RealNetworks asks judge to lift restraining order

It wants to sell its now-blocked RealDVD copying program.

RealNetworks has asked a federal judge to lift a temporary restraining order that has blocked the company from selling its RealDVD movie copying software, court documents filed yesterday showed.

U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel is scheduled to hear arguments in the case later today.

RealNetworks' motion, filed Monday, asks Patel to remove a restraining order granted late last week after the company and several movie studios, including Disney, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Bros. Entertainment, squared off by filing competing lawsuits.

RealNetworks got off the first shot last Tuesday when it announced it was asking the court for a ruling that its RealDVD software complied with a licensing agreement it said allowed the program to crank out bit-for-bit copies of DVDs. At the time, RealNetworks said it was acting in "response to threats made by the major movie studios."

That same day, the studios filed a lawsuit against RealNetworks, accusing it of creating illegal software that circumvented anti-piracy technology used to prevent copying of DVDs. The studios' lawsuit also asked Patel to issue a temporary restraining order, which she apparently did on Friday. The restraining order itself, however, has been sealed and was not available on the federal court system's electronic database.

Monday, RealNetworks argued that the order has "already caused significant harm" and would "devastate Real's ability to ever launch RealDVD successfully or to capitalize on its lead over competitors."

Since Friday, a notice on RealNetworks' Web site has read: "Due to recent legal action taken by the Hollywood movie studios against us, RealDVD is temporarily unavailable."

Before it was pulled, the US$29.99 RealDVD was touted as "DVD-saving software" that could be used to transfer movies to PCs for watching sans discs, and as a way to protect against scratches or disc damage. RealDVD, the company said then, did not eliminate any copy-protection scheme used on the disc, and was "100% legal."

The movie studios disagreed. In their Sept. 30 filing with Patel, they accused RealDVD of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), and said its release would "irreparably harm" the studios' home DVD sales and cripple developing distribution channels, such as online download services and video-on-demand.

The movie studios also pooh-poohed RealNetworks' claim that a temporary restraining order would hurt the developer by arguing that failing to do so would harm their business much more.

"If not enjoined, Real will vigorously promote RealDVD to the more than 30 million consumers who currently use Real's products and countless others Real can access through an aggressive online marketing campaign," the studios said last Tuesday. "Absent an immediate injunction, large quantities of RealDVD are likely to be sold online, and once distributed, those copies can be used to construct large electronic jukeboxes of free, unrecoverable copies of Plaintiffs' content."

Earlier Tuesday, the studios also filed several declarations from expert witnesses, who questioned RealNetwork's contention that because the company licenses the anti-piracy technology -- the Content Scramble System, or CSS -- it was breaking no laws or agreements.

According to Patel's court calendar, she will hear arguments on the temporary restraining order Tuesday at 2 p.m. PDT.

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