Wednesday, August 12, 2009

DVD Burning Loses Big in Court - But What is the REAL Difference From Legal CD Burning?

Yesterday, Rob Glaser's Real lost a significant court battle against the major movie studios regarding its RealDVD DVD burning software. Specifically, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction banning the sale of RealDVD pending a court trial, which may start only in several months (in other words, the ban is now in effect for a long long time). This is a very big deal, because courts rarely issue preliminary injunctions (since they are not so "preliminary" after all -- they frequently kill enjoined products).

Yes, it is understandable that the movie studios don't want their DVD movies to be saved locally to consumers' hard drives -- let's face it, many copy and then distribute those movies to their friends, and so on, and so on ...

But, is this any different than what has been permitted to go on for years and years when it comes to music? No. The courts, for years, have permitted companies to sell software that gave consumers the ability to take their music CDs and burn them onto their local drives -- under the mantra of "fair use" (in other words, essentially for their personal use -- to archive it and to be able to consume their purchased tracks on other devices).

So, how can a court rationalize these two very different legal treatments of essentially the same issue? That is the intellectually perplexing aspect of the court's decision. The court's legal doctrine seems legally suspect -- movies are being treated differently than music simply because it is too late to regulate music and the genie is out of the bottle. Again, while I "get that" real world decision, I don't get how the courts can rationalize it.

The federal court that granted the studios' preliminary junction concluded:

"While it may well be fair use for an individual consumer to store a backup copy of a personally-owned DVD on that individual's consumer, a federal law has nonetheless made it illegal to manufacture or traffic in a device or tool that permits a consumer to make such copies."

Wow -- now THAT really makes sense, right? Consumers have the right to do it -- but, they legally can't get the tools they need to exercise that right? Right?

Quite frankly, I am not sure what the "right" answer is in all of these cases -- music or motion pictures. But the courts are flat out wrong.

And, at the end of the day, the genie already is out of the bottle and consumers are copying music, movies and more to their computers for all kinds of reasons -- many valid, many not. And that reality ultimately rules the day ...

500 Posts and Counting!

I have now reached a blogging milestone -- 500 posts -- for me, a big deal. I started a couple years back and have come to really enjoy my early (very early) mornings drinking my coffee and perusing the papers and blogs for one "juicy" digital media story that catches my eye -- and to add my own "two cents" on it. As regular readers know, I also have used my blog to give breaking news about my companies (I now also use Twitter to frequently give advance clues and notice of major company developments).

Okay, enough already ... onto #501, and it is a story of REAL interest to me ...