February 20, 2004 3:37 PM PST

Judge: DVD-copying software is illegal

After eight months of deliberation, a San Francisco federal judge has ruled that software company 321 Studios' popular DVD-copying products are illegal.

In a ruling released Friday, Judge Susan Illston granted Hollywood studios' request for an injunction against 321 Studios, saying the small software company has seven days to stop distributing its DVD-copying products.

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What's new:
A federal judge in San Francisco rules that software company 321 Studios' popular DVD-copying products are illegal.

Bottom line:
321 has seven days to pull its products, but the impact goes beyond that company. The judge wrote that federal law made it illegal to sell products that break through DVDs' antipiracy technology, even if consumers have a legal right to make personal copies of their movies.

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The case was widely viewed as a test of how far commercial software could go in helping consumers make backup copies of their own legally purchased digital entertainment products, such as DVDs or video games. Illston wrote that federal law made it illegal to sell products that--like 321 Studios' software--break through DVDs' antipiracy technology, even if consumers do have a legal right to make personal copies of their movies.

"It is the technology itself at issue, not the uses to which the copyrighted material may be put," Illston wrote. "Legal downstream use of the copyrighted material by customers is not a defense to the software manufacturer's violation of the provisions (of copyright law)."

The ruling, which had been pending since arguments last May in Illston's court, goes a long way toward shoring up Hollywood's weakening digital copy protections for its profitable DVD business--even while potentially eliminating one key driver of sales in the DVD burner market.

In previous interviews, 321 Studios has said it has sold about 1 million copies of its DVD-copying software, many of them through mainstream computer stores such as CompUSA. Under the ruling's terms, the company will have to remove from its software the ability to "rip" copies of copy-protected DVDs or take the products off the market altogether.

The company said it would immediately ask for an emergency stay that would let it keep the software on the shelves but would appeal Illston's ruling, regardless of what happened.

"We can't just lay down for this," 321 Studios President Robert Moore said. "It is too important for the consumer; it is far too important to the evolution of our culture...We think the final battle will be fought at the Supreme Court or at the congressional level."

Hollywood executives praised the ruling.

"Companies have a responsibility to develop products that operate within the letter of the law and that do not expose their customers to illegal activities," MPAA Chief Executive Officer Jack Valenti said in a statement. "Today's ruling sends a clear message that it is essential for corporations to protect copyrighted works while facilitating the enjoyment of entertainment offerings through new digital technologies."

Long battle over DVDs
Illston's ruling is the latest in a long string of rulings that have largely gone against critics of Hollywood's protection efforts, even as the technology to copy DVDs has spread more widely online and off.

Most Hollywood DVDs are protected with a technology called Content Scrambling System, or CSS, which encrypts the content on the discs so that they can only be read by devices with authorized "keys" to unlock the data. A studio-affiliated trade group licenses those keys to DVD player manufacturers.

However, in 1999, a Norwegian teenager named Jon Johansen released a software program called DeCSS, which allowed computers to decrypt DVDs, even without a licensed "key." Once the video was decrypted, it could easily be copied, and so DeCSS quickly found its way into DVD-copying tools.

Hollywood studios sued to keep DeCSS offline, and a New York federal judge ultimately agreed that posting the software online violated parts of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which bars distribution of tools that break through digital copy protection mechanisms.

Not long afterward, 321 Studios began selling its own software, however. Despite the New York ruling, the company argued that its software was legal and necessary in helping consumers make the personal copies federal law allows.

The company actually initiated the legal battle in early 2002, suing studios in hopes of winning a ruling that'd say its software was legal. The studios later countersued.

In her ruling Friday, Illston was unconvinced by any of 321's arguments.

Hollywood critics have long said CSS simply controls access to DVDs and that it's not a direct copy protection mechanism. And 321 has argued that since consumers who buy a DVD have the right to access their own movie, it would not be illegal to help them access it by using 321's software.

Illston disagreed, saying CSS was plainly a way to protect copyright holders' rights, as envisioned in copyright law.

She said blocking people from making perfect digital copies of their DVDs did not unconstitutionally hamper free speech or fair-use rights. People were free to make copies of movies in other, nondigital ways that would give them access to the same content, even if not in the same, pristine form, she said.

And, she said, the fact that DVD decryption keys were widely available online in programs like DeCSS did not make Hollywood's attempts to block copying useless.

"This is equivalent to a claim that, since it is easy to find skeleton keys on the black market, a dead bolt is not an effective lock to a door," she wrote.

Earlier this month, 321 Studios released new software that makes backup copies of computer games. That product will not be affected by this ruling, the company said.

21 comments

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not a valid argument
Judge's analogy is ridiculous. Buying a skeleton key on the black market has predisposed intent to open doors that you have 0 right to because there is already a method in place to purchase a new key or master key to locks you already own.

In the case of DVD's and the right to copy ones you already own there is no logic in trying to detour the software that can copy a CESS DVD.

Using her own argument against her we need to quickly sue manufacturers of copy machines, VHS recorders, scanners, card reader/writers because all of them manufacture distribute and sell equipment that enables people to violate and undermine the copy protection of more than a dozen products.

