DVD Copying Gets Real

RealNetworks is putting its considerable prestige behind a DVD-copying Windows application, moving into territory hitherto occupied by illegal freeware.

The $30 program called RealDVD will copy not only the main disc content but also the extras and art. In an interview with The New York Times, Real chief Robert Glaser calls it "a compelling and very responsible product" for making disc backups and transferring content to a laptop for viewing on the road.

Expect Hollywood to erupt over this like a volcano. The studios have long litigated against companies making DVD ripping software, which circumvents the DVD Copy Control Association's CCA digital rights management. They've even gone after companies like Kaleidescape, which legitimately licensed CCA for a media server product that stores movies on a home network.

But that last bit boomeranged when Kaleidescape won the right in court to go on marketing its product as a legitimate CCA licensee. Presumably that had an impact on Real's decision to move forward with RealDVD. It's also emboldened other companies to offer media servers. I saw two or three of them at CEDIA, including Sunfire's Theater Grand Media Server.

RealDVD is not without anti-piracy features. It will allow only one copy, and it will play only on the computer that made it. Transfer to up to five more computers is allowable at an extra cost of $20 each. The program works only with DVD, not Blu-ray. And it puts up "significant barriers" to file sharing.

A recent survey found that a third of consumers rip DVDs.