What an interesting confluence of events this week. . . If anyone ever needed proof of the notion that lawyers are the only stakeholders making money on the analog-to-digital/physical-media-to-digital transitions for the media, the last couple of days should be confirmation.
First, RealNetworks releases its DVD-copying software, RealDVD, today. The software download lets a user “rip” a secure copy of a DVD so the user can watch the movie on a notebook PC (which also has to have a copy of the RealDVD software). The software, by the way, is being sold as a download from Real that will be priced at $30 for a limited time but will carry a $50 price tag. (User’s have to pay another $20 for every copy of the software they want to put on up to five additional computers.)
Apparently sensing some hostility in their pre-launch visits with Hollywood studios, Real Networks filed a pre-emptive lawsuit today a asking a court to rule that the software is legal. The defendants? The major Hollywood studios and the DVD Copy Control Association which maintains the standards for copy protection schemes such as the Content Scramble System (CSS) used to (more or less) protect commercial DVDs. (Here’s a copy of Real’s press release in which they paint themselves as the victim of Hollywood and the champions of technology innovation.) The labels are arguing that Real’s software will allow people to copy rented DVDs onto their hard-drives to build permanent libraries. Real’s press release cited a recent court decision in favor of Kaleidescape notes that the actual disc did not have to be in the computer during playback.
OK, that’s one case that will soak up some billable hours as all parties fight it out.
The second one doesn’t directly involve any media companies, but does involve the Norwegian government’s consumer protection group, the Consumer Market Council, and Apple. On Monday, the Consumer Ombudsman accused Apple of failing to unlock the iTunes store and allow consumers with other devices to purchase content. This case started two years ago and, according to press reports, Apple argued it was working to get the music labels to provide DRM-free versions for sale. Apparently, the ombudsman has ruled that Apple has until November to rectify the situation or will face penalties which may include fines.
Assuming Apple can’t get the rest of the major labels and independents to provide DRM-free versions of content, as EMI currently does, the Norwegian iTunes store might be shuttered.
Eight years into the 21st century and the battles between technology companies, content companies and legislators continue and just seem to be treading the same old ground: technological measures demanded by rightsholders, implemented by technology companies and either pushed or scorned by legislators, depending on the country.
Does anybody see a logical end? I do but I wonder what others think.