Its the same arguement with gun lobby. Dont blame the gun for the crime blame the person that used it. Take away the guns and criminals are the only ones that have them. Taking away the CESS copying DVD software does not harm the people that mass bootleg DVD's because they have proven they can and will break the law to insure their constant bootleg distribution. It only insures that the paying customers have no method to protect their investment with a backup copy, which is what hollywood wants.. go buy another over priced copy.

Maybe its a potential scam, they make poor quality dvd's that break and scratch easily so that they can boost long term sales!
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
dvd software
I already have the dvdxcopy from 321 studio. I tried to install the software and I could not register it what do I do. I have paid for software that I can not use.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Have you ever found an activation code for your DVDXCopy? I need the activation code for it. Please let me know. Thanks
Posted by Blue27ice (2 comments )
Link Flag
Have you ever found an activation code for your DVDXCopy? I need the activation code for it. Please let me know. Thanks
Posted by Blue27ice (2 comments )
Link Flag
Alternatives to DVD X Copy Software
As per <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.dvdxcopy.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.dvdxcopy.com</a> , DVD X Copy Platinum is no longer being sold. I went to <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.dvdxcopyreviews.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.dvdxcopyreviews.com</a> and there are some interesting DVDXCopy alternative software programs for DVD copying. The site includes side-by-side comparisons and full reviews. I've tried both of the top ranked products and both are great.
Posted by shakenbaker (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
There are many more alternatives--the best DVD copy review site I've found
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://dvd-copy-software-review.toptenreviews.com/" target="_newWindow">http://dvd-copy-software-review.toptenreviews.com/</a>
Posted by crisnet10 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
www.dvdxcopyreviews.com = DVDXCopy alternatives
Even though DVD X Copy is gone (see <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.dvdxcopy.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.dvdxcopy.com</a>), you can find even better DVD copying software at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.dvdxcopyreviews.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.dvdxcopyreviews.com</a> . They also give you a free USB laser pen at this site.
Posted by shakenbaker (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
American Judge can go to hell
American law protects the strong and powerful companies in Amerixa who qant to sell you something worthless and then tell you you can't reproduce it so 'the man' can screw you all over again the nxt season. I am sorry for Americans butvI as a Canadian can make copies of my purchased property for my personal use. The US of A has become big brother on behave of multi-national companies based in the US which wish to badger teachers and students and regular folk from enjoying different media platforms. Their paranoia of piracy should nt allow American law to dictate how one uses products once purchased. American corporate scientists genetically modified fruit and vegeteables it gave to poor third world nations so that they could not reproduce their cropvthe next year but had to buy Amerixan seed. **** you American corporations and **** you Hollywood if you have sold out to ' the man'.

Nichoas
Posted by nmramemphis (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
www.dvdxcopy.com
I posted a dead link on the last post, the actual url for DVD X Copy is: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.dvdxcopy.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.dvdxcopy.com</a>
Posted by shakenbaker (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Alternative software solution that are legal
There's always a way around the law. After all the law is not perfect!

So far I found a site with a few software reviews around this issue.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.software2copydvd.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.software2copydvd.com</a>
Posted by bteobteo (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
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Posted by Advertolog (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
DVD neXt COPY is probably the best DVD copying software out there. Their latest version even has better quality then DVDShrink has in its highest quality mode. If you are looking to copy your DVD movies <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.dvdnextcopy.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.dvdnextcopy.com</a> is my recommendation.
Posted by j00x (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I love the quick and easy process of insatlling DVDX Copy and it doesn't take long to copy a DVD but once you copy it and try to play it, well thats a different story.
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Posted by angelinjones (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
copy dvd movies with fast dvd copy speed and top quality.
blaze dvd copy
http://www.blazevideo.com/
Posted by blazevideo (3 comments )
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http://www.blazevideo.com/dvd-copy/
Posted by blazevideo (3 comments )
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http://www.blazevideo.com/dvd-copy/index.htm
Posted by blazevideo (3 comments )
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<a href="http://www.topsevenreviews.com/">Best DVD Ripper</a> is such a useful tool, which can rip dvd to popular video formats which can be played on most portable devices, and it is also an excellent <a href="http://www.topsevenreviews.com/">DVD Converter</a>, and for youtube fans, i think the <a href="http://www.topsevenreviews.com/free-youtube-converter.html">Free Youtube Converter</a> is a good program to use!
Posted by pattymura11 (3 comments )
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Posted by pattymura11 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
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Posted by pattymura11 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think it's not illegal if you use it only for yourself.

I've found a easy to understand guide about how to copy, rip and burn DVD.

http://www.easydvdburning.com/?eDVDb1 makes burning, copying and ripping DVDs simple and easy. Information on how to burn copy protected DVD movies and easy to understand guides with step by step instructions that everyone can understand.
Posted by powerpuffpuff (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That ruling seems to be more motivated by either the judge being bribed or having a gross misunderstanding of the issue.

Flat out it's legal to make a copy for personal use. Saying your not legally allowed to use the technology to do so is like saying, "Well technically sex in private isn't indecent exposure but your not legally allowed to use any private areas for sex."
Posted by Jack_Faire (1 comment )
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