May 11, 2007 8:35 AM PDT

Apple, others draw legal threat over media players

Apple, others draw legal threat over media players
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A California company that makes technology designed to prevent ripping of digital audio streams has accused Apple, Microsoft, RealNetworks and Adobe Systems of violating federal copyright law by "actively avoiding" use of its products.

Media Rights Technologies and its digital radio subsidiary BlueBeat.com said in a press release Thursday that it had issued cease and desist letters to the high-tech titans. It argues that the companies have manufactured billions of copies of Windows Vista, Adobe Flash Player, Real Player and Apple's iTunes and iPod "without regard for the DMCA or the rights of American intellectual property owners."

DMCA refers to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a controversial 1998 law that generally makes it illegal to circumvent technological protection measures that control access to copyrighted works. The law says circumvent means "to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner."

MRT, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., argues that its X1 SeCure Recording Control technology has been "proven effective" as such a protective measure by plugging the "digital hole" that allows even copy-protected music streams, when played back, to be captured and potentially copied. The company says that because the companies are avoiding use of its purportedly effective product, they are violating the DMCA.

"We've given these four companies 10 days to talk to us and work out a solution, or we will go into federal court and file action and seek an injunction to remove the infringing products from the marketplace," CEO Hank Risan said in a phone interview Friday. According to the MRT, the companies in question are responsible for 98 percent of the market's media players, which are in turn used by CNN, National Public Radio, Clear Channel, MySpace, Yahoo, YouTube and others.

RealNetworks spokesman Matt Graves said he hadn't yet seen the letter, but it appeared to be a ploy by a "desperate company" to get its product licensed. "That's a rather novel approach to business development," he said in an e-mail interview Friday.

A Microsoft representative said Friday that the company had not yet seen the letter and could not comment. Representatives from Apple and Adobe did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A cease and desist letter is just a preliminary step that could precede a formal lawsuit. Recipients aren't legally required to respond to them. They can also choose to petition a judge for a declaratory judgment, which effectively says the companies are not violating the claims made by the letter.

Some lawyers said they believed MRT had offered a creative, at best, interpretation of the law that would likely not stand up in court.

"It looks to me like a play for publicity," Jessica Litman, a University of Michigan Law School professor who specializes in digital copyright issues, said in an e-mail interview. "I'm no fan of the DMCA, but it doesn't impose liability simply because some product could be redesigned to implement a technological protection scheme but its makers decline to do so."

She also said the targeted companies would likely not be liable because a section of the DMCA says that consumer electronics, telecommunications or computing products are not required to be designed so as to "provide for a response to any particular technological measure."

Randy Lipsitz, a partner in the intellectual property and technology group at Kramer Levin in New York, said the most reasonable way to interpret the word "avoid" in the DMCA is that it would cover "a technical, logical measure that's present in the work," as opposed to forcing companies to buy a third-party product.

"This one's out there," he said of the arguments in a telephone interview. "I don't know how far it's going to go."

See more CNET content tagged:
DMCA, digital radio, copyright law, RealNetworks Inc., measure

59 comments

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Here Come the Scum
Wow, this MRT guy is a total jerkwad. Someone tell Mr. Lawsuit as Business Development that I have a right to record audio and video on my computer. What I don't have is a right to spread copyrighted content around the net without prior permission.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hank, you need to call Darl
and ask him how SCO's lawsuit is going.

Because, IMO, they have a much better chance of a win than you do.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This will be significant...
as a poster child for frivolous and unwarranted law suits.
Posted by Macsaresafer (802 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Fiviolous
InstituteForLegalReform/com

They need to read this site.
Posted by lantzn (130 comments )
Link Flag
Fiviolous
InstituteForLegalReform/com

They need to read this site.
Posted by lantzn (130 comments )
Link Flag
Go for it!
May provide a legal precedent for me to use against all the major airlines for refusing to use my idea to have lapdancers on all scheduled flights.
Posted by law_hog (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Go for it!
May provide a legal precedent for me to use against all the major airlines for refusing to use my idea to have lapdancers on all scheduled flights.
Posted by law_hog (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Then again,
The same precedent would allow Walmart to sue you becuase you don't choose to buy their crap!
Posted by tundraboy (494 comments )
Link Flag
Consequences...
I think the consequences for bringing up lawsuits like this should
be a single gunshot to the head.

Maybe people would stop abusing the legal system that way, and
not using it to gain unwarranted publicity for a product that
NOBODY wants, needs, or cares about.
Posted by jelloburn (252 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not a lawsuit
This is a letter from one company to another, it is not a lawsuit,
just a letter to garner publicity--it has accomplished that.
Posted by islanddan--2008 (10 comments )
Link Flag
Evil and stupid!
MRT is being evil at best with this kind of junk. Unless they are brain dead, they must realize that like any technology their's can be circumvented and will only inconvenience legitimate users of media.

