Courts have likely killed DVD-copying media servers

Remember Kaleidescape's attempt to sell a server that let you copy your DVDs for personal use? Sounded like a good idea to help keep DVDs alive, but eight years on, Kaleidescape suffers another defeat in court.

You'll have to keep dusting off those stacks and shelves of DVDs for the foreseeable future--and maybe forever.

Kaleidescape, a company that has long sought to help consumers create copies of their DVDs and store the digital files to a media server, has lost another legal battle.

A prototype of RealNetworks' Facet, the DVD player that copied and stored digital movies, but was effectively killed in 2010 following a court fight with the DVD CCA. Greg Sandoval/CNET

In 2004, the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) sued Kaleidescape. That group, which includes all the major Hollywood studios and some consumer electronics companies, licenses the anticopying protections on DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

The DVD CCA accused Kaleidescape of violating the terms of the CCA license when it began releasing servers that copied DVDs. Kaleidescape has argued there's nothing in the DVD CCA's contract that prohibits anything that the company's media servers do.

But according to a story published by Cepro.com, on January 9 a Superior Court judge in Santa Clara, Calif., issued a tentative ruling in favor of the DVD CCA. Kaleidescape's managers say they will appeal and continue their eight-year court fight. Read Cepro.com's story for all the legal ins and outs.

What's most interesting about this prolonged legal battle is that the two sides appear to be fighting over a format that might be obsolete by the time their conflict is resolved. DVD sales have been in decline for years as Web-streaming services, such as those offered by Netflix, HBO Go and Amazon, grow in popularity.

The idea of buying another set-top box just to house DVDs we collected and never got around to watching sounds like a waste of time. But I'm probably getting ahead of myself again. My studio sources chafe when I write that the DVD is dead and they remind me that while home-video revenues are declining, they are still significant.

Fair enough. But I've always argued that if the studios wanted to milk the DVD for as long as they could, why not give consumers a better way to store and handle their discs?

Four years ago, RealNetworks sought to create a server similar to Kaleidescape's. The box, called Facet, would have used technology similar to RealDVD, the company's DVD-ripping software, to enable users to copy their discs. The technology was supposed to lock up the movies within the box so they couldn't be shared illegally. It was slick.

RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser demonstrated the device in court. With a single push of a button, a user could hop from scene to scene or movie to movie.

But the DVD CCA prevailed in 2010 over RealNetworks in a court case similar to Kaleidescape's. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that advocates for Internet users and tech companies, was supportive of Kaleidescape and RealNetworks and argued that the DVD CCA's opposition was an attempt to keep consumers from making copies under fair use and force them to back up their films by buying additional copies.

On the contrary, said DVD CCA. They argued that they were making movies and TV shows easier to access than ever but they would "vigorously defend our right to stop companies from bringing products to market that mislead consumers and clearly violate the law."

 

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