RealDVD for legitimate users, CEO tells court

RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser testified in his company's RealDVD lawsuit with motion picture studios

RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser took the stand Tuesday in his company's ongoing legal battle against the motion picture industry, arguing that RealNetworks' DVD-copying software is not designed to create a free-for-all of illegal copying.

Real's CEO argued that RealDVD, was "absolutely not" designed to facilitate the widespread mass copying of DVDs. "We were both designing our product and marketing our product for legitimate use," he said. "If they didn't want to be legitimate users, there were so many other alternatives they could go to and our product would be an inferior product."

The software was abruptly pulled from the market by court order after the major studios sued RealNetworks, just weeks after RealDVD was introduced in September 2008.

The legal dispute has pitted the technology industry against Hollywood. RealNetworks argues that its software simply gives legitimate users the freedom and convenience of storing their own DVDs on a PC, and with the motion picture industry arguing that RealDVD could be used to do things such as make illegal copies of rented DVDs.

Glaser said that his company had been in discussions with studios to create technology that would distinguish rented DVDs from store-bought ones.

RealNetworks also puts up reminders to users that they are not allowed to copy disks they do not own, Glaser said. The judge hearing the case, Marilyn Patel, then asked him if this effort would be more effective than the failed 1980s "Just say no" anti-drug campaign.

"Yes I do," Glaser said, arguing that the target audience for the RealDVD products was law-abiding. "It's not trying to convince 15-year-olds not to experiment."

Glaser argued that scofflaws are unlikely to use RealDVD, which costs US$30 and comes with copy protection mechanisms that make it difficult to disseminate any copies of a DVD. There are "dozens of products" that DVD pirates could use if they wanted to make illegal copies, Glaser said. "All you have to do is Google DVD ripper."

Computer users have been able to make unrestricted copies of DVDs since late 1990s when Norwegian hackers cracked the Content-Scrambling System (CSS) devised by the music industry to copy-protect DVDs and released their DeCSS software on the Internet.

Real was sued by Disney, Paramount, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, NBC Universal, Warner Brothers, Viacom on Sept. 30, 2008. It filed countersuit the same day. The DVD Copy Control Association, which licenses the CSS system, is also involved in the case.

Motion picture attorneys spent much of the day Tuesday questioning their expert witness Robert Schumann and arguing that RealNetworks had deliberately circumvented copy protection mechanisms, in particular the ARccOS (Advanced Regional Copy Control Operating Solution) and RipGuard technologies used by some studios, in order to build RealDVD.

Prosecutors showed email correspondence between RealNetwork engineers and developers with a Kiev, Ukraine, software development company called Rocket Division Software, discussing ways to circumvent the technology.

On the stand, Glaser said that RealDVD and ARccOS were not effective copy protection technologies, because they did not prevent another DVD copying product, called Kaleidescape, from making copies of DVDs. "Whatever kind of speed bumps or impediments there were, [in these products] they didn't effectively stop the copying because Kaleidescape was doing it," he said.

The Kaleidescape reference was probably not accidental. Kaleidescape won a similar case against the motion picture industry in 2007, and their high-end home entertainment product inspired Glaser to push ahead with RealDVD.

"Kaleidescape is kind of like a Porsche. It's a beautiful product, but it's very, very expensive," Glaser said. "We thought we could use modern technology to deliver something that's more like a Chevy"

Although observers have hoped that RealNetworks may be testing the limits of consumers to copy digital media under the fair use provisions of U.S. law, the case may end up turning on a more mundane question, according to Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has been watching the case. That question is whether or not the CSS licensing agreement Real signed in order to build its product prohibits copying, he said.

In the Kaleidescape case, the court found that the agreement did not prohibit copying, von Lohmann said. That case is being appealed, however.

Ultimately, the RealNetwork case is yet another chapter of the ongoing struggle between entertainment companies and Silicon Valley to see who will ultimately control digital media. If the motion picture industry wins the trial, it "sends a strong message to the technology industry, von Lohmann said: "You can't touch DVDs unless you negotiate with Hollywood first."

Glaser's testimony is set to continue Wednesday. The case is being heard in the U.S. Federal Court for the Northern District of California, in San Francisco.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags realdvdDVD

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?