A Step Forward? Or Just Sideways?

A Judge has ruled that the Kaleidescape movie server (basically a big box that rips and stores DVDs on hard disk) did not violate its licensing agreement with the DVD-CCA:

Kaleidescape argued, first and foremost, that nothing in the DVD-CCA
licensing agreement prohibits the development of products that allow
users to copy their DVDs.

Indeed, that's exactly what Judge Leslie C. Nichols ruled today in
the non-jury trial at the Downtown Superior Court of Santa Clara in San
Jose, Calif. There was no breach of contract.

That seems to be good news for those of us who like the server concept and would like to make copies of our DVDs for our own (fair) use.  However, the judge seems to have sidestepped the copyright and fair use issues, such that this ruling probably will turn out to be pretty narrow and not constitute a useful precedent.

Because of this ruling, the Judge did not have to get into copyright
issues, so the Kaleidescape ruling has no copyright implications. It is
not a statement on the legality of ripping DVDs.

There was the possibility that copyright issues could have come into
play. The DVD-CCA submitted to the Court a particular document, the
"CSS General Specifications," that it asserted was part of the
licensing agreement.

The CSS General Specifications document includes wording about
thwarting the "unauthorized copying" of DVD's. The issue of what
constitutes an unauthorized copy could have come up, but Judge Nichols
ruled that the document in fact is not part of the DVD-CCA licensing
agreement.

  • eddie

    Seems very much like a step sideways, at least with regards to copyright and the DMCA. But that sidestep is probably enough for Kaleidescape to dodge the bullet. The next attack would be to level copyright contributory infringement claims and DMCA anti-circumvention claims, but those would have to come from the MPAA. The DVD-CCA would have no standing in those cases. It's not clear to me that the MPAA would be interested in pursuing the case.

    I'm somewhat stunned that the DVD-CCA licensing agreement doesn't incorporate the CSS General Specifications document. How did that slip past their lawyers? I would have expected the licensing agreement to include language like "licensee must comply with all published technical standards, including ..."

  • eddie

    Ah, found the answer. The DVD-CCA may have shot themselves in the foot: Malcolm argued that the particular document, which is "available only after you sign the license and pay the fee," is not part of the contract.

    Also, the article suggests that I'm right about the MPAA not being interested here: Malcolm has argued in the past, and I've agreed, that the reason the DVD CCA sued Kaleidescape in the first place is that the organization's influential board members didn't have products to compete with the Kaleidescape server.

    Also, the case doesn't help people who want to rip DVDs and put them on their own file server or use them for their own purposes. The Kaleidescape server still has to comply with the part of their license that says that the encryption keys can't leave the player, here meaning the Keliedescape server: Not all DVD server vendors, however, would be in compliance with the DVD CCA's regulations, which prohibit the exposure of DVD decryption keys on a publicly available bus. In other words, protected content cannot leave a closed ecosystem, as in a PC network. "We have gone to a lot of trouble to comply with that," Malcolm says.