February 13, 2004 5:04 PM PST

New lawsuit targets DVD copying

The DVD Copy Control Association, a Hollywood-backed technology group, filed suit against software company 321 Studios on Friday for allegedly infringing patent rights on its DVD copy protection.

The suit is the fourth set of claims to be filed against 321 Studios, which markets the most popular DVD copying software commercially available. Previously, the company has been sued in both California and in New York by coalitions of Hollywood studios and by Macrovision, another copy-protection technology company.

The DVD CCA recently dropped lawsuits against individuals who posted code used in the process of copying DVDs online. After that decision, the group said it would use other tactics to defend its intellectual property.

"In taking this legal action, DVD CCA is turning its focus toward those who produce and broadly distribute products in the marketplace that facilitate the widespread infringement of the copyrights on motion pictures that CSS was designed to protect," said Steven Reiss, an attorney for the trade organization, in a statement. "DVD CCA believes that halting the mass marketing of these illegal products is the most important and effective step toward protecting its property from theft and misuse in a changing marketplace."

The battle over DVD copying technology has been on a roller-coaster ride over the past four years, since a Norwegian teenager posted code online that helped computers break through the Content Scrambling System (CSS) copy protection technology included on most commercial DVDs.

That code, called DeCSS, quickly spread on the Net, and Hollywood studios sued Web publishers to keep it offline. The DVD CCA, which holds patent rights in the CSS technology, also sued Web site operators for violation of trade secrets.

The Hollywood studios were successful in their federal copyright case, winning a judgment against publisher Eric Corley, in which Corley was banned from posting or even linking to the DeCSS code.

The DVD CCA was less successful, ultimately losing critical rulings on jurisdiction, and drawing the skepticism of the California Supreme Court as to whether their trade secret claim was valid. The group dropped their case before that issue came to a final test.

In its claims, filed in New York federal court, the DVD CCA contends that 321 Studios' copying software also copies the CSS technology without permission, in violation of patent rights.

A 321 executive said the company had not been informed of the lawsuit and could not immediately comment. The company separately filed a response to Macrovision's lawsuit on Friday, arguing that the parallel patent infringement claims in that suit were invalid.

The Macrovision lawsuit is "completely baseless and frivolous on the merits," said 321 Studios President Robert Moore. "We will continue to fight...We've got a responsibility to our customer base and the fair use cause to continue."

 

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