Drop that DVD-copying software and put your hands up

I bought it, I own it, I can do what I want with it. Right? Wrong according to US judge.

More bad news for fans of the "I bought it, I own it, I can do what I want with it" approach to living.

Late Tuesday afternoon, federal judge Marilyn Patel extended a temporary restraining order against RealNetworks, until she can hold a formal hearing on the lawsuits between Real and the Hollywood 8. So if you want to get RealDVD software and make copies of movies you legally own, you'll have to borrow a friend's copy or [insert ironic smirk here] find a pirated one. According to a report in Wired News, RealDVD is unlikely to return before the holidays.

Two hours later, RealNetworks issued a statement. Here it is in its entirety:

We are confident that the Court will determine that RealDVD complies with the DVD CCA license agreement, and that it is not in violation of any copyright laws.

It took them two hours to come up with that?

Folks here in Cringeville had a lot more interesting things to say about the matter after I posted an item about the Real/Hollywood lawsuits last week. Many fine comments were posted, and I got a few e-mails I'd like to share.

Several Cringesters noted that DVD copying software such as AnyDVD or DVD neXt Copy has been available for quite some time (though whether they are legally available is another issue).

Self-proclaimed "DVD boycotter" SL asks some reasonable questions:

The MPAA states that the purchaser is licensing the content, not purchasing a product. If that's the case and we are only licensing the content, then shouldn't the MPAA licensing agreement allow us to transfer that content to another device? And, if our media (the DVD) becomes defective or outdated in the future, shouldn't we be entitled to receive replacement of the content at no charge?

Hollywood's response? No way, Jose. Per the Wired story:

Bart Williams, an attorney for the MPAA, said the RealDVD technology circumvents copy controls, that consumers have no right to copy DVDs, and that fair use is not a defense to DMCA circumvention violations. "You are not allowed to copy it, your honor," Williams told Patel.

Reader RG notes that DMCA snafus cause big problem for karaoke DJs (who knew?):

The latest trend is for KJ's (the karaoke version of DJ) is to load all of their disks on a PC or laptop and use one or another software product to play the music & display the lyrics for their show, instead of lugging around a huge collection of CDs, which are subject to normal wear and tear. Some of the companies [that] produce these disks are making a huge stink about even daring to make & use backup copies of their disks, let alone using a digital format to produce a show. And heaven forbid you should share some of this music in any form, lest the wrath of God fall down upon you...

Last week I concluded that "Today's copyright laws.... do not represent the will of the people." Regular correspondent BB took exception to that statement (and hopes he's not being too whiny):

The will of the people would be that everything is free, there are no taxes, concrete roads would just happen somehow, social security would be funded by "others" but paid to me. Feel as you wish about the RIAA, but please do not use the will of the people to justify ANYTHING.

I have to respectfully disagree. I think by and large most people know there's no such thing as a free lunch. Give them good service at a fair price, and most people will happily pay. That's one reason iTunes has sold more than 5 billion songs. But I also think people have been ticked off at the recording (and movie) industries for being such incredible as -- err, raging rectums -- for a very long time. Price gouging, price fixing, wholesale format switches, false claims about the life span of new media, failure to adapt to the new digital market, and cranking out endless discs filled with crappy contrived content. They are guilty of it all.

The lesson here: Treat your customers with disrespect, and they will return the favor. Eventually, you'll have no customers left to abuse.

Are you feeling abused by the RIAA or MPAA? What do you want to do about it?

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Robert X. Cringely

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