DVD COPYING VS. FREE SPEECH
(This is an archived case summary.)
321 Studios is the maker of “DVD Copy Plus”, a product that makes backup personal copies of movies on DVD. A U.S. federal court in California ruled in February 2004 that this product violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the DMCA). DVD Copy Plus bypasses the “Contents Scramble System” (CSS) that manufacturers insert on DVDs. The DMCA is a controversial Act that bans such circumvention tools. 321 Studios argued that banning the product violated the consumers' rights to free expression to make backup copies of DVDs they had purchased.
Judge Ilston wrote that making backup copies for personal use is not illegal; in fact it is a legitimate “fair use” of a work that the consumer already owns. The right to personal use is protected under the First Amendment (free expression), but even though the DMCA radically restricts the legitimate use, the Act does not unconstitutionally restrict 321's speech.
The Judge pointed out that ”if 321 removed the part of its software that bypasses CSS and marketed only the DVD copying portion, it could freely market its product to customers who use the software to copy non-CSS encrypted DVDs and other public domain material.”
The judge ordered an injunction against 321 Studios, prohibiting them from manufacturing, distributing, or otherwise trafficking in any DVD circumvention software.
321 Studios v. Metro Goldwyn Mayer et al