Hollywood Sues Over RealDVD
The entertainment industry has once again gone to court in a futile attempt to prevent consumers from copying software for their own use.
Hollywood’s six major movie studios on Tuesday sued RealNetworks Inc. to prevent it from distributing DVD copying software that they said would allow consumers to “rent, rip and return” movies or even copy friends’ DVD collections outright.
The studios stand to lose key revenue from the sale of DVDs, estimated by Adams Media Research at $15 billion in the U.S. this year, if consumers stop buying DVDs and instead copy rental discs from outlets like Netflix and Blockbuster.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleges RealNetworks’ RealDVD program, which launched Tuesday, illegally bypasses the copyright protection built into DVDs. “The incentive for the consumer is obvious and all but overwhelming,” the studios said in a request for a temporary restraining order. “‘Why,’ he or she may ask, ‘should I pay $18.50 to purchase a DVD when I can rent it for $3.25 and make a permanent copy?'”
For $30, consumers can buy RealDVD and use it to copy DVDs to computers or portable hard drives, though the program prevents them from transferring the files to other users. The maker calls RealDVD “100 percent legal” on its Web site.
It’s not at all clear to me how this is any different than, say, a VCR, which allows copying of movies from premium movie channels or even pay-per-view or those dual cassette tape machines from the 1980s which allowed directly copying record albums.
People are allowed to make “personal use” copies of software they own, after all, and they’ve essentially always been able to copy rental movies. Indeed, I used to do that all the time using two VCRs and some RCA cables. So long as one isn’t reselling them, it’s never been considered a problem.