RealDVD: Is it Really Legal?

The folks at Real are out with a new piece of Windows software today. RealDVD ($30 and up) rips DVD content to a PC and locks it down within their interface. Leading them to repeatedly emphasize the legality:

  • Save your movies legally, and with confidence
  • And it’s completely legal.
  • Totally legit. RealDVD is 100% legal, so you can save movies with confidence.

Despite Real’s marketing language, the New York Times (via Ross Rubin) indicates they don’t have an agreement in place with the DVD Copy Control Association (who have appealed the Kaleidescape ruling). Though Real’s solution looks similar in practice to previously demo-ed HD-DVD (RIP) Vista archiving, I imagine the powers that be would want to vet or provide the protection scheme. And maybe take a cut of royalties. I also wonder if Real’s waiting for an industry response… the announcement and site are available today, yet the software isn’t.

In the end, it may not matter whether RealDVD survives (or even launches). The majority of folks savvy enough to contemplate archiving DVDs have probably already discovered methods that incur no additional DRM. (I use Handbrake on Mac and FairUse on PC.) DMCA or not, I doubt any individual consumer would end up facing consequences in ripping DVDs for personal usage – assuming they steer clear of file sharing networks.

Update: Real’s rep says they’re legit since they don’t break any encryption and are “a licensed member of the DVD-CCA.”

12 thoughts on “RealDVD: Is it Really Legal?”

  1. The thing I don’t like about this software is that they are intentionally limiting it’s usefulness by restricting it to 3 PCs. I’d almost understand the restriction as a way to claim that it’s fair use only, but then they charge for access to more computers. It doesn’t seem fair to upcharge just to get around one of their unnecessary DRM hurdles. They could just as easily have put a watermark on your DVD rips and allowed unlimited PCs to keep them fair use only. Also the fact that it has to stay in the VOB format is huge PITA. Those files are so huge that it would make it impossible for me to archive the 200 or so DVDs in my collection.

  2. I think this may be the solution to why people don’t do more videos on devices such as iPods, iPhones and Apple TV. I suspect that the content industry will be content with managed copies of videos, but I suspect they are going to be unwilling to deal with Apple. And the consumers will lose.

  3. Hey, if software players can legally do stuff like this, I wonder if Apple might introduce something like this someday (tomorrow at “Let’s Rock” perhaps?) in a future version of iTunes?

    I’m sure that would be a huge hit, though I bet they’d rather just stick to selling movies to people through iTMS regardless of whether you’ve already bought it on DVD.

    Or better yet, what if you could insert the DVD to prove that you own it, then download the (smaller, more portable, but still FairPlay’d) version from the iTMS? Now that would “Rock”!

  4. I prefer my content to be DRM-free. That being said, this does seem to be a step in the right direction and does have the potential to meet the needs of both the content providers as well as the average consumer. But in the end, I doubt it will work out.

    I see the content providers (and media companies in general) forcing this product to restrict the content from being moved from the PC to the actual devices such as Digital Media Players, Xbox, Media Extenders etc. While I do watch much of my content from a PC, most folks don’t Until their DRM allows the ease of use for viewing and moving the content the way the consumer wants, we’ll continue to use handbrake and other means to make it work the way it should.

  5. How exactly am I supposed to play back a DRM-crippled Real file in my Home Theater? I’ve never heard of anyone using Real Player as their HTPC front end. And I couldn’t play in on my iPhone either. Or move it over to my TiVo.

    Why pay $30 for a potentially illegal (and likely to be sued out of existence) software that is DRM-hindered when there is free software (DVD Fab Decrypter) that gives a DRM-free solution – and allows you to keep the DVD menus and bonus features if you so choose.

  6. Steve, I had the exact same idea. I was hoping that iTunes 8 would have managed copies of DVDs. Alas, we’ll have to wait for iTunes 9…

  7. It was these parts of the NYT story that ledme to question the legality:

    The DVD association has appealed the ruling. But Mr. Glaser thinks the decision has created the framework for a legal DVD copying product with built-in restrictions to prevent piracy.
    one technology executive at a major studio, who did not want to be named because the matter is legally delicate, predicted there would be staunch resistance to RealDVD
    “…you wonder why they would be quite so bold in doing this…”

    Again, what is “bold and “delicate” about releasing a product that is incontrovertibly legal? In any case, again, as I remember it, that Kaleidescape had a license was never in question. The question was whether the license enabled them to do what they did. So, while it is good to hear that Real has a license, that may not be enough. It’s clear that the studios doesn’t like the idea of DVD copying, regardless of the protections put in place.

  8. Okay, so they’ve got a DVD-CCA agreement allowing them to play back DVDs. So they don’t have to break the DVD’s encryption to bring it onto the PC, just copy it. Which makes the legal situation similar to the Kaleidescape. Except where its different… software vs. hardware, not sure this software actually has a license, probably some other software, etc. And didn’t the DVD-CCA tighten up the license after the Kal ruling?

    I won’t be buying this, because like others it isn’t that useful to me if I can’t play the content on my iPod or Tivo or whatever.

    It could be interesting as a legal precedent however, and I do appreciate having all of the extra features of the DVD, including the graphics and such. Would be nice if there were a standard supported in something like DVDShrink that was also supported by Tivo/AppleTV etc. Seems unlikely this will be that standard…

    I assume these rips will be full MPEG-2 sized rips, i.e. basically ISOs wrapped in DRM, so 4.5GB per movie. The illegal versions are of course less than half that since they reencode with better codecs…

  9. @Glenn, yes, the files are MPEG-2 and the sizes are the same as the original DVDs. Good part of that is faster copying. It also may be a natural barrier to mass infringement by consumers not willing to invest in massive hard drives.

    I had a chance to talk with Real last night about RealDVD’s legality:

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