Judge blocks sales of DVD copying software

Judge blocks sales of DVD copying software

Siding with several of Hollywood's largest movie studios, a US federal judge has barred 321 Studios from manufacturing, distributing or otherwise trafficking in software that allows users to copy DVDs.

After hearing the case last May, US District Court Judge, Susan Illston, ruled that 321 Studios' DVD copying software was illegal and ordered the St. Louis-based company to stop selling the products within seven days.

321 Studios said it would appeal and was seeking a stay of the ruling pending appeal.

The software allows users to copy DVD movies onto recordable DVDs or standard CD-R discs, despite the encryption technology used on the discs to prevent copying, called Contents Scrambling System (CSS). 321 Studios uses a freely available decryption technology called DeCSS to circumvent CSS.

It offers several versions of its products, including DVD X Copy Xpress, which sells for $US69 and lets users back up a whole movie to a DVD, including special features such as trailers.

If it couldn't get a stay on the order to stop offering its products during the appeal process, 321 Studios planned to continue selling its software, but without the DeCSS technology, the company said.

Buyers will have to download DeCSS software, called a "ripper", from the Internet if they want to copy protected DVDs, a 321 Studios spokesperson said.

"Our software will not be able to back up CSS encrypted movies without the ripper," she said. "But rippers are freely available on the Internet and our product will work seamlessly with those rippers."

321 Studios filed suit against several motion picture companies in 2002 as a pre-emptive strike. A countersuit followed.

The latest ruling came on a motion filed by MGM Studios, Tristar Pictures, Columbia Pictures Industries, Time Warner Entertainment, Disney Enterprises, Universal City Studios and The Saul Zaentz Company.

Illston's ruling is a setback to consumers' rights, civil liberties group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), said.

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