Studios win DVD copying ruling

The six big motion picture studios Tuesday won a major legal victory against DVD copying.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel issued a preliminary injunction blocking the sale of RealDVD, a controversial software application that allows consumers to copy DVDs to a computer’s hard drive. The standard anti-piracy software on DVDs blocks consumers from taking the movie file off the disc.

The studios filed suit in September in District Court in San Francisco when the RealDVD software went on sale, alleging that it illegally violated their right to restrict the use of their movies in digital form. Four days later, the court issued a temporary restraining order that prevented RealDVD from being sold until the judge reached her decision.


RealNetworks, the maker of RealDVD, argued that its product let consumers exercise their “fair use” rights to make backup copies. RealDVD, which cost $30, allowed owners to make one copy of a DVD and limited the number of computers on which they could watch that copy to five.

During court proceedings in April, RealNetworks Chief Executive Rob Glaser demonstrated an in-development set-top box called Facet that used the software behind RealDVD to let users save copies of DVDs and play them on a television. Its sale is blocked by the judge’s ruling as well.

Movie studios have fought aggressively to maintain the copy protection on DVDs, as one of the primary sources for music piracy has been songs burned onto hard drives from CDs, which don’t come with any such restrictions.

Recently, some DVDs have shipped with a “digital copy” that allows owners to transfer a movie to a computer or portable device. However, there’s currently no legal way to copy other DVDs.

“This is a victory for the creators and products of motion pictures and television shows and for the rule of law in our digital economy,” said Dan Glickman, chief executive of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which coordinated the studios’ case.

A RealNetworks spokesperson said the company was reviewing the ruling to determine a course of action -- presumably whether to appeal.