RealNetworks claims CSS license lets it copy DVDs. Sues studios
RealNetworks is filing an anti-trust action against the major US studios. It says it has a license to use CSS decryption which it obtained legally, and therefore its RealDVD copying software is not only legal, but attempts by the studios to block it amount to anti-trust. It will be interesting to see if a court agrees.
Subtly it is saying that trying to block the use of its software, when perfectly reasonably licensed, is a form of bullying, that the very act of issuing a suit against RealNetworks is an act of anti-trust.
We‘re not quite sure how any request to a legal framework of itself can represent an act of anti-trust. But this argument has never been tried before and RealNetworks may end up getting it heard in a court of law.
If you do something suspected of being illegal, then surely everyone affected can sue you and failure to do so means they have not done enough to protect their copyright, and might risk losing some legal protection. Since the RealNetworks software affects all of the studios, it is only reasonable that all of them sue. But that doesn‘t mean that any of them are right.
Back in October, just after RealNetworks launched its RealDVD software, the studios filed suit to prevent the new approach that Real brought to DVD copying. What RealDVD does is copy all the DVD files over to a hard drive, including the decryption keys, to view the video later, retaining its copy protection. It has argued that this does not breach the Digital Millenium Copyright Act because it does not interfere with the copyright protection, just shifts it to another media.
You might argue that it takes the encryption out of its juxtaposition with the content, and creates a new supposedly secure environment, and the studios are effectively arguing that it was never meant to be used like that.
What‘s funny is that the CSS algorithms have been known for at least a decade, and are not hard to crack at all, whether on a DVD or in the RealNetworks product.
Any old utility
The studios suit takes issue with this, saying that the RealDVD program illegally bypasses the copyright protection built into DVDs. We have some sympathy with the studio view legally, and pointed out in our initial analysis that in order to work, this process would have to locate and copy a decryption key from the DVD, something that would not normally copy over if the files were copied using just any old utility. This might be interpreted by a court as amounting to a breach of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Anyway we‘ll soon know because that is shortly due its first hearing.
Real says the studios have violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, by collectively licensing their DVD encryption technology through the DVD Copy Control Asociation (DVD-CCA), of which the majors are all members – and then suing Real when it used it unconventionally.
Where it may have a point is in saying that it has been given an encryption license from the DVD-CCA to the Content Scramble System which protects DVDs. Just because the studios don‘t like what it is doing with it, doesn‘t automatically mean that its software is illegal.
The implication is that DVD makers are a cosy little club and that RealNetworks wants to gatecrash it legally, but instead of supplying DVD players it wants to shift the process to a PC hard drive. We can already have a DVD player IN a PC, why can‘t a PC BE a DVD player?
Up until now any software that gave users a right to a backup copy of a DVD was deemed illegal since it required breaking CSS. The DMCA contradicts earlier personal use legislation which says that in the US you are allowed to make a copy of copyright content for personal use. It could be that RealNetwork‘s product walks a line be-tween these two pieces of legislation – allowing a personal copy and achieving it without breaking the DMCA.
Copyright © 2009, Faultline
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Well yes, because there's no "loser pays" rule in the US, in general
Um you have to petition the court after you win to get your legal fees. It's not automatic but it is there .
But you can rip all your personally owned DVDs and CDs to your PMP already, easily everywhere and legally many places.
RIAA et Al fighting the wrong war.
@ Sam Liddicott
"The law is a computer program and the legal system is the computer."
One of our secretaries went off to law school, figuring it offered better career potential than running a reception desk. Back for a visit some months after starting, I asked her what was the most surprising thing she'd learned so far; what was most at odds with her preconceptions of the law?
Her response? That she'd thought of the law just as you do, a mechanism with a hopper into which you drop facts and which then, after a few turns of the crank, disgorges a verdict. But what she'd learned was that the law was almost entirely a matter of shades of gray, that absolutes were extremely rare.
Careful not to get confused...
This law was how the USA started trying to control corporate monopolies.. The lawyers who set up the DVD consortium certainly would have set it up to stay legal, though region coding might have been awkward if the USA didn't also have a different video standard to most of the world.
But, while the precise wording, as understood by a US court, is what matters, this could cross the line into blocking competition. DRM fees can be quite a barrier to small enterprises, andif a writ comes over how you use the tech...
Well someone had to find the holes in the DMCA. Real Networks may not be my favourite company and they may not have my best interests at heart, but they're fighting the good fight.
Fact is, the obvious next step for PMPs is for iTunes et al to support ripping DVD content, to transfer it to all your PMPs. We should have had this five years ago.
DMCA nixes this, but it *should* be possible to decrypt and reencrypt the content without breaking that law. "Circumventing" a lock means removing it, not replacing it with another lock.
(You should not even need a DVD-CCA license to do this, but allowing it with the license would be a start.)
If Real win, every PMP can finally get DVD and BluRay ripping support. Hurrah for that.