Culture

Distributors of DVD-copy software sued

Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox sue a handful of small software companies, alleging that their distribution of DVD-copying software violates copyright law.

Hollywood studios Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox sued a handful of small software companies Wednesday, alleging that their distribution of DVD-copying software violates copyright law.

The studios filed suit against Tritton Technologies, QOJ, World Reach and Proto Ventures in New York federal court, asking for unspecified damages and a court-ordered halt to the distribution of the various software packages.

Tritton released its DVD CopyWare software, created by an affiliated European company, to mainstream retail channels in August. The other companies distribute largely online, through Web sites including QOJ's copiesanything.com and World Reach's dvdfastcopy.com.

Representatives for the two studios could not immediately be reached for comment. A Tritton representative declined immediate comment, saying the company needed to review the suit.

The lawsuit is the second focusing on software distributed at mainstream retail stores that gives consumers the ability to easily copy DVDs using standard computer equipment. Hollywood executives fear that such software will help push them into the same cycle of piracy and falling revenues that the music industry is now facing.

A coalition of Hollywood studios led by the Motion Picture Association of America sued 321 Studios, creator of DVD X Copy and the leader in the DVD backup software market, last year. An initial ruling in the case is expected any time. The studios contend that 321's software violates provisions of copyright law that bars distribution of software that circumvents anticopying protections.

Most DVDs are loaded with a copy-protection technology called Content Scramble System, or CSS, but information on how to crack that protection, and tools that do it automatically, have been widely available online for several years.

Studios have won several victories in their legal attempts to push that information offline, winning a court order barring publisher Eric Corley from posting one of the software tools, called DeCSS, on his Web site or even linking to other sites that were making the program available.

However, 321's software, which is much simpler to use, has been available on retail shelves at mainstream stores such as CompUSA for months. Tritton's CopyWare software is available at online stores including Buy.com.

In an interview last month, Tritton Chief Executive Christopher von Huben said he did not expect to be sued, since his company was simply acting as distributor for the CopyWare software, rather than creating it. He compared his company's role to that of CompUSA in distributing 321 Studio's products.

Copyright lawyers at the time said that was unlikely to prevent a lawsuit, however.