The debate over DVD backups begins, with RealNetworks in the courtroom

Within a month of its release, RealNetworks' RealDVD was involved in two simultaneous lawsuits with the MPAA, who sought an injunction on the DVD ripping software they farcically called "StealDVD." Sale of the software was halted in October after only a few days of commercial availability.

Today, the software comes up in court before Judge Marylin H. Patel, the same district court judge who presided over the case late last year, and is most famous for her decision to shut down peer-to-peer music swapping service Napster nearly nine years ago.

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The hearing will review the DVD Copy Control Association's motion for a preliminary injunction against RealNetworks' RealDVD product, which rips commercial DVDs into a proprietary pure digital format about 9 GB in size which, like Apple's iTunes accounts, can be authorized to work on as many as five devices.

It is believed, however, that this case is not about a $29.99 piece of software that does what any number of freewares do already, but about securing a valuable legal precedent that will allow Real to license the production of archiving DVD players. Real's project known as "Facet" is a Linux-based DVD player environment that copies DVDs to the player's internal hard drive, like Kaleidescape's home media products.

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