By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 8:05 pm
The New York Times’ Brad Stone is reporting that U.S. Federal District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel has ruled against RealNetworks in the lawsuit filed by the movie studios against RealDVD, its software for copying DVDs to your hard drive. Judge Patel granted the studios a preliminary injunction against Real selling the software, which seems like kind of a formality given that she stopped Real from selling it almost as soon as it went on sale last September.
RealDVD isn’t a tool for pirates. Actually, it 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.
Meanwhile, tools like Handbrake let large numbers of people copy DVDs without any of RealDVD’s measures against sharing the digital copies with friends or tossing them onto BitTorrent for the world to download. I also remain unclear on why Telestream’s Drive-in–which is, basically, a Mac version of RealDVD except that it also comes in a multi-user version–is still around when RealDVD is apparently too dangerous to be let onto the market while Real waits for a final ruling. Maybe it has something to do with RealNetworks being a relatively large company that might actually succeed in getting ordinary folks to use its software?
Meanwhile, the RealDVD site lives on in forlorn limbo, complete with a woman gamely smiling on the home page and a guided tour of the product. The site says the app is “temporarily unavailable” and that Real “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.” I hope that means that the company will soldier on with both this case and the countersuit it filed against six Hollywood studios on antitrust grounds. Whether or not you ever use RealDVD–or even if its limitations would drive you a little bonkers–any victories it scored in court would be great news for consumers. And if it loses, the message will be that there are absolutely no circumstances under which law-abiding consumers can make a copy of a DVD they’ve paid for in order to enjoy it in a new way.