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Movie giants sue RealNetworks over DVD copying software

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US movie studios on Tuesday sued RealNetworks to stop it from distributing software that lets people copy DVDs onto their computers.

In a complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles, the Motion Picture Association of America said RealDVD violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by circumventing technology that prevents copying without the permission of copyright holders. The suit seeks a temporary restraining order halting the sales of the software. It was filed the same day RealNetworks began selling the software for $30.

For its part, RealNetworks argued RealDVD is perfectly legal because it doesn't allow users to distribute copies of DVDs. It also said the software keeps the content scramble system (CSS) anti-copying technology intact and adds an a new layer of digital rights management that keeps the copied file from being improperly shared.

RealNetworks filed its own lawsuit against Hollywood studios and the DVD Copy Control Association, seeking a ruling that RealDVD fully complies with the association's license agreement. RealNetworks said RealDVD allows users to exercise their fair use rights, although the company has acknowledged there is nothing preventing people from ripping rental DVDs.

The dispute is the latest to hinge on the possibility that a technology can be used to infringe a party's copyrights. In the late 1990s, the Recording Industry Association of America sued the makers of the Rio MP3 player because it encouraged people to pirate copyrighted music. The RIAA dropped the suit after an appeals court largely rejected that argument. ®

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