The following op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle is worth some attention involving an initiative called RealDVD* by Real Networks. Titled the "Movie industry's shortsighted fight", it explains:
"Thomas Edison, probably America's best-known and most prominent inventor of all time, and holder of nearly 1,100 patents, is famously quoted as recognizing that technological advances are the result of hard work more than anything else. He said in 1903 that "genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration."
There is now unfolding in a federal court in San Francisco a lawsuit in which several major Hollywood movie studios are suing RealNetworks - a relatively small but successful company that develops and markets Internet communications technology - in an effort to prevent the company from selling a software product that simply enables consumers to copy their DVDs to their personal computers. If the studios are successful in this Goliath-against-David legal action, Edison's lesson in hard work will have been effectively reduced to, "genius is one percent inspiration, 99 percent permission."
The lawsuit, under the supervision of U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, remains in its early stages, with a hearing set for April, but the studios already have succeeded in securing a restraining order against RealNetworks' effort to market its product, RealDVD. The effort by the studios to hamstring RealNetwork's efforts to bring this latest product to the consumer makes little practical sense, legally or economically, given what the product does (and more importantly, perhaps, what it does not do)."
The broader implications of this fight are notable:
"While the industry lawsuit relies in part on the "Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998," federal legislation that was designed to thwart the development and sale of products that allow individuals to distribute their own versions of copyrighted material such as movies, the clear fact is that RealDVD software does not circumvent any technology, and does not permit a user to distribute a DVD. The product does nothing more than permit the purchaser to copy a DVD onto his or her own PC or laptop. In other words, the product simply enables the private viewer to watch the DVD they'd already purchased directly from their computer's hard drive rather than rely on the sometimes-cumbersome process of inserting the DVD itself into a player."
Think about how useful something like would be, especially for netbooks that don't even have on-board DVD drives. More features of RealDVD can be seen here.
The piece ends on the following note:
"Defendant RealNetworks has the law, the facts and common sense on its side. The industry has money and hubris in its corner. Regardless of whether you ever might consider purchasing RealDVD software, this case should concern you; that is, if you wish for fair play and innovation to remain valued commodities in 21st century America. Thomas Edison understood this. Let's hope Judge Patel does, too."
Here's hoping that common sense prevails for once in this instance. But judging from the history of these kind of tussles in the past, it may not pay to get too optimistic.