In the ongoing saga of Hollywood's bizarre and self-defeating attack on RealNetworks for its RealDVD offering
, a judge has dismissed Real's countersuit claiming antitrust violations
by the Hollywood studios in effectively creating a cartel that controls the encryption on DVDs and refusing to license it to Real for the purpose of its DVD backup solution. The court basically said that there is no harm to Real caused by any actions of the Hollywood studios, because the real "harm" is in the fact that it created an infringing product in RealDVD.
This reasoning isn't surprising given the earlier rulings in this case, but is no less ridiculous when looked at in context (and with any bit of common sense). Remember, the product in question does not allow for anyone to make a bunch of copies and pass them along. It allows you to make a single
backup copy for personal use -- a use that has been found to be perfectly fair use for software and music. It makes little sense that the law did not intend for movies to be backed up in this manner as well. The only
reason this is stopped is because of the bogus DRM that the studios put on DVDs, known as CSS. This has been widely broken and does absolutely nothing whatsoever to stop copying of DVDs. The only
thing that CSS serves to do these days is act as a tool for the Hollywood studios to team up to prevent products like RealDVD, because they can use the DMCA's anti-circumvention rule to claim that products like that circumvent the broken DRM they use. And, even if it's for a legal backup that can't be copied again (i.e., like RealDVD, it puts new
DRM on top of it), suddenly it's "infringing" thanks to the DRM. In other words, the only
purpose CSS serves is for the Hollywood studios to have full veto control over any software product that wants to be marketed legitimately, rather than underground. Under almost any definition of antitrust, it's difficult to see why this is not
an antitrust violation. It's the major companies in a market, putting in place a tool whose sole purpose is to block others from offering up products.
Of course, the whole lawsuit and this whole charade is incredibly self-defeating for the studios anyway. Because now, instead of having a product on the market that limits what kind of copies people can make, instead, people who want to back up their DVDs simply get one of the long list of underground products out there that will let you rip your DVDs with no limitations whatsoever. It's simply stunning that the studios think it makes sense to drive users to such a solution. The only possible way it makes sense is if you put on your "studio thinking cap" and realize that the studios, in their infinite wisdom, think that they can ship these special -- much more expensive -- dual layered DVDs that have a DRM'd-up digital copy included. But, again, this should raise an antitrust flag, in that the studios are killing off the RealDVD product to try to protect their own sales of these DVDs with the silly Digital Copy technology. But, instead, many users are simply using the underground technology that doesn't cost them anything and gives them much more value.