Technologizer posts about RealDVD

RealDVD, the DVD-copying software which I reviewed and sort of liked during the five minutes in 2008 it was actually for sale, is dead. Real has settled with the Motion Picture Association of America and a permanent injunction bars it from ever selling the software again.

Bad news for Real, and equally bad news for consumers. Bad news for copyright laws that aren’t kind of a joke, too: Real tried to make Hollywood happy and its product was sued into extinction, but with Handbrake alive and well, bootleg movies are at least as commonplace as bootleg hooch during Prohibition…

Posted by Harry at 2:54 pm


Kaleidescape Loses in DVD-Copying Battle, Too

By  |  Posted at 3:09 pm on Wednesday, August 12, 2009


KaleidescapeFor years, the high-end consumer-electronics device known as Kaleidescape has provided good reason to  wish you were filthy rich. Starting at around $8,000 but mostly going way, way up from there, the systems let you store DVDs to hard disks and browse and watch them from multiple TVs around your house. But the DVD-copying aspect–which can be approximated with free software and a cheap network drive–was only part of the product’s appeal. What really made it interesting was the software, which sported one of the slickest, most thoughtful user interfaces this side of Cupertino. It’s like what Apple TV might be on an unlimited budget, if it let you enjoy the DVD movies you’d already bought rather than making you pay to download them again.

Now Kaleidescape has suffered a court defeat to Hollywood, just a day after RealDVD (which is a sort of poor man’s Kaleidescape in software form) did. Two years ago, Kaleidescape won a rare victory relating to DVD-copying in the digital age, but a California state appellate judge has overturned that decision. As I understand it, the Kaleidescape case doesn’t involve questions of fair use but whether Kaleidescape abused the license it obtained from the DVD Copy Control Association for CSS, the encryption standard used to lock up DVDs. But I’d still rather see products like RealDVD and Kaleidescape win in court than lose. The ruling won’t force Kaleidescape to pull products off the market immediately, and could be overturned.

Greg Sandoval’s piece on Kaleidescape and RealDVD at Cnet has one shred of sort-of-good news: Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, who ruled in the RealDVD case, said that she wasn’t saying that consumers definitely don’t have the right to back up their DVDs under certain circumstances. But here’s a bit of big-picture optimism: The Betamax case which established fair-use ground rules for copied movies in the first place got all the way to the Supreme Court before Sony (and, indirectly, consumers) scored definitive victory over the studios. Let’s hope that both Kaleidescape and Real have plenty of fight left in them.

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RealDepressing: RealDVD Loses a Round in Court

By  |  Posted at 8:05 pm on Tuesday, August 11, 2009


RealDVD logoThe New York Times’ Brad Stone is reporting that U.S. Federal District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel has ruled against RealNetworks in the lawsuit filed by the movie studios against RealDVD, its software for copying DVDs to your hard drive. Judge Patel granted the studios a preliminary injunction against Real selling the software, which seems like kind of a formality given that she stopped Real from selling it almost as soon as it went on sale last September.

RealDVD isn’t a tool for pirates. Actually, it adds an extra layer of copy protection to prevent you from doing anything except copying a movie to one hard drive for viewing on one computer at a time. (You can’t even put the movies on a shared drive to watch them from multiple computers on one network.) The court is apparently inclined to look askance at even a fundamentally hobbled (albeit easy-to-use) DVD copier.

Meanwhile, tools like Handbrake let large numbers of people copy DVDs without any of RealDVD’s measures against sharing the digital copies with friends or tossing them onto BitTorrent for the world to download. I also remain unclear on why Telestream’s Drive-in–which is, basically, a Mac version of RealDVD except that it also comes in a multi-user version–is still around when RealDVD is apparently too dangerous to be let onto the market while Real waits for a final ruling. Maybe it has something to do with RealNetworks being a relatively large company that might actually succeed in getting ordinary folks to use its software?

Meanwhile, the RealDVD site lives on in forlorn limbo, complete with a woman gamely smiling on the home page and a guided tour of the product. The site says the app is “temporarily unavailable” and that Real “will continue to work diligently to provide you with software that allows you to make a legal copy of your DVDs for your own use.” I hope that means that the company will soldier on with both this case and the countersuit it filed against six Hollywood studios on antitrust grounds. Whether or not you ever use RealDVD–or even if its limitations would drive you a little bonkers–any victories it scored in court would be great news for consumers. And if it loses, the message will be that there are absolutely no circumstances under which law-abiding consumers can make a copy of a DVD they’ve paid for in order to enjoy it in a new way.

