Digital Rights Firms Threaten Legal Tantrum Over Being Ignored

Apple, Microsoft, Adobe Systems and Real Networks are the targets of a Santa Cruz, Calif., maker of copyright protection technologies that has sent letters demanding that the tech heavyweights cease and desist “actively avoiding” the use of its products.

Media Rights Technologies (MRT) and its digital radio subsidiary issued a press release Thursday, asserting that the four technology giants have produced billions of copies of Vista OS, Adobe Flash Player, Real Player, Apple iTunes and iPod products “without regard for the [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] or the rights of American intellectual property owners.”

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which became law in 1998, makes it illegal to circumvent technological protection measures that control access to copyrighted works.

‘Proven Effective’

MRT and BlueBeat’s X1 SeCure Recording Control product has been “proven effective against stream ripping, while protecting privacy and limiting infringement liability for users, distributors and academic institutions,” MRT argues. By not using its product, Apple and the other companies are violating the DMCA, it says.

“These manufacturers of media distribution devices are trafficking under the DMCA on devices that are illegal because they allow for copyright infringement,” MRT CEO Hank Risan told TechNewsWorld.

“Together, these four companies are responsible for 98 percent of the media players in the marketplace; CNN, NPR, Clear Channel, MySpace, Yahoo and YouTube all use these infringing devices to distribute copyrighted works,” Risan said. “We will hold the responsible parties accountable. The time of suing John Doe is over.”

Under the DMCA, statutory penalties can be imposed by a federal judge in the amount of anywhere between US$200 and $2,500 per device, Risan said. “MySpace and YouTube are both using Adobe Flash Player — there are probably at least 300 million devices on them,” he added.

Millions of Devices

Recipients of cease-and-desist letters are not required by law to respond, but the legal grounding of MRT’s claim appears to be less than certain.

“This case is an example of the continuing tension between the legitimate protection of digital content and ever-increasing software capabilities,” technology attorney Raymond Van Dyke told TechNewsWorld.

“MRT may not be suing John Doe anymore, but suing John Rockefeller is a whole other ball game,” Van Dyke added.

‘Real Chutzpah’

“This is real Chutzpah,” Mike Paxton, principal analyst with In-Stat, told TechNewsWorld. “It’s interesting because it’s so far out of left field.”

The DMCA doesn’t require the use of any particular technology or product, Paxton said, and MRT is certainly a lesser-known competitor in the field.

“I’m not familiar with the company or the technology, but the argument they’re making is creative,” Paxton said. “There might actually be some substance to it, but at first glance it doesn’t sound like it. It sounds like they’re trying to gain some attention by going after the heavyweights in the digital media world.”

“I think the lawyers on the other side would argue that any company that comes along with a DRM could say that if you’re not actively using their product, therefore you’re avoiding it,” Phil Leigh, senior analyst with Inside Digital Media, told TechNewsWorld.

“Sometimes people and things are exactly what they appear to be,” Leigh concluded. “They’re simply trying to get a lot of publicity.”

1 Comment

  • Would you like some cheese with you whine?, Using similar tactics, they probably threatened to sue the publisher of this magazine if they didnt publish this boring story too. (meaning comsumers are getting tired of hearing about it)
    Is it not unreasonable for just anyone to develop copy protection and say, "You must do business with us" ?
    This kind of ideology will create a wave a startups suing anybody anytime they wish.
    I believe the author of this article took the meaning (real intent) of the act out of context.

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