It's official: Hollywood has asked a federal court for a restraining order to stop RealNetworks from selling its RealDVD software, a technology that enables users to copy films and store them on their hard drives.
The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the largest film studios, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claiming that "RealNetworks' RealDVD violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act because its software illegally bypasses the copyright protection built into DVDs."
Representatives of the MPAA, which has also asked for monetary damages, said they hope that the judge will make a decision on the restraining order today or tomorrow.
RealNetworks, the media delivery software company, landed the first blow in this fight when it filed its own lawsuit earlier Tuesday against the studios and the DVD Copy Control Association.
RealNetworks' lawsuit asks the court to rule that RealNetworks' RealDVD software "fully complies with the DVD Copy Control Association's license agreement." Real feels that it has a strong case because its software does not break the DVD's encryption when copying it to the hard drive (and, according to the company, it even adds a second layer of DRM). Real claims that this method is similar to that used by Kaleidescape, a provider of high-end home media servers.
Kaleidescape's 2007 courtroom victory over the DVD Copy Control Association is cited by Real as the precedent for the RealDVD software's legal case.
The MPAA says the two cases have nothing to do with each other. The lobbying group for the studios argues that the central question is whether RealDVD violates the DMCA, which prohibits companies from developing products that circumvent copy protections.
"RealNetworks' RealDVD should be called StealDVD," Greg Goeckner, executive vice president and general counsel for the MPAA, said in a statement. "RealNetworks knows its product violates the law, and undermines the hard-won trust that has been growing between America's moviemakers and the technology community."
What the studios fear is that the RealDVD technology will enable people to "rent, rip, and return," meaning that people could rent films, copy them to their hard drives, and return the movie without ever paying for an authorized copy.
The MPAA said in a statement that they are making content available on multiple platforms and that it's now easier than ever to obtain films legally. The studios said, however, that they would "vigorously defend our right to stop companies from bringing products to market that mislead consumers and clearly violate the law."
CNET's John P. Falcone contributed to this report.