RealDVD Trial to Drag on Another Week

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A widely watched court case pitting software maker RealNetworks against seven Hollywood studios will resume next week after court testimony took longer than expected Wednesday.

Judge Marilyn Patel, who is hearing the case in the San Francisco U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, will hear testimony from an expert witness and a RealNetworks engineer starting next Thursday, wrapping up a case that dates back to Sept 30, when RealNetworks and the studios simultaneously sued each other over the software maker's RealDVD player.

Sales of RealDVD have been suspended by court order since the suits were launched last year.

The case is being closely watched because it pits the studios against the technology industry in a battle to see who will control the way digital video is watched.

RealDVD uses copy protection mechanisms, but it lets users copy DVDs to their computer's hard drive. The studios worry that it could be misused to make illegal copies of rented DVDs or, perhaps facilitate illegal file sharing of DVDs. Studios have also expressed concerns over a RealNetworks product still in development, code-named Facet. Essentially a storage server, Facet could eventually be used to digitize video collections or even deliver movies over a network to several different computers.

RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser demoed Facet in court Tuesday, saying his company was trying to educate users but acknowledging that "there's no way that we can physically prevent consumers from doing something."

The court had already heard three days of highly technical testimony over the past week, covering the minutiae of product development, cryptography and copy protection mechanisms.

Real still has two more witnesses to call, a technical witness and a company engineer. It's possible that they will be examined by the end of Thursday or Friday of next week, but the testimony could possibly drag on beyond that, said Bill Hankes, a Real spokesman. Once testimony ends, the judge could make a ruling from the bench, but experts say it will more likely be weeks or even months before a verdict is handed down.

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