RealDVD limbo

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5Words for April 30th, 2009

By  |  Posted at 8:00 am on Thursday, April 30, 2009

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5wordsGoogle data barges? Love it!

Apple’s becoming a chip company.

Palm’s first post-Pre phone,

Peewee’s convertible laptop for kids.

Google data centers…on boats?

Real’s Glaser testifies on RealDVD.

XP for netbooks isn’t disappearing.

Amazon hikes Kindle document charges.

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RealDVD on Trial

By  |  Posted at 5:38 pm on Friday, April 24, 2009


RealDVD logoRealDVD, the DVD-copying application from Real which I reviewed back in September during the brief period it was available before Hollywood stepped in and convinced a court to yank it, is fighting for its life in a San Francisco court. Wired has a good report on the proceedings so far. Maybe I’m just being pessimistic, but reading it leaves me thinking that U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel is inclined to side with Hollywood, not with Real and with the notion that consumers have the right to duplicates DVDs in a way that preserves copy protection, puts extreme limitations on what they can do with the copies, and makes it impossible for them to distribute them via file-sharing networks.

If RealDVD is ruled to be illegal, it’ll be sad. It’ll also be kind of silly.  Kaleidescape makes a neat home entertainment system that does something very similar to what RealDVD does–for thousands of dollars. Telestream’s $39 Drive-In is also much like RealDVD–but it runs only on Macs. And we seem to be nowhere near any scenario that involves users of DVD rippers such as Handbrake–which override copy protection altogether–being thrown in jail.

Basically, the only thing that prohibiting release of RealDVD does is to prevent Windows users who aren’t all that well-heeled–and who bend over backwards to respect copy protection–from creating digital copies of their DVDs for personal use. Everybody else can go on merrily copying their movies. Remind me again just what purpose would be served by eliminating it from the market?

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RealDVD Fails to Leave Limbo

By  |  Posted at 5:50 pm on Tuesday, October 7, 2008

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This just in: Judge Marilyn Patel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has ruled to extend the restraining order that prevents Real from selling its new DVD-copying software until another hearing can be scheduled. Bummer. More details when we have them…

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RealDVD: Still in Limbo

By  |  Posted at 1:01 pm on Tuesday, October 7, 2008

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Here’s a ZDNet story which nicely summarizes what’s up with RealNetworks’ RealDVD DVD-copy software, which was released last week only to instantly become the subject of legal warfare between Real and Hollywood. The basic question: Does RealDVD’s copying, which duplicates a DVD’s contents to a PC’s hard drive while maintaining all copy protection and adding an additional layer to prevent piracy, violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

RealDVD has been unavailable since Friday, when the studios won an emergency restraining order which forced Real to stop sales. A Federal judge is hearing arguments on RealDVD’s fate today. I hope the restraining order is lifted; more important, I hope that RealDVD’s legal status is cleared up quickly, and in Real’s favor. The manner of copying it provides is fundamentally limited: You can’t put a movie onto an iPod or a home network, let alone release it to BitTorrent. It’s designed to let consumers get a little more out of the entertainment they’ve already paid for. And if even that runs afoul of current copyright law, it’s pretty darn depressing.

So I’m hoping for the best today. But for the moment, the RealDVD site‘s smiling lady is still the bearer of bad news:

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The T-List: RIP, iPhone NDA

By  |  Posted at 9:53 pm on Sunday, October 5, 2008

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Last week was one of comings and goings. iPhone NDA? Gone! Windows Cloud? On its way! RealDVD? Here, then gone! Windows XP? Six more months before it might be gone! And iTunes? Still here, thank heavens!
Continue reading this story…

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RealDVD is in Real Trouble. No, Really.

