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Innovation

RealNetworks: Rip those DVDs (with a dash of DRM)

RealNetworks on Monday launched RealDVD, an application that allows you to rip DVDs to your hard drive with limits set by digital rights management software. The company announced the software along with the opening of DemoFall in San Diego.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

RealNetworks on Monday launched RealDVD, an application that allows you to rip DVDs to your hard drive with limits set by digital rights management software. The company announced the software along with the opening of DemoFall in San Diego.

RealDVD (Techmeme, statement, site) is supposed to make it easy to save DVDs to a PC or portable hard drive in a way that satisfies the entertainment industry and its concerns about piracy. That's short hand for saying that RealDVD preserves the encryption that limits you from distributing the content widely and uses digital rights management software, or DRM. DRM puts limits on what you can do with content. Consumers can get RealDVD for $29.99 on sale (it'll run you $49.99 usually). Additional licenses will run you $19.99.

RealNetworks is hoping that its software puts the company in the center of your desktop. If you begin digitizing your DVD library via RealDVD RealNetworks could create a decent halo effect for RealPlayer 11 and the music service Rhapsody. I might be exhibit A: I avoid RealPlayer in general, but would certainly give RealDVD a spin.

Among the key points about RealDVD:

  • The software saves an exact copy of the DVD (it takes 10 to 40 minutes and 4 to 8 GBs) and you can watch and save a DVD at the same time;
  • The DVDs you rip are encrypted so they can't be shared or stolen;
  • The ripped DVDs can be saved on a portable hard drive and played on 5 PCs with a copy of RealDVD;
  • Watching a ripped DVD will save on battery power.

The catch: You're limited to 5 licenses for RealDVD and Real Networks tethers your ripped DVD to its software and only a handful of machines. In other words, there's a serious digital rights management component to RealDVD. That said RealDVD's DRM model is similar to the limits that Apple deploys with iTunes. The big question is whether RealDVD's user interface will be easy enough to allow folks to overlook the DRM worries.

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