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Judge traps RealDVD in legal limbo

Hollywood gets its wish

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RealNetworks has been forced to shut down sales of its DVD copying software, RealDVD, while a California judge decides if it violates US copyright laws.

The company clearly knew there would be trouble from Hollywood studios at the outset. On the day of RealDVD's release, Real preemptively filed a lawsuit against the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) seeking a declaratory judgment that the software was legal.

At nearly the same time, the MPAA filed its own lawsuit claiming RealDVD violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by circumventing technology that prevents copying without permission of the copyright holders.

Hollywood asked a South California district judge for a temporary injunction on the software — and got its wish. Those visiting the RealDVD website are now greeted by a message declaring it temporarily unavailable.

Why so serious?

"Rest assured, we will continue to work diligently to provide you with software that allows you to make a legal copy of your DVDs for your own use," the message states.

Real asserts the software is legal because it retains digital right management (DRM) protections on the media. In fact, it adds another layer of DRM which Real claims prevents copies from being improperly shared.

The court is scheduled to make a ruling on Tuesday to determine if RealDVD sales can resume or remain banned until a final decision.

Real has already scored a minor victory in moving the trial to a more tech-friendly Northern California Court rather than the more Hollywood-friendly Southern California district. ®

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