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RealNetworks unveils (legal) DVD copying software

Digital entertainment services company RealNetworks unveiled RealDVD, the first mainstream PC application allowing consumers to copy their DVDs to their hard drive.

Unlike existing consumer applications on the market today, RealDVD is licensed DVD software that "saves" a secure copy of a DVD to the hard drive without removing or altering the CSS encryption. In short, it lets users rip DVDs to their hard drives legally.

"RealDVD gives consumers a great new way to get more out of their DVDs," said Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks. "RealDVD continues in Real's tradition of consumer innovation over the past 15 years alongside RealAudio, RealJukebox, RealArcade, Rhapsody, and, most recently, RealPlayer 11."

The company says “RealDVD eliminates the hassle of searching through piles of DVD cases to find a missing disc and the disappointment of finding a favorite disc scratched and unplayable.” Saving DVDs lets consumers create a back-up copy of their digital library on their computer or portable drive for playback at home or on the road.

According to the company's factshee content saved to portable drives can be played on up to five machines licensed to an individual user. Users can simultaneously watch and save a DVD. Copied DVDs are then encrypted and locked again to make sure they cannot be shared or stolen. Copying DVDs takes an average of 10-40 minutes, and takes up roughly 4-8 gigs of space.

RealDVD lets users pause and auto resume playback where they left off. Watching a copied DVD uses less battery life than viewing content from a disc in the drive, the company claims.

Initially, the software was to be rolled out earlier this week, but Glaser said the company decided to work on it longer. Instead, RealDVD will be available by the end of the month for $30, he said. Consumers who want to use the product on other computers can buy up to four additional software licenses for $20 each.

This may not be to the liking of content owners. Charles Van Horn, president of the Content Delivery and Storage Association, a trade group that represents some entertainment companies, noted that consumers could still use the software to copy things that they don't really own, he told an Associated Press reporter. "I don't see how they're going to stop the consumer from making a copy of something they borrowed for free from a friend or a library, or rented from Netflix or Blockbuster or anywhere else.”

Story filed 10.09.08

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