RealNetworks gets into DVD biz

Company tauts legal, DVD-ripping software

RealNetworks has entered the DVD copying fray, giving users one more way to transfer movies onto PCs and portable devices.

But it’s not clear how much of an impact RealDVD will have on the DVD biz given existing alternatives, legal and otherwise. Late last year, studios began offering embedded digital copies of movies on DVDs to give consumers greater portability and combat illegal copying and streaming. The initiative is such a high priority for studios that the Digital Entertainment Group recently launched a branding campaign around it.

The ultimate goal, homevid execs have told Daily Variety, is to get consumers comfortable with digital transfer of movies. Electronic sell-through is still tiny, but studios are eager for it to succeed due to the margins it offers.

Much like the studios, RealNetworks topper Rob Glaser casts his company’s copy initiative as a consumer-friendly way “to get more out of their DVDs.” Company also touts the digital copies as a way for consumers to organize their pics.

Like other DVD-ripping software, RealDVD copies the entire disc down to accompanying artwork, but it does so in a manner that preserves existing digital rights management. The software costs $30; additional licenses cost $20.

How the Motion Picture Assn. of America feels about the new software is unclear at this point.

“The MPAA and its member companies were made aware of RealNetworks’ plan to release new software that would enable consumers to make copies of commercial DVDs late last week,” the org said in a statement. “We are continuing to look into it.”

MPAA member companies were all party to a DVD-Copy Control Assn. lawsuit in 2006 alleging that Kaleidescape, with its media servers, had violated terms of licenses governing decrypting of protected content. Last year, a judge ruled in favor of Kaleidescape, but DVD-CCA has appealed.

Until that appeal is resolved, Hollywood attorneys are likely to be unsure of their legal options, since RealNetworks’ software works essentially along the same lines as that of Kaleidescape’s media servers.