RealDVDs, surreal lawsuits

Well, that didn't take long. One day after RealNetworks releases its DVD copying software, lawsuits are filed. Who's right, who's wrong, and where do movie fans fit in? Cringely has some thoughts.

Like a Brachiosaur sinking into a tar pit, the recording industry as we've known it for the past 70 years is very nearly extinct. But unlike dinosaurs, the RIAA is trying to drag everyone else into the pit with it.

As a long-time print journalist, I actually feel their pain -- slightly. Newspapers and magazines are following CDs into the fossil fuel bin. Some, like InfoWorld, will successfully swap paper for pixels; most won't. Unless you own a blogging empire, it's not a good time to be a publisher. (But, with a few random exceptions, publications haven't been suing their customers for unfettered article swapping.)

The movie industry takes less heat for prosecuting alleged movie pirates, but it's no better than its reptilian cousins on the audio side. That's about to change. The MPAA will soon supplant the RIAA as Public Enemy No. 1 for people who believe that when you buy a copy of something, you actually own it.

Case in point: The dueling lawsuits between the movie studios and RealNetworks over the RealDVD software.

Interestingly, it was Real who sued first -- launching a preemptive strike by asking courts in Northern California to declare its DVD copying license legal. It only took a few hours for the studios to respond in kind. Greg Goeckner, general counsel and designated spokesmodel for the MPAA, churned out a few choice sound bites [PDF]:

RealNetworks' RealDVD should be called "StealDVD"... . The major motion picture studios have been making major investments in technologies that allow people to access entertainment in a variety of new and legal ways. This includes online video-on-demand, download-to-own, as well as legitimate digital copies for storage and use on computers and portable devices that are increasingly being made available on or with DVDs. Our industry will continue on this path because it gives consumers greater choices than ever.

Except, of course, the choice to take a movie you paid for and make decisions about how and where you watch it.

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Robert X. Cringely

InfoWorld

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