I am not a lawyer, though it seems hard to be a consumer these days without the training. As I understand it, however, we have the right to make archival copies of the content that we buy (or license) such as computer software or music CDs or DVD movies. This protects our investment so that we can recover the content in the event that the original copy becomes permanently incapacitated.
But then there’s the DMCA: Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Among other things, it says that it’s illegal to try to figure out how content is copy protected. If you have a way to copy the protected content, it’s more or less proof that you have violated the law.
But the appeals court ruling handed down last week turns out to hinge on a much more straightforward legal principle: contracts. The case in question actually dates back to 2004, when negotiations between the DVD Content Control Authority (DVD CCA) and Kaleidescape broke down. Kaleidescape wanted to sell a box that would let you “rip” your DVD movies and store them on a hard drive that you could then access through your local network. The initial court decision in 2007 was in the company’s favor, but the DVD CCA appealed. The ruling last week stated that the lower court did not correctly interpret the terms of the contract between DVD CCA and Kaleidescape, and that the lower court now will have to reconsider the case.
As a result, Kaleidescape can still sell its products until the lower court decides whether or not it violated its DVD CCA license when it created its products. If the DVD CCA should prevail, however, it could have a profound impact on sales of DVDs and possibly Blu-ray discs as well. Why would you purchase something if you can’t make a backup to protect your purchse? A decision in favor of the DVD CCA is likely to just drive consumers to use other sources for their content, such as on-demand services on cable, satellite, and the Internet. Hollywood could be making life more difficult for themselves here.