RealNetworks and Hollywood Spar Over DVD Ripping

Starting late last year, movie studios began peddling premium-priced DVDs that come with the right to download a digital copy of the movie onto a computer.

Now a federal judge will weigh in on whether the studios are the only ones who can legally make those copies, or if other companies can jump on the bandwagon.

Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Friday will open a hearing to evaluate whether RealNetworks (RNWK) can sell a computer program called RealDVD that allows consumers to copy DVDs onto computers.

Last fall, the studios won a temporary ban on the sale of RealDVD. If Judge Patel rules the program can go back on the market, it could hamper Hollywood’s efforts to cash in on consumer demand for digital copies of the DVDs they buy.

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