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321 Studios to fight ripper injunction

All the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary

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321 Studios will appeal the expected court ruling passed last week by Judge Susan Illston of the Northern District Federal Court for California, effectively halting sale of many of the company's products.

The case was brought by the Paramount and Fox movie studios and Macrovision, which claims that its licence is being abused as well as the central issue in the case which hinges on 321's DVD X Copy and DVD Copy Plus software products allowing customers to make copies of DVDs.

Conspiracy

In statements made when the case first came to court, 321 Studios pointed out that it has licensed Macrovision technology, and accused Macrovision and the studios of conspiring together to stop the sale of 321 Studios products. It said that portions of the Macrovision complaint are plainly cut and pasted from the Paramount and Fox complaint filed in the same jurisdiction in November of 2003 and this suggested a conspiracy.

The current version of 321's DVD X Copy series will be available for sale until Friday. If 321 has not succeeded in obtaining a stay by that time, 321 will comply with the court order and replace the current version with product that does not include a "ripper" - the software code temporarily banned by today's ruling.

The company promises to keep its newest titles Games X Copy , DVD X Show, DVD X Maker, and DVD X Point, on sale, and has put a $10,000 bounty on anyone using its software to make illegal copies. It also has a Piracy Prevention Hotline.

Stay of execution

In our view it is almost certain that the judge will grant the appeal and perhaps the stay, since legally there is a big issue going on here. In the US, although almost nowhere else, the right of a personal use copy of purchased entertainment has become enshrined in law. And yet the Digital Millennium Copyright Act states that it is illegal to bypass copy protection, even if it is to take a personal use copy.

We have argued in the past that the DMCA was hurried through and poorly conceived and that it needs revision. 321 Studios' legal team is arguing the same, pointing out the direct contradiction between the US 'fair use' rights and the DMCA. Laws that contradict one another never survive too long unchanged.

It is possible that this case will proceed upwards through the Courts until someone decides to change the law. It only needs to be subtly altered to continue to enshrine personal use copies, but that would also mean an adjustment to the copy protection processes that are offered by companies like Macrovision, one of the litigants.

Fighting talk

"Despite today's ruling, 321 stands firm in our vow to fight the Hollywood Studios in their effort to take away our customers' digital rights," said Robert Moore, 321 Studios' founder and president. "There is no difference between making a copy of a music CD for personal use and making a backup of a DVD movie for personal use. We are so firm in our belief in the principle of fair use that we will appeal this ruling immediately. And we will take our fight all the way to the Supreme Court, if that's what it takes to win."

© Copyright 2004 Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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