Studios sue RealNetworks to stop DVD copying program

Six major motion picture studios sued RealNetworks, the Seattle-based digital media company, to stop the sale of its new $30 software program that allows computer users to make digital copies of their DVDs.

Hollywood content owners oppose all copying, arguing that it threatens their emerging business of digital downloads and can motivate buyers to rent, copy and return DVDs instead of buying them.

RealNetworks, the inventor of the first streaming audio technology and the company behind RealPlayer software and the Rhapsody music subscription service, said its RealDVD software gives users the freedom to do things like make backup copies of favorite discs or take movies along on a laptop while traveling.

It has argued that RealDVD is now legal because of a favorable decision last year in a case against Kaleidescape, a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high-end media servers.

In addition, RealNetworks also said that RealDVD conforms to Hollywood’s rules on DVD protection by encrypting the digital copies, which prevents unlawful online file sharing. However, the studios argued that the software violates the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act because it bypasses the anti-copying mechanism built into DVDs.

Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, the Walt Disney Company and Sony are suing RealNetworks in United States District Court in Los Angeles, seeking an injunction that would prevent the company from selling the software.

RealNetworks countersued the studios in federal court in San Francisco, asking a judge to find that the program does not violate Hollywood’s DVD license.