Hollywood Wins Lawsuit, Losing the War

In the end, technology is changing with or without the permission of the Hollywood studios.
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American media companies have a long and storied history of failing to come to terms with the Internet. The newspaper companies are seemingly entering the die-off phase of their failure to evolve. The music industry seems to have stumbled into an accomodation (thanks to iTunes) with the new technologies. Now the movie industry is thrashing around, trying to stop the future from happening to its sacrosanct business model.

A group of Hollywood studios including including Paramount, Sony, Universal Studios, and
Walt Disney filed suit against RealDVD a few months back. Now they've won a ruling in U.S. District Court that has essentially taken RealDVD off the market.

The argument stems from the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998. Circumventing encryption technology on digital media was made illegal by the DMCA. According to Patel's decision, RealDVD broke through a DVD's Content Scramble System code in order to transfer movies onto hard drives.

But RealDVD was very stringent with its copying program. The basic package allowed for only a single digital copy to be placed on your hard drive. After paying extra licensing fees, you could transfer the digital copy onto as many as five other hard drives. Disc-based burning was never an option.

Meanwhile, programs such as the VLC Media Player flaunt the law and provide software that allows for real-time copying. So why is the MPAA hard up for RealDVD and not these other products? It seems to me that the MPAA has chosen a battle against RealDVD to set an example but is perhaps ignorant of the proliferation of DVD-ripping programs available.


It's sad that RealDVD, with its sophisticated and lawful approach to
DVD-copying, had to swallow the wrath of the MPAA. It's also clear that
the DMCA needs to be updated to reflect the changes in media
distribution 11 years later. It's perfectly legal to rip music from a
CD and upload it onto an iPod for personal use; why can't a person do
the same with their own copies of movies? The assumption is that
everyone using a program such as RealDVD is a criminal bent on ripping
as many Netflix movies as possible, rather than a law-abiding citizen
who simply wants to watch flicks on the go. For an organization that
supposedly has its finger on the pulse of moviegoers, the MPAA strikes
me as horribly distrustful and curmudgeonly in its approach to modern

This is quintessential self-defeating corporate behavior. The studios have succeeded in taking a responsbile actor out of the marketplace, to be replaced by less responsible actors. In the end, technology is changing with or without the permission of the Hollywood studios. DVD sales are plummetting and there is no business plan in place to deal with the future that is now.

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