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RealNetworks, Hollywood studios sue each other over DVD copying software*

The Hollywood sign

The six major Hollywood movie studios sued RealNetworks today, asking a federal court in Los Angeles to stop the digital media company from distributing new software that they claim allows consumers to copy movies illegally.

RealNetworks also sued, asking a court to declare that the company's new RealDVD software program, which allows users to copy DVDs to their computer hard drives, is legal and complies with the DVD Copy Control Assn.'s license agreement.

The software, which was announced earlier this month, goes on sale today for $30 at www.realdvd.com. The company's claim that it is the first software program to give consumers a simple and legal way to copy movies and TV shows from DVDs onto their computers now seems in doubt.

Although the company said its product is for copying movies one owns, nothing stops someone from using it to copy rented DVDs. The studios said that the software allows someone to "rent, rip and return" a movie from a rental store such as Netflix or Blockbuster.

The studios are seeking a temporary restraining order to ban the sale of RealDVD, which they say illegally bypasses the copy protection built into DVDs.

"RealNetworks' RealDVD should be called StealDVD," Greg Goeckner, general counsel for the Motion Picture Assn. of America, said in a statement.  “RealNetworks knows its product violates the law and undermines the hard-won trust that has been growing between America’s movie makers and the technology community. "

In its own statement, RealNetworks defended its software, saying "it does not enable users to distribute copies of their DVDs."

"RealNetworks took this legal action to protect consumers' ability to exercise their fair-use rights for their purchased DVDs," the company said. "We are disappointed that the movie industry is following in the footsteps of the music industry and trying to shut down advances in technology rather than embracing changes that provide consumers with more value and flexibility for their purchases."

* You can download a PDF of the MPAA lawsuit here, and the RealNetworks lawsuit here.

-- Michelle Quinn and Dawn C. Chmielewski

Photo: The Hollywood sign. Credit: Don Ryan / Associated Press
     
 
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