UK movie biz strikes again at DVD copying software maker

Now DMCA-like EUCD is part of UK law

Warner Home Video UK's legal battle with DVD copying software developer 321 Studios escalated last week when the UK content distributor filed a new High Court lawsuit with the aim of banning the sale of 321's products, DVD X Copy and DVD X Copy Xpress.

WHV took on 321's UK division last summer with a Motion Picture Ass. of America (MPAA)-backed lawsuit alleging that DVD X Copy was in violation of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

This law forbids the duplication of copyright material without the permission of the copyright holder. Unlike US copyright legislation, UK law regards even copies made for personal use as unlawful. Tape a CD you legally own so you can play it in the car, or burn that CD to MP3 and transfer it to your iPod and, here in the UK, you're breaking the law. Fair use provision does not extend to these actions, unenforceable though this aspect of the CDPA is.

Crucially, that restriction does not extend to systems that make such illegal actions possible, which is why Sony and Amstrad defeated Universal's attempts to block the sale of video recorders and tape-to-tape cassette decks, respectively, in the 1980s.

So 321 can argue that its products are legal under the CDPA. Hence the new suit, which challenges the software developer under the new Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003, which became law on 31 October.

The UK implementation of the controversial so-called European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD), more formally known as the Directive 2001/29/EC, which seeks to unify European nations' various copyright laws but which also criminalises the circumvention of copy protection systems.

And since DVDs contain a copy protection mechanism, 321's software is arguably in violation of the CRRR.

In the US, 321 has sued nine major motion picture studios in the Northern District Court of California for "clarification of the vague and confusing language that makes up the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)".

Last month, Twentieth Century Fox and Paramount Pictures sued 321 under that same law, which, like the EUCD, makes bypassing a copyright protection system illegal. 321 maintains that US copyright law's 'fair use' provision - which allows copying content for personal use without permission - overrules the DMCA.

With no such 'fair use' enshrined in UK law, its case here will be harder to argue. ®