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Last Updated: Monday, 8 September, 2003, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
DVD boss raring for court battle
Rob Semaan is the chief executive of 321 Studios
Rob Semaan is the chief executive of 321 Studios
A US-based DVD company being sued by the US film industry has told BBC News Online it is excited at the prospect of a "ground-breaking" UK High Court battle.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed a lawsuit in the UK on Friday against 321 Studios, saying its DVD-copying software allows anti-copying protection of DVDs to be bypassed.

Jack Valenti, president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association said: "Companies that stand to profit from the violation of copyright laws should be brought to book.

"No one should be under any illusions about the damage that this dangerous software would do to consumer choice and film-making."

But 321 Studios says the action is an opportunity to clarify the position of copying DVDs for personal use.

The firm sees itself as a leading proponent in the fair use of copyrighted material, fighting its case on both sides of the Atlantic.

The ability to make back-up copies has not been brought before the courts in the UK before
Rob Semaan
Rob Semaan, chief executive of 321 Studios, told BBC News Online the court case, which rests on the interpretation of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, could be "ground-breaking".

"The ability to make back-up copies has not been brought before the courts in the UK before," said Mr Semaan.

The company sells several versions of software called DVD Copy, which allows users to create a back-up copy of films either on to a CD or a DVD disc.

But it says its software is designed only for users to back up DVDs for which they have already paid.

It believes consumers should have the right to make a copy because DVDs are not indestructible and they should not have to pay out every time a DVD is damaged or lost.

It also says it has fitted protection in its programmes to deter DVD pirates from using it to make numerous copies to sell on the black market.

The court battle in the UK has the potential to be a complex case, resting on the interpretation of copyright.

321 Studios, which has an office in London, owns the copyright to the software and sells it through major retailers in the US, and has now expanded into the UK and other markets.

But the MPAA has called the software "dangerous", believing it works by circumventing DVD copyright protection systems, therefore robbing the industry of sales.

But Mr Semaan said: "Our arguments are for fair rights of use of copyrighted material, not for free use.

They should have the right to copy DVDs because they are not indestructible
Rob Semaan
"People generally have the ability to make back-up copies of media, such as videos and cassettes, they have legally purchased.

"They should have the right to copy DVDs because they are not indestructible."

Mr Semaan said 321 Studios was trying to work the "middle line" approach between people being able to back up their own DVDs and educating them against piracy.

It also defends the use of the programmes because it has fitted four anti-piracy measures to deter illegal copying.


This includes the technology that only allows a copy to be made from an original, which takes between 30 and 60 minutes, which would not be efficient for potential pirates to use.

It also leaves an invisible "watermark" that imprints a code throughout the copy, which cannot removed.

Because people must register software when they buy it, it is easy for it to be traced if found on the illegal market.

Such is 321 Studios' confidence that it is not invading copyright that it has taken offensive action in the US by suing the MPAA, believing it to be threatening its business.

The case has so far been rumbling on for 18 months, and it is awaiting a summary judgement.

"We are excited by the prospect of these cases going to court," said Mr Semaan.

"People are wondering what their rights are in the digital age. Most people believe they are entitled to make a back-up copy and this case should help clear that up."

As well as court cases setting precedents on DVD copying, Mr Semaan says the battle will also promote the software and the company to people who may not yet have heard of it.

"We are very enthuastic about this, even though we may lose a few battles along the way, but it will decide what is a fair use of copyright."

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