Internet law students will recall RealNetworks’ DMCA anti-circumvention claims against Streambox, Inc. for selling two software products, the Streambox VCR and Streambox Ripper. RealNetworks sells the RealPlayer media player, among other things. The VCR emulated the RealPlayer’s “secret handshake” and allowed users to save content that was distributed for streaming only. The Ripper allowed users to convert RealPlayer and other files into different formats. In 2000 the federal trial court in the Western District of Washington held that sale of the VCR violated the DMCA, but sale of the Ripper did not because it had other uses than circumventing technological measures as defined by the DMCA.
RealNetworks is at the other counsel table in an anti-circumvention case currently being tried in federal court. The MPAA sued RealNetworks for violating the DMCA, copyright infringement, and breach of contract for its sale of the RealDVD, “$30 software enables users to create and store copies of DVDs to their computer hard drives,” and Facet, “a proposed DVD player that can copy and store films.” Closing arguments are expected this week. RealNetworks has argued that making backup copies of DVDs is protected by fair use and that the MPAA licensed RealNetworks to use its circumvention technology. c|Net’s Greg Sandoval reports that RealNetwork “is trudging on very shaky legal ground” and that Judge Marilyn Patel–who heard some of the cases that shut down Napster–“isn’t buying Real’s story.”
I’ll cover Judge Patel’s decision when it comes.