By  |  Posted at 9:59 pm on Saturday, October 4, 2008


Why is the woman in the above image from RealNetworks RealDVD site smiling? You’d think she’d look just a tad glum given that the software, launched just last week, has been pulled off the market. According to NewTeeVee, a court has told Real to stop distributing the company’s DVD copying software until Tuesday while it reviews the case. That’s the latest development in the legal tussle that has Real suing Hollywood, Hollywood suing Real, and most consumers, I suspect, rooting for Real–except for those who think that the company is a bad guy itself for selling software that not only preserves DVD’s encryption on the copies it makes but adds additional DRM.

I sure hope that Real prevails, and quickly; RealDVD is a small but real positive development for consumers who want to get more out of media they’ve paid for, and it doesn’t let anyone put copies on BitTorrent or otherwise engage in mass piracy. If even its limited functionality is forbidden or stuck in legal limbo, it’s going to be really depressing.

I’m not a lawyer, though, so I’m not going to make any predictions about RealDVD’s fate. You’d think that Real wouldn’t have gone to the expense and bother of developing it if it wasn’t reasonably confident that it could sell the darn application, but perhaps it gambled and gambled badly. (I do regret declaring that the software was “clearly legal” in my review: I was…clearly wrong. Or at least not clearly right.)

Oh, and Technologizer gave away ten license codes for RealDVD yesterday to members of our community, so I’m rooting for the current RealDVD takedown to indeed end on Tuesday so those winners can make use of their codes.


RealDVD Giveaway Winners

By  |  Posted at 9:24 am on Friday, October 3, 2008


We have winners! Our giveaway of ten copies of Real’s RealDVD software is now complete. The software was released earlier this week and has already inspired legal warfare between Real and Hollywood–I know who I’m rooting for–so it’ll probably stay in the news for awhile, and its fate remains unknown. But the following lucky Technologizer Community members get the application for free, and license codes are in their inboxes as we speak:

Jamil Caram Jr
Brian Winking
Sammy Brence
The Human Yawn

Congrats to the winners–and thanks to everyone who took the time to enter.


Labels Plan to Sue Real over RealDVD, But Real Strikes First

By  |  Posted at 11:16 am on Tuesday, September 30, 2008

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The Associated Press and CNET are both seperately reporting that the major movie studios are set to file suit against Real over its DVD copying software, apparently ready to ask for a temporary restraining order to prevent distribution of RealDVD.

But as Harry pointed out bright and early this morning, Real has landed the first punch. The company is filing an action for declaratory judgement (see here for a definition) that asks the court to find that Real’s software is in compliance with the DVD Copy Control Association’s license agreement.

Real points out that it maintains some type of digital rights management when ripping the discs. Ripped files can only be played on computers owned by the copier. This would effectively prevent the file from being usable for those wishing to share it over P2P networks.

In its statement, Real points out the Kaleidescape case, where the DVD Copy Control Association sued the company for its ripping software, which allows entertainment enthusiasts to store their media content on a central home media server. Kaleidescape prevailed in that case.

Real argues that the legal action is intended to protect consumers.

“RealNetworks took this legal action to protect consumers’ ability to exercise their fair-use rights for their purchased DVDs … we are disappointed that the movie industry is following in the footsteps of the music industry and trying to shut down advances in technology rather than embracing changes that provide consumers with more value and flexibility for their purchases.”

For those of us who don’t care much for the strong-arm tactics of the entertainment industry when it comes to copyright, this can be seen as nothing but good news. I give the early edge to Real on this, who is obviously taking every reasonable step to prevent illicit use of its software. What more does the MPAA expect?

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RealDVD Now Available; Ten Free Copies for Technologizer Community Members

By  |  Posted at 5:32 am on Tuesday, September 30, 2008

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[UPDATE: RealDVD is already the subject of legal wrangling--Real announced today that it's suing the Hollywood studios to protect the product against charges that it's illegal. Press release here.]

RealNetworks is announcing that its RealDVD software is available for download and purchase today. It is, for the moment at least, unique: It’s the first software for DVD copying that goes about it in a way designed to sidestep problems with U.S. copyright law, and it’s also the easiest application I’ve seen for PC-based DVD copying and playback.

