RealNetworks Strikes First, and Fast, with Suit

Since RealNetworks announced RealDVD (available today, if you are interested), it was obviously there would probably be some kind of legal action.  After all, the product rips DVDs to your hard drive, though it purports to not just maintain the original DRM but in fact adds another layer of protection. Still, most would probably have expected the lawsuit to come from the other direction.

Shortly after releasing the RealDVD product today (about an hour or so!) RealNetworks announced a lawsuit against a host of companies: the 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.  RealNetworks is hoping to get a quick court ruling that RealDVD is legal.

It's relying (and it makes no bones about it, by putting it right in the press release) on last year's Kaleidescope decision, which stated that there was nothing in the DVD CCA's licensing agreement that prohibited producing DVD copying products.  In this case, since RealDVD maintains the DRM, it seems that would be, at least for us, a decent argument.

In their press release, RealNetworks said:

"RealDVD allows consumers to securely store, manage and play their DVDs on their computers. It does not enable users to distribute copies of their DVDs. RealDVD not only maintains the DVD's native CSS encryption intact, it also adds another layer of digital rights management encryption that effectively locks the DVD copy to the owner's computer to ensure that the content can not be improperly copied or shared. RealDVD provides consumers with a great solution for the playback and management of their DVD collections while adding security that is more robust than CSS.

"RealNetworks took this legal action to protect consumers' ability to exercise their fair-use rights for their purchased DVDs. The DVD CCA, which represents numerous parties including all of the major studios, previously sued another company over the same issues. The trial court ruled against the DVD CCA and allowed the distribution of a product similar to RealDVD. (See DVD Copy Control Association, Inc. v. Kaleidescape, Inc., Santa Clara Superior Court Case No. 1-04-CV031829, available online at Having lost the case once, the major studios are now trying to get a different result by going to a different court.

The question is: just how popular would this software be anyway?  Assuming it's proven legal, would that be enough, HH readers, to draw you away from products such as AnyDVD, which not only rip, but compress and remove DRM as well?

Oh, and by the way: can you spell "counter-suit?"