RealNetworks Launches RealDVD: Is it Really StealDVD?

Sep.30.08 | About: RealNetworks, Inc. (RNWK)

RealNetworks (NASDAQ:RNWK) announced Tuesday that its RealDVD software, which allows you to rip and burn DVDs easily, officially launched. And the lawsuits weren’t far behind.

In a statement (Techmeme), RealNetworks billed RealDVD as a “watershed” product. The software, which goes for $29.99 on sale, allows you to rip, burn and organize your DVD collection, which usually is armed to the hilt with DRM restrictions. The RealDVD software encrypts DVDs so they can’t be shared or stolen, but that’s not likely to allay concerns from Hollywood. Headline of the day–Sue. Rent. Rip. Return–goes to John Paczkowski at AllthingsD’s Digital Daily.

The movie industry didn’t waste time suing RealNetworks. In a statement, movie studios sued RealNetworks alleging RealDVD violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA]. The argument from Greg Goeckner, General Counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America [MPAA]:

RealNetworks’ RealDVD should be called StealDVD. RealNetworks knows its product violates the law and undermines the hard-won trust that has been growing between America’s movie makers and the technology community. 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. However, we will vigorously defend our right to stop companies from bringing products to market that mislead consumers and clearly violate the law.

The MPAA is looking for an injunction and damages.

Meanwhile, RealNetworks issued a statement on a pre-emptive lawsuit:

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 fully complies with the DVD Copy Control Association’s license agreement.

However, the damage to RealDVD may be already done. As a consumer I’d hang back on RealDVD as the courts sort this out. Given how the music industry has gone after consumers do you really want to poke Hollywood too?