RealDepressing: RealDVD Loses a Round in Court

By  |  Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 8:05 pm

RealDVD logoThe New York Times’ Brad Stone is reporting that U.S. Federal District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel has ruled against RealNetworks in the lawsuit filed by the movie studios against RealDVD, its software for copying DVDs to your hard drive. Judge Patel granted the studios a preliminary injunction against Real selling the software, which seems like kind of a formality given that she stopped Real from selling it almost as soon as it went on sale last September.

RealDVD isn’t a tool for pirates. Actually, it adds an extra layer of copy protection to prevent you from doing anything except copying a movie to one hard drive for viewing on one computer at a time. (You can’t even put the movies on a shared drive to watch them from multiple computers on one network.) The court is apparently inclined to look askance at even a fundamentally hobbled (albeit easy-to-use) DVD copier.

Meanwhile, tools like Handbrake let large numbers of people copy DVDs without any of RealDVD’s measures against sharing the digital copies with friends or tossing them onto BitTorrent for the world to download. I also remain unclear on why Telestream’s Drive-in–which is, basically, a Mac version of RealDVD except that it also comes in a multi-user version–is still around when RealDVD is apparently too dangerous to be let onto the market while Real waits for a final ruling. Maybe it has something to do with RealNetworks being a relatively large company that might actually succeed in getting ordinary folks to use its software?

Meanwhile, the RealDVD site lives on in forlorn limbo, complete with a woman gamely smiling on the home page and a guided tour of the product. The site says the app is “temporarily unavailable” and that Real “will continue to work diligently to provide you with software that allows you to make a legal copy of your DVDs for your own use.” I hope that means that the company will soldier on with both this case and the countersuit it filed against six Hollywood studios on antitrust grounds. Whether or not you ever use RealDVD–or even if its limitations would drive you a little bonkers–any victories it scored in court would be great news for consumers. And if it loses, the message will be that there are absolutely no circumstances under which law-abiding consumers can make a copy of a DVD they’ve paid for in order to enjoy it in a new way.

RealDVD limbo

 
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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Level1Alt Says:

    Problem seems to be that they are putting DRM on something that isn’t theirs =D

  2. Mike Cerm Says:

    “Whether or not you ever use RealDVD–or even if its limitations would drive you a little bonkers–any victories it scored in court would be great news for consumers.”

    No, the good news for consumers is that it’s as easier to copy a DVD today that it was to copy an audio CD ten years ago. It doesn’t matter what the courts rule about RealDVD, a flawed, ridiculous product in the world of Handbrake (and dozens of other free applications that do the exact same thing).

    The bad news for the studios is that they’re fighting against a piece of software that might have helped curtail piracy. With a legal and protected way to rip DVDs, fewer people would turn to the “illegal” methods. Also, if the studios could ever get the Handbrake-type people into court, they could have pointed to RealDVD as a way that they’re not standing in the way of reasonable fair-use. Without such a product on the market, a just might find people using Handbrake to be acting reasonably within their rights to use the content which they legally purchased.

  3. Harry McCracken Says:

    @Mike I agree with your point about the studios being shortsighted in not treating RealDVD decently in hopes of improving their case in potential larger legal battles to come. But I disagree that the RealDVD case is meaningless, because precedent can matter so very much. It was the consumer-friendly decision in the Betamax case that gave consumers some of the rights we have in the digital age, and every time a new case strips away some of those rights, it not only impacts consumers directly right now but also discourages technology companies from even attempting to make interesting products that might get them in trouble. (If Real loses, there are products with no direct relation to DVD copying that nobody will bother to pursue–in part because venture capital companies will consider them too risky.)

    –Harry

  4. Mike Cerm Says:

    @Harry – You certainly do make an good point. However, on the other hand, if the courts ultimately rule in Real’s favor, establishing a precedent that “fair use means that users should be allowed to back-up their “protected” content, if and only if that copy is laden with even more restrictive DRM (like RealDVD employs), would that constitute a legal victory for consumers? I don’t think so.

  5. Dave Zatz Says:

    I wonder how many people would care enough to buy this program? Folks who understand it probably already know how to rip DVDs. And the rest don’t factor in. I’ve never heard my mom say she’d like to back up a DVD.

  6. tom Says:

    web link on Handbrake in above story is broken!

    Fix it & email me.

  7. Glight Says:

    Telestream has suspended sales of Drive-in, too.

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