Okay, this is gonna kill you. Seriously. Sit down–you’re going to want to sit down for this–and brace yourself for the logic bomb that the U.S. District Court in California just put out about Real Networks’ (makers of RealPlayer) DVD copying utility RealDVD:
Even so, Judge Marilyn Patel did not issue a blanket condemnation of personal-use copying. In fact, she invoked the DMCA and the fair use doctrine in the same sentence when she stated: “while it may well be fair use for an individual consumer to store a backup copy of a personally owned DVD on that individual’s computer, a federal law has nonetheless made it illegal to manufacture or traffic in a device or tool that permits a consumer to make such copies.”
So…it’s legal to make copies of movies you own…but it’s illegal to make software that will do something legal?
That’s like saying it’s legal to drive a car but illegal to manufacture gasoline.
Of course, now we’re left with the question, “what now?” Naturally, Real Networks plans to review the decision and will probably stage an appeal with the very pointed legal question of “how can it be illegal to distribute software that accomplishes a purpose shown by law and statute to be legal”? But one way or another, the arguments over copying DVDs will go on hard and fast for a long time to come.