Studios Sue Retailer Over DVD Copying Software

Gretchen Gallen
NEW YORK – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and Paramount Pictures Corp. filed a lawsuit Friday in New York accusing California retailer Technology One of continuing to market and sell a DVD copying product that has been barred by two federal courts.

The maker of the DVD circumvention software, St. Charles, Mo.-based 321 Studios, was found guilty of piracy in both New York and California in February and March of this year under the terms of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The company was barred from making and selling its DVDXCopy product, which includes DeCSS (De-Content Scrambling System) code for cracking the encryption mechanism in DVD software.

But according to court papers, Irvine, Calif.-based Technology One has continued to sell the DVD cracking product in alleged defiance of the court order.

The two previous rulings against 321 Studios, initiated on behalf of the Motion Picture Association of America, were strongly supported by the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which makes it a crime to circumvent anti-piracy measures built into most commercial software and outlaws the manufacture, sale, or distribution of code-cracking devices used to illegally copy software.

But Fox and Paramount Pictures contend that Technology One is not only purposefully continuing to sell the illegal software, but that it is supporting demand for the product through its website

"Technology One, by categorically refusing to comply with the studios' cease-and-desist notices, will learn from the courts that by continuing to sell the banned software it is breaking the law," said a representative for the MPAA's domestic anti-piracy operations. "With two federal injunctions prohibiting the further sale of 321's DVD circumvention products, it has no excuse to flout the law."

After nearly a year of being dogged by legal threats from the entertainment industry and launching its own defensive campaigns that included raising consumer awareness over free speech rights and "fair use" technology issues, 321 Studios has revamped its product to remain in compliance with court orders.

In May, 321 Studios launched a "ripper free" version of its earlier software called DVDXTREME, a digital media toolbox that allows users to create, edit, back up, and rescue DVD content that is not protected by encryption technology.

Robert Moore, company founder and president, testified May 12 before a House panel in support of a measure that would amend aspects of the DCMA. Moore's main point is that people who own their own DVD content should be allowed by law to make their own copies.

Moore and others are throwing their weight behind a bill titled the "Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act" (DMCRA) that would allow consumers to make copies of DVD movies and other digital content for personal use.