Real gets into the DVD ripping business
Seemingly without the direct blessing of the movie industry, RealNetworks has introduced a new application that allows consumers to "rip" DVDs.
Set to debut before the end of the month, RealDVD will retail for $40 and will allow the user to copy a complete DVD image to a hard drive, though very likely in a format that only RealDVD can play. This would include the disc artwork and any extras that may be on the disc.
A version is available for Windows XP and Vista, where additional licenses can be purchased for $20. Real said it is working on a version of the client for Mac OS X.
"Of course people are going to ask how is this legal?" asks a Real corporate blog post this morning from spokesperson Lacy Kemp. "Simply, we don't break any encryption on the DVD and [we] are a licensed member of the DVD-CCA. It's that simple, and that means it gives you the unhindered ability to do what has been done illegally for awhile."
What may save Real from any type of legal ramifications is the fact that the copy protection mechanisms are preserved onto the ripped copy. This differs from other software of more questionable legality, which removes the DRM and allow it to be distributed freely. RealDVD also locks the copy down to the specific hard drive it's saved on -- the file will not play on any other machine, and the images cannot be burned to another DVD. However, if the hard drive is portable, images from that drive can be played on up to five PCs where RealDVD is installed, the company states this morning.
Movie industry executives may still have issues with RealDVD, which could be viewed as just one more way consumers can get around buying discs. Rental services and studios do not share a cut of DVD rentals, the way they did with VHS cassettes years ago. If more consumers acquire perfectly viewable movies from Blockbuster or Netflix, paying $3.99 instead of $14.99 -- or worse, borrowing the disc from a friend -- any DVD ripping software can be considered a net negative for the movie industry.
RealDVD has no way to prevent consumers from abusing the rental system. Essentially, all a consumer would need to do is "rent, rip, and return," as the industry puts it. The only things possibly holding consumers back is size, and maybe time: Ripped discs would take up anywhere from four to eight gigabytes, and time -- each disc takes a little over a half-hour to rip.
Yet Real may have the courts on its side. After a string of successful prosecutions against DVD ripping software makers in the middle of this decade, the courts have recently begun to side with developers, with some caveats.
It appears as if the courts will permit software as long as it provides for some type of copyright protection that prevents the original ripper from sharing it with others. The Motion Picture Association of America is appealing the decision in the Kaleidescape case, which opened the door for this category of software to be distributed legitimately.