'Rent, rip, return': RealNetworks' RealDVD trial continues

The same judge who oversaw the Napster case is now overseeing the ongoing case against RealNetworks and that company's RealDVD software. As previously reported on Neowin, the software allows users to make back-ups of their DVDs, either to their hard drives or to writeable DVD media. The six largest film studios in Hollywood have united in an effort to have RealDVD banned, arguing that people will stop paying the full amount for movies and TV shows on DVD if they can simply rent them, rip them, and return them.

According to the RealDVD homepage, the RealDVD software itself is sold as providing consumers with the following benefits:

  • Take your DVDs with you and leave your discs behind
  • Save and play movies at the same time - with a single click
  • Browse by title, genres, and actor
  • Find and play movies and TV shows instantly
  • Protect your discs from scratches and damage
  • Save your movies legally, and with confidence
It is perhaps ironic, in light of that last listed benefit, that RealNetworks announces on the very same webpage, "Due to recent legal action taken by the Hollywood movie studios against us, RealDVD is temporarily unavailable."

Defending RealDVD, RealNetworks states, "The bottom line is that Hollywood does not want you to have the same 'fair use rights' to make a backup copy of your DVDs in the same way that you have had with your music CDs for more than a decade. Hollywood argues that RealDVD circumvents the technology that prevents illegal copying; RealDVD does not compromise any such protections. In fact, RealDVD adds more stringent protections to prevent piracy or other illegal copying. Real respects the rights of content creators and legitimate rights holders, and we want to work with them to continue delivering innovative digital entertainment technology (like RealDVD) that ultimately benefit you."

According to MSNBC, Hollywood considers RealDVD a real threat to the $20 billion it rakes in annually from DVD sales, noting that the software encourages "rent, rip and return".

It is not, however, as if RealDVD offers any benefits that cannot be had already. All manner of software has long existed to provide users with the features noted, and much of that software is available free.

One problem for Hollywood is that RealNetworks is a major player and that RealDVD would likely have a significant impact among consumers. Another problem, and perhaps a more important problem, is that RealDVD may actually be 100% legal under current US copyright law.

RealNetworks is claiming in their 24 April Response to Motion for Preliminary Injunction, as the company has always maintained, that RealDVD works well within the rules of American copyright law, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, to help consumers take advantage of their fair-use rights with regard to copy-protected DVDs.

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