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Another US court bans DVD-copying software

Further setback for Fair Use campaigners

DVD software provider 321 Studios has suffered another legal setback after a New York judge granted a preliminary injunction barring the company from manufacturing, distributing or otherwise trafficking in software that allows users to copy DVDs.

US district judge Richard Owen sided with Paramount Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox in ordering 321 Studios to stop distributing products that violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) said in a statement praising the court decision.

321 Studios uses the freely available decryption technology DeCSS (De-Content Scrambling System) in its software, which allows users to access movies on DVDs that are protected by the CSS encryption technology.

On 20 February a San Jose, California court sided with several movie studios when US district court judge Susan Illston ordered the St. Charles, Missouri, company to stop selling its DVD copying software after ruling it illegal.

Lawyers for 321 Studios have argued that the DMCA provisions are unconstitutional and obstruct fair use rights, and that CSS is not a copy protection tool but an access control tool.

The company has several versions of its product, including DVD X Copy Xpress. It lets users back up a whole movie to a DVD.

It has now been selling what it calls “ripper free versions” of its products without the DeCSS decryption software. The MPAA on Wednesday characterised such a move as a transparent ploy that allows users of 321 Studio software to "do indirectly what can't be done directly."

321 Studios is in the midst of a week-long "Fight for Fair Use" campaign. It has urged consumers to protest the San Jose court ruling though various means such as sending letters to their local newspapers, emailing and calling studio executives, and sending e-mails, faxes or telegrams to members of congress encouraging them to support legislation to amend the DMCA "in a way that will protect Americans' fair use rights in the digital future."

The MPAA criticised 321 Studios' "various publicity stunts" as efforts that only confuse consumers about what is legal and what is not.

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