RealNetworks has announced it new US$30 RealDVD system, which allows users to legally make digital copies of any disc, including its artwork and extras. It seems unReal (sorry…) after the numerous battles with DVD pirates and the like, but fear not legal film fans…there are strict limitations in place.
Pirates all over the world will be going “AAArrr” over this, but in reality realDVD only lets you make a single digital copy of a disc. You can’t burn extra copies to DVD or even share the digital copy with another computer, unless you pay an extra $20 for an additional licence fee. Disc burning is not on the agenda, so put your cutlass away and take your parrot back to the pet shop me’ hearty.
Chris Renk, an attorney and shareholder with Chicago-based law firm Banner and Witcoff explained the law: “The application is actually akin to a license – very similar to what happens with iTunes…It doesn’t give you the right to rip onto a DVD itself,” he said.
It’s a bizarre setup, but it has the potential to work better than the numerous ‘underground’ DVD ripping tools around. Many of the peddlers of this software are facing law suits left, right and centre, such as the developers of DVD X Copy who recently got their comeuppance from the Motion Picture Association of America in 2004.
RealDVD is different due to its limited use restrictions, and because it features paid rights for the content.
“By buying the software, you’re actually paying a royalty for the use of the movies, and the rights that you get are limited by the encryption software,” Renk explained. “There shouldn’t be any real concern by the movie industry whatsoever.”
The burning question is: If I can find hundreds of free, albeit murky, DVD Copiers, why should I buy this?
“I don’t think it’s necessarily going to stop people from copying DVDs illegally,” Renk predicted, “but it will provide a legal method that will be quick, relatively speaking.”
With high-definition content becoming more common, ‘everyday’ DVD duplication may have a limited lifetime. Industry insiders speculate that HD-streaming solutions may be the smarter long-term business model that tech companies should adopt.
Jonathan Taplin, a clinical professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, enlightened us: “Probably Microsoft and Google are close enough to getting real deals with the content suppliers that they don’t want to p#ss them off on something like this, whereas RealNetworks has basically kind of given up on being a content supplier … and kind of has nothing to lose.”
Taplin believes the problem boils down to when and for how long the movies become available.
“Today, what happens is you have a release … usually after DVD,” he explained. “Then they take the rights away from them for six, nine, 12 months – so the stuff disappears while it goes into the HBO pay-TV window, which is just nonsense. You never can have a large library of on-demand content available anywhere the way you did with music,” he noted.
“They’re still locked in this old-fashioned windowing notion, and they’re just hurting themselves,” Taplin commented.