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Consumers get warning on DVD copy software

The Better Business Bureau warned consumers last week about the maker of DVD-copying software that is being challenged by Hollywood on copyright grounds. The bureau urged consumers “to use caution” when buying DVD backup, repair and recovery software from 321 Studios.

A consumer advisory from the bureau cited more than 70 complaints about the company since 2002, reporting problems getting promised rebates, poor customer service or software that did not work properly.

The Associated Press reported that the company had responded that the number of gripes was a small percentage of its client pool and that “every effort is made to track and answer every case, usually with 100 percent satisfaction.” In a statement, 321 said that in light of the more than 150,000 rebates it has processed since January 2002, the complaints represent “only 0.05 percent of the rebates 321 has sent to customers.”

The company said customers in one-third of the cases who did not receive their rebate were rejected by the system for not properly completing their form, and another third either moved and did not receive their check or mistakenly threw it away. Other checks were delayed due to the volume of rebates generated by the holiday season, the company said.

“We apologize to those few customers who had a delay in receiving their checks,” 321 president and founder Rob Moore said, pledging to satisfy the customers who complained within two days if the bureau supplied the names.

The company, based in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, has been at legal odds with Hollywood over certain DVD-copying software that movie studios contend violates the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That law bars circumvention of anti-piracy measures used to protect DVDs.

Federal judges in New York and California both have ordered 321 to stop marketing the software, given Hollywood’s concerns. The company is appealing those rulings and has been shipping retooled versions that lack a built-in tool for descrambling movies.

The company has argued that its products merely guarantee consumers fair use of the movies they’ve bought, including backing up expensive copies of children’s movies in case the originals get scratched.

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