RealDVD hearing: Don't block the software because of what-ifs

If I could be be punished for the things I could do - instead of what I actually do - I would been behind bars years ago.Hollywood movies studios are trying to punish RealNetworks for something that its software could do, not what it actually does, according to an early round of testimony from a court hearing surrounding an injunction on a piece of software called RealDVD.

If I could be be punished for the things I could do - instead of what I actually do - I would been behind bars years ago.

Hollywood movies studios are trying to punish RealNetworks for something that its software could do, not what it actually does, according to an early round of testimony from a court hearing surrounding an injunction on a piece of software called RealDVD. The software allows users to "rip" the contents of a DVD, presumably a movie, into a computer - similar to what's done with music CDs and iTunes.

The Motion Picture Association of America alleges that RealNetworks - which makes the software - is trying to circumvent copyright protection technology on DVDs, using its own protections that would impose limitations and restrictions but could be altered or removed simply by getting to the code.

During testimony, an MPAA attorney posed several what-if types of questions about the ability to  remove restrictions or increase the number of copies that could be made. In a CNET report, Greg Sandoval offers insight into U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel's interest on those scenarios:

Real attorneys tried to stop the line of questioning and raised an objection, arguing that discussing what RealDVD could do was irrelevant and asked the judge to stick to with RealDVD's current capabilities. But Patel wanted to hear the testimony and overruled the objection.

The MPAA continues to drum the idea that RealDVD is a piracy threat. Throughout the dispute, Patel has been most animated when discussing copyright issues and unauthorized copies. When she ruled to keep a temporary restraining order in place in October, she worried that RealDVD could lead to mass copying saying "it's impossible to bring back copies once they're out in the market."

Patel is right to hear about the scenarios because they do exist - but they're still what-if sceanrios. That's not what the software does. That's not how Real sells and markets it. And what-ifs aren't reason enough to keep it off the shelves. RealDVD has copying restrictions in place and was already being marketed as a way to preserve personal DVD collections, just the way many of us have already preserved our music CD collections.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. This lawsuit is Hollywood's attempt at preserving an outdated business model. RealDVD is not the enemy, nor is it the root of piracy. On the contrary, given the other forms of black market piracy out there, RealDVD is providing a safe and responsible way for DVD owners to preserve their investments while also respecting the copyrights of the studios. Hollywood should be embracing it, not fighting it.