Fair Use vs. DMCA: 321 Studios Takes the First Swing

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Lisa Rein

Lisa Rein
Apr. 23, 2002 04:27 PM
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321 Studios isn't waiting around to become the next Elcomsoft.

The company has recently filed a complaint against the major movie studios seeking a declaratory judgement that its "DVD Copy plus" product does not violate the DMCA.

The complaint (PDF file) is a defensive measure prompted by the MPAA's public confirmation of its intent to prosecute 321 Studios for its violations of the DMCA.

Here are some excerpts from the complaint that I hand typed from the PDF file to help better explain the exact details of the situation.

This lawsuit involves the ability of a small Internet company to market and sell an instruction manual and bundled computer software that teaches legal owners of DVD movies to make legitimate backup copies of the contents of a DVD for their own personal use. 321 Studios' package, called "DVD Copy Plus," is an effective and easy-to-use method of transferring the digital video images from a DVD onto regular CD-ROMs, permitting the DVD owner to make backup copies of the DVD films... (Page 1, Line 25-Page 2 Line 2)

...This lawsuit presents important questions about the interpretation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its interaction with United States copyright law and the First Amendment. The so-called "anti-circumvention" provisions of the DMCA have been widely criticized by legal scholars and computer industry experts. Because the potential reach of this new legal scheme is unclear, and because defendants claim 321 Studios violates this untested provision of copyright law, declaratory judgement by this Court is necessary to preserve the legitimate right of 321 Studios to market and sell DVD Copy Plus, and the legitimate rights of DVD owners to make backup archival copies of their own DVDs...(Page 2, Line 13-20)

...The problems with the DMCA stem from its vagueness, its interaction with other copyright laws, and its inconsistencies with the First Amendment protections on speech. The DMCA prohibits legitimate conduct including the fair use of copyrighted works permitted under the Copyright Act. (Page 9, Line 14-17)

Based on information and belief, representatives of the Motion Picture Association of America have asked the FBI to investigate 321 Studios' distribution of DVD Copy Plus and have stated their belief that 321 Studios' distribution of DVD Copy Plus and have stated their belief that 321 Studios has violated the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The MPAA's desire to shut down the distribution of DVD Copy Plus, and its allegations that such activities and distribution violate the DMCA, are stated in a March 11, 2002 newspaper article distributed [by] the Gannett News Service. The newspaper article specifically referred to the website operated by 321 Studios offering the DVD Copy Plus product, "www.copymydvd.com." (Page 9, Line 19-26)

There's also a good CNET article by Lisa Bowman about the subject (where I first heard about it.)

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Lisa Rein is a co-founder of Creative Commons, a video blogger at On Lisa Rein's Radar, and a singer-songwriter-musican at lisarein.com.