RealNetworks filing preemptive lawsuit to protect its DVD-to-PC copying product

Apparently tired of waiting to be sued by the motion picture industry over its new DVD-to-PC copying software, RealNetworks this morning announced that it will file a preemptive legal action of its own in an attempt to establish the product's legality.

(See updates below: Industry firing back.)

From a statement just issued by RealNetworks:

"In response to threats made by the major movie studios, RealNetworks this morning plans to file an action for a declaratory judgment against DVD Copy Control Association, Inc., Disney Enterprises, Inc., Paramount Pictures Corp., Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., NBC Universal, Inc., Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., and Viacom, Inc., in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit asks the court to rule that RealNetworks Home Entertainment, Inc.'s RealDVD software, made available to consumers today at www.realdvd.com, fully complies with the DVD Copy Control Association's license agreement. ...

"RealNetworks took this legal action to protect consumers' ability to exercise their fair-use rights for their purchased DVDs. The DVD CCA, which represents numerous parties including all of the major studios, previously sued another company over the same issues. The trial court ruled against the DVD CCA and allowed the distribution of a product similar to RealDVD."

In addition, RealNetworks this morning has officially released the software, which debuted in beta Sept. 8 at Network World's DEMOfall 08 to a largely mute but stern reaction from the movie industry.

"We have nothing else to say at this time," a spokeswoman from the Motion Picture Association of America told me days prior to the opening of DEMO. Since then press reports have included intimations from film industry executives that the RealNetworks product was not likely to go unchallenged. I checked in with the MPAA again the other day to see if they had anything else to say about RealDVD and was told by a spokeswoman that the answer was no. As I replied to her, their silence speaks volumes.

I would expect we'll be hearing something from them soon.

(Update: Got that one right. Just received word that the MPAA will have something to say early this afternoon.)

(Update 2: Busy day for RealDVD news. My Network World colleague Keith Shaw reviews the product here. His verdict: "The software works, but with some hurdles." Those hurdles are apparently very much related to the legal issues, too.) 

(Update, 3) Movie industry is out with its lawsuit/reply: "RealNetworks' RealDVD should be called StealDVD," says MPAA general counsel Greg Goeckner.)

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