The Law Can't Keep Up with Technology
First: Federal District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel has issued a preliminary injunction against RealNetworks, barring the sale of its RealDVD backup software. (Patel had issued a temporary injunction shortly after RealNetworks announced the product last fall, at the request of the movie industry.) This ruling isn't final, but her 58-page ruling [PDF] does not contain much good news for Real.
[ Also on InfoWorld, Bill Snyder warns: Watch out, developers: Here come the lawyers | Stay up to date on Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]
Remember: We're not talking about a toy for BitTorrent fanboys. RealDVD allows real owners of DVDs to make backup copies of movies they have legally purchased. Using RealDVD, you can store copies of a film on up to five machines -- and that's about it. In fact, the software does a whole lot less than dozens of other more dubious DVD copying programs you can find on the Net.
As Harry McCracken at The Technologizer notes:
"RealDVD ... adds an extra layer of copy protection to prevent you from doing anything except copying a movie to one hard drive for viewing on one computer at a time. (You can’t even put the movies on a shared drive to watch them from multiple computers on one network.) The court is apparently inclined to look askance at even a fundamentally hobbled (albeit easy-to-use) DVD copier."
So what the movie studios are saying with this suit is that when you buy a DVD, you don't own that movie, you own the brittle plastic platter it comes on. And when that plastic platter gets scratched or cracked, you have the right to spend another $20 for a new one. Isn't that special? (For more on the nitty-gritty details of copyrights and wrongs, see Christina Tynan-Wood's recent Gripe Line post, "Can I make copies of my DVDs?.")
If the movie moguls' true motive was to secretly encourage movie piracy, they couldn't have come up with a better plan. Way to go, Hollywood.