The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has been used against countless numbers of individuals and companies, forcing them to stop infringing on intellectual property rights. In some cases entities such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have reportedly misused the DMCA by weidling it against what turned out to be innocent third-parties. Now, in a strange twist of logic, the DMCA is being wielded as a club in an attempt to force the use of intellectual property.
It's no secret that Microsoft, Apple Computer, Real Networks, and Adobe, produce what are undoubtedly the most widely used media players on computer platforms all over world. The products include Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies; however at least one company isn't satisfied with the level of control exercised by various media players.
Media Rights Technologies (MRT) developed a product, the X1 SeCure Recording Control, which tries to prevent "stream ripping" when media is streamed into a media player. The company said that the product "has been tested by the industry's standards bodies, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), and has been proven effective against stream ripping, while protecting privacy and limiting infringement liability for users, distributors and academic institutions."
Not satisfied to leave it up to media player developers, MRT has issued cease and desist orders to Microsoft, Apple, Real Networks, and Adobe. MRT wants the companies to stop the production, sale, and distribution of products such as Windows Vista, Apple iTunes and iPod, Real Player, and Adobe Flash Player.
"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," said MRT CEO Hank Risan. "We will hold the responsible parties accountable. The time of suing John Doe is over."
MRT asserts that the four companies produced their media player products "without regard for the DMCA or the rights of \[intellectual property owners\]" and that they are "actively avoiding the use of MRT's technologies," which MRT, of course, licenses to those who make the choice to use them.
Risan himself was the recipient of a $150 million cease and desist order delivered by RIAA in 2001. Risan operates an online museum of musical instruments that streams audio. Risan previously protected the streams by hiding files on Windows platforms. But when Microsoft updated its Windows Media Player (WMP) the previously hidden files became exposed, which then led to the cease and desist letter from RIAA. As a result of the letter, Risan formed MRT.
MRT claims that the Microsoft, Apple, Real Networks, and Adobe could--if MRT sues and wins a case against them--each be held liable for statutory damages of "at least $200 to $2500 for each product distributed or sold," which when totaled amounts to a figure somewhere far beyond $1 billion.