Offering a whole new take on Customer Appreciation Day, a Missouri company announced a $10,000 reward Tuesday for tips leading to the conviction of anyone using its DVD-copying software for piracy.
The move is the latest attempt by St. Louis-based 321 Studios to demonstrate its anti-piracy fervor. That's important because the major Hollywood studios want to ban 321's products on the grounds that they promote piracy.
"We hereby claim their reward," said Marta Grutka of the Motion Picture Assn. of America. "Any use of 321's products on a copy-protected DVD is illegal, and the notion that there's an 'illegal misuse' is therefore a complete misnomer."
The two sides have taken their dispute to a federal court in Oakland, where a trial is scheduled to begin April 25. At issue is whether 321's programs violate federal copyright law by enabling users to pick the electronic locks on DVDs and copy them.
Robert Moore, founder and president of 321 Studios, contends that most of his customers use the software to make backups of DVDs they own. While Moore's lawyers say that's legitimate, the motion picture companies' lawyers say the law doesn't allow electronic locks to be circumvented for any purpose.
The reward applies to 321's latest product, DVD X Copy. The catch: the $10,000 would be paid only for tips that lead federal prosecutors to convict a pirate.
Moore said he wouldn't be surprised if some of the nearly 100,000 buyers were using DVD X Copy to duplicate DVDs they rented from the local video store, but he added that this probably wouldn't merit a reward because it wouldn't result in a federal prosecution.
"We would consider piracy to be something on the level that would have an economic impact on the studios," Moore said.