Following pressure from AACS LA, the decryption licensing outfit founded by companies including Warner Bros, Disney, Microsoft and Intel, last week copy-protection circumvention company SlySoft shutdown.
Unusually, the precise reasons for the closure remain uncertain. The only comment made by the company suggests that “regulatory requirements” had caused it to close down. There has been no triumphant announcement from the MPAA either.
That is unusual. One of SlySoft’s flagship products was AnyDVD, a Blu-ray ripping tool that was recently described by the studios as “a source for widespread, large-scale and commercial copyright infringement.” With that product now not on sale, one might think there would be at least some cause for celebration. However, something seems amiss.
For example, while SlySoft as a company says it has shut down, its forums are still operating from a subdomain of SlySoft.com. Interestingly they have just been renamed to RedFox, a nod to the creature depicted in SlySoft’s logo, and the discussion there is certainly providing food for thought and cause for optimism.
Firstly, according to people closely associated with SlySoft, even some key personnel weren’t informed of any potential problems with the company. Only adding to the intrigue is the claim that although SlySoft was shutdown in Antigua, none of the team were based there.
“We all were shocked when [the] message came on Monday to shut down [the] SlySoft website. Staff [still have] no complete information about what really happened and what’s going on in Antigua, as nobody of the SlySoft team is physically based in Antigua. We don’t even know each other,” says an admin identifying himself as ‘Ivan’.
Being scattered in different jurisdictions certainly has its plus points though and Ivan suggests that following lengthy discussion, big things could be on the horizon.
“We (developers and admins) had a few chat conferences this week and we came to the conclusion that if we have the backup of the community, we might consider to continue the development on our own,” he says.
While that is good news for AnyDVD fans, also of interest is that former employees of SlySoft still have access to key Slysoft infrastructure.
James, a now ex-SlySoft developer who says he is “probably the only person on this planet who can actually create an AnyDVD HD release build” says that ex-employees have “control over the assets (sources, servers)”.
But while that’s well and good, he seems less clear over whether those people are free to use them. Furthermore, there are questions over who legally owns AnyDVD if SlySoft itself is out of business.
“If AnyDVD was property of SlySoft, Inc and SlySoft no longer exists, who owns AnyDVD?” he asks.
So at this point questions are being asked based on two theories, or more, depending on how many one is prepared to entertain in this informational vacuum.
Firstly, if SlySoft shut down of its own accord, the company could potentially take legal action against any person resurrecting their products. However, it appears that SlySoft hasn’t parted company with its employees as smoothly as they might have liked, so loyalties don’t appear to be high on the agenda.
“SlySoft, Inc. owes us quite a lot of money, so morally I don’t have too much of a problem,” James says.
While SlySoft may or may not sue, if the shutdown was part of a settlement negotiated with AACS LA and/or the MPAA, it’s feasible those entities might have control of the rights to products including AnyDVD, or at least an agreement that controls their distribution and development.
However, according to key AnyDVD developer James, the latter scenario has not played out.
“I am quite sure, there is no settlement with AACS. The situation would be completely different,” he says.
So what for the future? At this point it’s clearly early days but it does appear that key people with the ability to resurrect products such as AnyDVD are seriously considering their options.
“I mostly worked on AnyDVD, this is my ‘baby’. I can push this forward,” James says.
“I certainly can’t do this on my own. e.g., I can’t maintain the server side, my skills are elsewhere. The other guys (network gurus, other devs, support people, forum mods) need to agree. I have some homework to do now. I’m certain that most of the ex-SlySoft people will agree to move forward.”
This turn of events is not entirely unexpected but there is a long road ahead littered with dozens of obstacles for anyone considering a “RedFox” revival. Nevertheless, with the possibility of release delays on the horizon, thousands will be cheering them on and that will be a hell of a boost.