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Wednesday, May 14, 2003
San Francisco court considers legality of backup DVD Copies

On Thursday, May 15, a federal court will consider the legality of software that enables backup copying of digital video disks (DVDs).

Judge Illston of the Northern District of California Federal Court in San Francisco will hear arguments on a case involving 321 Studios' DVD backup software. 321 Studios opposes a summary judgment motion from movie studios claiming that the DVD backup software software is unlawful under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Championing the public's rights to use and innovate with media, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting 321 Studios' constitutional challenge to the DMCA. EFF, along with co-signers Public Knowledge and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, argues that tools such as 321's DVD X-Copy, which enables a user to make a personal backup copy or excerpt of a DVD, must be lawful because they are necessary to the public's fair use of digital media.

The movie studios on the other side of the 321 Studios lawsuit claim that DVD X-Copy -- and any hardware or software tools that would allow viewers to back up or extract snippets from DVDs -- is an unlawful circumvention device.

However, many people use DVD X-Copy for other purposes than copyright circumvention. Videographers are duplicating their work, professors are preparing classroom examples, and parents are creating backups for their children using DVD X-Copy and similar tools.

"The public should benefit from new media technologies, not find its rights further restricted when new formats are used," said EFF Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer. "Software that enables the exercise of fair use rights, from any media, is an important part of the copyright balance."

321 Studios filed suit on April 23, 2002, against MGM Studios, Tristar Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Time Warner Entertainment, Disney Enterprises, Universal City Studios, The Saul Zaentz Company, and Pixar Corporation. All of the major motion picture production companies except Sony Pictures Entertainment and Pixar Corporation filed a counterclaim on December 19, 2002.

The EFF amicus brief builds on public frustration expressed in comments to the Copyright Office's recent anticircumvention rulemaking. EFF helped 242 people document the harm they have experienced from technologically restricted CDs and DVDs.

The Northern District of California court, San Francisco Division, 450 Golden Gate Ave., will hear the case at 9:00 am on May 15, 2003.

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