Copy Control Association. In the complaint, RealNetworks asks a court to declare its DVD-burner legal.

Hollywood also filed a case today alleging that the DVD-burning violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's restrictions on programs aimed at circumventing copying controls, according to news reports.



Court battles aside, RealNetworks is the least of Hollywood's problems. Technology that strips out encryption from videos has been available for a long time. The movie industry has so far escaped the drastic revenue loss that the record labels have seen, but plenty of pirated versions of movies and TV shows can be found online.

RealNetworks, meanwhile, lets users who have purchased or rented a hard copy of a DVD preserve it on their own computers. Yes, it's possible that some of those users might borrow a DVD from a friend rather than rent one themselves, but that can happen anyway. And even if the studios do end up losing some small portion of sales revenue, the studios still could come out ahead if people rent more films.

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