When companies exist solely to push misinterpretations of already bad laws, they need to be shut down immediately.
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Get Over It Hollywood
All of those online downloadable songs are the same ones that some of us purchased years ago on 8 track and cassette tapes. We should have the legal right to listen to them free forever, so why should we have to pay again. It is unfortunate that most recorded media doesn't last as long as the right to listen to it. You're double dipping people to line some fat man's pocket.
Posted by gunnerbud (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
that's rather flawed
I agree that DRM sucks and doesn't work, but arguing that
because you once owned something on 8 track and cassette, you
should be entitled to it for life and for free is ludicrous. You are
entitled to listen to those 8 tracks and cassettes forever if you so
desire (or until the tape disintegrates), but if you want it on CD,
you should have to pay for it again.

It's like buying your favorite movie on DVD, and then when it
comes out on HD-DVD/Blu-Ray, saying that you should get the
higher quality version of the same exact move for free.

So you bought your music off the internet? Burn it to a CD if
you're so bothered by the fact that you can't listen to it forever.
Then you can play it back in your CD player and you won't have
to worry about DRM. But if you want to advance with the times,
you're going to have to re-purchase your entertainment, or
settle with what you had in the past. It's your choice.
Posted by jelloburn (252 comments )
Link Flag
Use OUR product or they'll sue?
Ridiculous.
Posted by TechNewsJunky (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Use OUR product or they'll sue?
Ridiculous.
Posted by TechNewsJunky (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Waaaaa
Oh boo hoo. Call the waaambulance. What a bunch of whiners!
Posted by master_stghm (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Buy OUR product, or we'll sue!
I'd love to see the look on the judge's face when he throws them out of court. hehe.
Posted by close5828 (230 comments )
Reply Link Flag
what is he smoking?
He is obviously using Darl Mcbride's used toilet paper as rolling paper.
Posted by befuddledms (113 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Burn, Burn, Burn, Burn
Media Rights Technologies and its digital radio subsidiary
BlueBeat.com, should be burnt to the ground.
<p><b>eom</b></p>
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Extortion
One word says it all...
Posted by brichard (314 comments )
Reply Link Flag
re:Extortion
I was under the impession that word was attatched to Mr Gates and
his companies actions.
Posted by Travis Ernst (170 comments )
Link Flag
So ... strong arm the strong armers?
Ok... Good luck with that Blue beat.. How long do you think the legal team of these companies can keep this in court?
Posted by Astinsan (132 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I needed a good laugh!
So, let me get this straight. A company is suing Apple, Microsoft, and pretty much any company that makes a media player because no one is using their software that would make using media players and operating systems difficult to impossible to enjoy ever again?

So, this guy was living under a rock and someone made the mistake of moving the rock, is that what happened?

I'll tell you this much, he's getting alot of free publicity. It's just too bad no one wants to use his crappy software.

Yeah, let's encrypt the world while we are at it! That's the ticket!
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Put these idiots on porn spammers list
These dumbchits deserve it.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Put these idiots on porn spammers list
These dumbchits deserve it.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
love that Idea
nt
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
Link Flag
love that Idea
nt
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
Link Flag
Yes...lets!
...and what are those denial of service attacks that seem to be all the rage with the kids these days...how does that work and how does that effect a web site's ability to do business? Would that be considered fighting slime with slime?
Posted by Whatsitreallymatter (1 comment )
Link Flag
Apple & MS should use MRT's product
and when the haxors find a way to circumvent it, rendering the product ineffective, Apple and MS can sue the pants off MRT.
Posted by bob blob (118 comments )
Reply Link Flag
mactherip...mrt!
how crazy just scramble the letters and you will see
Posted by h8fldave (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
This could be a good thing
Perhaps some suits will FINALLY understand that cease and desist
crap is going nowhere.
Posted by Ilgaz (573 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A new low in the annals of civil law
When i first read this, I had to check the date on the article. For a second I thought there might be 2 April 1sts this years.

This has got to be the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. It makes SCO almost seem sane.

I can't believe anyone would stoop so low.
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bizarre!
There's GOT to be something the press release doesn't say. It
makes no sense to sue, especially in the US over another
companies desire NOT to use your product. None of the named
companies have any obligation, legal or otherwise to use their
product.
Posted by mathue_tax (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is the extreme but inevitable result of...
the bizarre idea that corporations have a RIGHT to profit.

These days just having a business plan is enough for some to think that automatically entitles them to profit.

I almost wish they would sue. A judge would likely dismiss it in the first hearing, but if they get a retarded judge the combined financial might of these 4 companies could bankrupt this stupid greedy company.

There is no way they would settle and set a precedence for this sort of extortion.

I would be shocked if this went beyond a letter or two and a few words.
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Link Flag
How to contact Media Rights Tech
this is one of the most laughable "threats" i've seen in a long time. is this a comedy sketch?

anyway, be sure to send them a "what the fck" email, or call them and LAUGH, and hang up. here is all their contact info:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.mediarightstech.com/contact/" target="_newWindow">http://www.mediarightstech.com/contact/</a>
Posted by OS11 (844 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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