Judge rules against RealNetworks DVD duplication software

According to a report from the Associated Press, a federal judge has barred RealNetworks Inc. from selling a product that would allow consumers to copy DVDs to their hard drives, pending a full trial.

Walt Disney, Sony, and Universal Studios, among others filed suit against the Seattle-based company in 2008, claiming that its RealDVD product would harbor illegal pirating. The Hollywood studios allege that RealDVD would keep consumers from paying the retail price for movies on DVD discs which could easily be rented at low cost, copied, and then returned.

RealNetworks has said that its product legally meets a growing consumer interest in creating copies of their DVDs for convenient storage and viewing, and their lawyers have argued that RealDVD is equipped with anti-piracy features that limit a consumer to making only a single copy. They also said that the device provides consumers with a legitimate way to back up copies of movies that have been legally purchased.

U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled in favour of the movie studios in granting a preliminary injunction against the RealDVD product, declaring that the technology would allow consumers who rent and purchase DVDs to violate copyright laws.

In a 58-page document, Patel stated that RealNetworks failed to show that the RealDVD software is to be used by consumers primarily for legitimate purposes.

"The court appreciates Real's argument that a consumer has a right to make a backup copy of a DVD for their own personal use," Patel wrote, but noted that "a federal law has nonetheless made it illegal to manufacture or traffic in a device or tool that permits a consumer to make such copies."

Dan Glickman, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America Inc., said in a written statement on Tuesday that the ruling "affirms what we have known all along: RealNetworks took a license to build a DVD-player and instead made an illegal DVD-copier. This is a victory for the creators and producers of motion pictures and television shows and for the rule of law in our digital economy."

A spokesperson for RealNetworks said the company is "disappointed" in the decision. "We have just received the Judge's detailed ruling and are reviewing it," the company said in a statement. "After we have done so fully, we'll determine our course of action and will have more to say at that time."

RealDVD was available for a few short days in 2008 before Patel temporarily barred sales of the product, because it appeared that the software violated federal law against digital piracy. A date has not yet been set for the trial in the case.

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