Judge still needs to declare Facet legal

RealNetworks is preparing to launch a new DVD player that it calls a game-changer. It just needs a judge to declare the device legal first.

The software maker plans to introduce Facet, which enables users to record DVDs onto a built-in hard drive, by the holiday season.

Company compares Facet to Kaleidescape, a high-end home entertainment system that saves a movie from a DVD onto a home server as a backup copy, just with a lower pricetag.

While that device has so far prevailed against a slew of lawsuits in courts, the DVD Copy Control Assn. has filed an appeal.

Studios are concerned that the software that enables the recording of the DVDs could potentially be used to illegally distribute pics digitally.

Since September, studios have been embroiled in a lawsuit against RealNetworks over its RealDVD software, which copies DVDs, and temporarily succeeded in restraining Real from selling the software pending a hearing.

The studios and Real returned to a San Francisco district court Thursday to give closing statements in the case. An immediate decision is not expected.

The judge presiding over that case will also have to decide whether RealNetworks can sell its Facet player.

RealNetworks spokesman Bill Hankes said Facet’s future is “entirely dependent upon the judge’s ruling.”

Although RealNetworks said Facet could become available within months, the device is still in development, with the company looking to hire engineers to continue developing the system.

Those working on the player include execs from Disney, Microsoft, Intel and Amazon.com, according to a job posting on Craigslist.

RealNetworks could wind up prevailing as it claims Facet includes copy protections to prevent illegal copying.

Ruling couldn’t come soon enough. RealNetworks reported a $12 million loss in the first quarter, partly blaming $6 million it spent on legal fees to fight the RealDVD litigation.

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