Firm Sues Movie Studios To Defend DVD-Copying Software

Little-known marketing company 321 Studios is
taking nine major motion picture companies to federal court in an
effort to prove its $39.95 bundle of software utilities for copying
DVD discs is legal.

Little-known marketing company 321 Studios is
taking nine major motion picture companies to federal court in an
effort to prove its $39.95 bundle of software utilities for copying
DVD discs is legal.

In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern
California, Nevada-registered 321 Studios requests that a jury be
allowed to determine whether its DVD Copy Plus software package
contravenes provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
(DMCA) that are intended to punish people who circumvent copyright
protection technologies.
Describing DVD Copy Plus as software intended for "legitimate
backup copies of the contents of a DVD for … personal use," the
complaint seeks a declaratory judgment from the court that could
shield 321 Studios from lawsuits it says the movie companies
themselves have threatened.

DVD Copy Plus is billed as being able to help its users copy data
from DVD discs, storing it on hard drives in DVD format for
converting it to alternate digital-video formats, including video
compact disc (VCD) and DivX.

Robert Moore, the St. Louis, Mo.-based president of 321 Studios,
told Newsbytes that his company didn’t create the tools that its
customers use to rip DVD discs and convert the video. Instead, he
described DVD Copy Plus as a "wrapper" and a set of tutorials for
other widely available digital video tools.

Even if you’ve never heard of 321 Studios, it’s likely you’ve
received e-mail from members of its "affiliate program" – pitches
promising "everything you need to copy DVD movies!"

The DVD Copy Plus package includes software called SmartRipper for
reading and copying DVD data, VCDEasy for burning making VCD discs
and DVDx for turning DVD data into DivX-compressed video.

In a high-profile lawsuit launched by motion picture companies two
years ago, the movie industry argued that DivX was the video-
compression format of choice for copyright infringers who used
software known as DeCSS to circumvent DVD encoding known as the
Content Scrambling Systems (CSS).

In that case, which brought "Hacker Quarterly" 2600 magazine into a
New York Court, a federal judge ruled that the magazine contributed
to illegal copying – and contravened the DMCA – by providing links
to the DeCSS source code on its Web site.

Free speech arguments didn’t go far for 2600 magazine, but the
complaint from 321 Studios points to First Amendment rights in
seeking protection from the DMCA itself.

"We see this as a groundbreaking case with implications that extend
to all kinds of digital content," Daralyn Durie, a lawyer working
for 321 Studios and a partner with Keker & Van Nest in San
Francisco, said in a prepared statement. "We believe that there are
substantial constitutional problems with the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act, not the least of which is barring consumers from
exercising their right to make backup copies of DVDs they own."

321 Studio’s Moore told Newsbytes that he makes a distinction between
his company and those in the 2600 magazine case who publicized
the DeCSS code.

"We’re not trying to thumb our nose at Hollywood’s right – or an
author’s right – to profit from their hard work, " he said. "DVD
Copy Plus has never been marketed or sold for any purpose other
than to allow people to make archive copies of their DVDs.

"In our minds, this is no different than making an extra personal
copy of a music CD, which is perfectly legal," he said.

The complaint names as defendants MGM Studios, Tristar Pictures,
Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Time Warner
Entertainment, Disney Enterprises, Universal City Studios, The Saul
Zaentz Company and Pixar Corp.

A spokeswoman for industry trade group the Motional Picture
Association of America said lawyers for the Hollywood companies had
yet to review the complaint, so were unable to comment on the
claims of 321 Studios.

Author: Steven Bonisteel

News Service: The Washington Post Company


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