RealDVD: Temporary Restraining Order Could Be Lengthy

| About: RealNetworks, Inc. (RNWK)

Now you see it, now you don’t.  Real Network’s (NASDAQ:RNWK) newly launched DVD copying software platform, RealDVD, has gone from controversial to contained in the blink of an eye. You could say the software has been sequestered.

Last Friday, just days following the program’s launch, with litigation already pending from both sides, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel issued a temporary restraining order blocking all sales of the program pending a broader review of the software’s legality.

Tuesday, the TRO was extended. The exact terms haven’t been made public but it appears the judge wants time to gain a more detailed understanding of how the software works and also, to allow the competing sides to prepare expert testimony.

Because “it’s impossible to bring back copies once they’re out in the market” prudence apparently warranted blocking the software until a more thorough review could be completed. CNET reports Judge Patel said, she was "extending the temporary restraining order because [she’s] not satisfied in the fact that this technology is not in violation. There are serious questions about copyright violations."

The court is scheduled to hold its next hearing in mid November.  In all likelihood, the software which Real Network’s website is listing as “currently unavailable due to recent legal action taken by the Hollywood movie studios against us,”  will remain as such at least until that point, and quite possibly into 2009 – and that is assuming the Judge finds in favor of Real Networks when an eventual decision is reached, otherwise it won’t ever return.   

As an interesting aside, this is not the first high profile Digital Millennium Copyright Act overseen by Judge Patel. In 2000 and 2001, she was the judge tasked with reviewing copyright challenges levied against the original Napster.

Judge Patel was appointed to the court in 1980 by Jimmy Carter. From 1997 to 2004 she was the Chief Justice of the U.S. District Court for Northern California.

The original case filings from both the MPAA and Real Networks in their suits against each other can be found in PDF here (Real Networks as Plaintiff) and here (MPAA as Plaintiff).