RealNetworks vs. MPAA Battle Over RealDVD Lands in Federal Courts

Slav Kandyba
SAN FRANCISCO — RealNetworks and the Motion Picture Association of America each filed lawsuits in federal courts Monday over RealNetworks' new software, RealDVD.

With the lawsuits, the Seattle-based company and the association representing major movie studios are looking for the courts to decide the controversy over copyright and fair-use rights.

RealDVD was released to consumers on Tuesday at The software allows users to store, manage and play their DVDs on their computers.

The MPAA's case, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, argues that RealDVD violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and therefore, it should not be sold.

“The RealDVD software illegally circumvents this copyright protection system,” Greg Goeckner, executive vice president and general counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America said in a statement.

On the other hand, RealNetworks' suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, names DVD Copy Control Association and major movie studios, which comprise its membership, as defendants.

The action would allow DVD buyers to “exercise their fair-use rights” on the discs, RealNetworks claims in a statement.

In laying out MPAA's case, Goeckner presented a scenario in which RealDVD would be used to pirate DVDs:

“Among other things, the RealDVD software enables users to engage in an illegal practice known as ‘rent, rip and return,’ whereby a person rents a DVD from a legitimate business like Blockbuster or Netflix, uses the RealDVD software to make multiple permanent illegal copies of the movie, and returns the DVD, only to rent another popular title and make permanent copies of it, repeating the cycle of theft over and over again without ever making a purchase.”

In making the argument before the federal court, RealNetworks cites a precedent set in a similar lawsuit in Santa Clara Superior Court last year. In that case — DVD CCA Inc. vs. Kaleidescape Inc. — the trial judge allowed the distribution of a product similar to RealDVD.

According to Christopher Levy, a consultant and CEO of,, the precedent set in the Kaleidescape case is that the software doesn't break any laws.

RealDVD, according to its makers, offers even more protection.

“There’s not really a product similar to [RealDVD],” Levy told XBIZ. “Real’s product preserves encryption and it preserves the product. That’s really what the big issue is about.”

RealDVD does not enable users to distribute copies of their DVDs, according to the RealNetworks statement. The software maintains the Content Scrambling System (CSS) encryption intact and adds another layer of digital rights management encryption that locks the DVD on the user’s computer.

“I think [the RealNetworks lawsuit] possibly could be the watershed moment,” Levy told XBIZ. “I think the precedent now is that what they’re doing is legitimate.”