I review the application here, and do so reasonably favorably–it’s fast and simple, and you wind up with a library of saved DVDs that’s a snap to browse through. (Limitations: You can’t move copies to portable devices, and options for sharing them among PCs are limited to external drives.) Folks who are already hardcore users of DVD rippers such as Handbrake probably won’t be drawn to RealDVD, but I think it stands a good chance of becoming popular with the larger group of PC users who have never dealt with the complexities–both technical and legal–of using existing DVD copiers.

You can download a thirty-day trial version of RealDVD before you plunk down your $29.99. But how’d you like to get it for free, period? Real has supplied Technologizer with ten license codes, and we’ll give ‘em away to members of the community. Here’s how to get a chance at snagging one:

1) Make sure you’re a registered member of the Technologizer Community. If you already are, great; if not, it just takes a moment to sign up, which you can do here.

2) Make sure you’re signed into the community, then visit my profile page.

3) Use the “Send a message” link on the left-hand side of the page (under my smiling face) to send me a message saying you’d like a chance at a license code. “Please enter me for a RealDVD code” is all I need to know.

That’s it. Ping me by 12pm noon PT on Thursday, October 2nd–later that day, we’ll choose ten winners at random, and alert them by e-mail with the codes by midnight on Friday. And we’ll report back in a post on who won the free copies, just so the world knows we did indeed give them away.

Good luck! And if you try RealDVD, let us know what you think of it.

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A Real Review of RealDVD

Finally, a way to copy DVDs that's clearly legal--and pretty darn easy.

By  |  Posted at 6:42 am on Tuesday, September 23, 2008


[NOTE: A court has ordered Real to stop distributing RealDVD for the time being--details here.]

In one sense, there’s nothing the least bit new about software that can copy DVDs to a PC’s hard drive. Folks have been using applications such as DVDShrink and Handbrake to do the job for years–and  the same people have moved movies to phones, media players, and other devices…as well as onto BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer networks, where they’re there for the taking by anyone who can figure out how to download them.

But because such applications decrypt DVDs, their legal status is the U.S., to put it politely, murky. Make that very, very murky, , considering that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits the circumvention of copy protection. That’s true even if you’re engaging only in the victimless crime of enjoying movies you’ve paid for on a device that doesn’t happen to have a slot for a DVD.

Enter Real Networks’ RealDVD, a Windows program that’s a breakthrough in one significant respect: It’s a DVD-copying program–a ripper, if you like–that doesn’t violate the DMCA. That’s because it doesn’t strip off the copy protection the DVDs came with. Matter of fact, it adds additional copy protection that prevents users from sharing the DVD copies they’ve made, or watching them on anything other than up to five Windows PCs per license; other types of computers and devices aren’t supported. Only a DVD copier that locks down its copies in this fashion could go on the market without risking Hollywood’s wrath.

But RealDVD, which Real says it’ll start selling by the end of this month, is more than a DVD copier that’s hobbled by the fact that it doesn’t flout U.S. law. It copies not just the raw video files from a DVD but the entire DVD experience–bonus materials and all–and recreates them on the PC. And as you copy movies, it identifies them (using GraceNote, the same service that powers the CD-identification powers of iTunes and other music apps), catalogs them using cover art images, and lets you browse them by title, genre, or star. It’s a little like a $30 software version of the $30,000 media server from Kaledescape, a company whose victory in a court case brought by the DVD Copy Control Association last year confirmed that DVD copying can be legal.

Continue reading this story…

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More on RealDVD

By  |  Posted at 4:06 pm on Monday, September 8, 2008

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I blogged about Real’s RealDVD ripping software last night, and now the company has done its demo here at DEMO. The basics are as I mentioned last night: It’s legal, runs on Windows, costs $30, retains copy protection and lets you watch DVDs on up to five PCs but not iPods or other devices.

The most important new news in the DEMO was a look at the interface, which looks nice: Like a program such as iTunes does for CDs, RealDVD identifies your movies when you insert a disc and downloads a box image and movie details. You can browse your movie collection via those box images.

Real says you can store movies on an external drive or thumb drive, and the software will notice that you’ve attached the drive and show the movies on it. I’m not sure if you can store movies on a networked drive, but I’m not sure why you couldn’t.

Oh, RealDVD copies preserve menus and bonus materials, and you can record a movie to your hard drive at the same time you’re watching it.

RealDVD looks like it does a nice job of what it sets out to do, which is let folks copy and watch DVDs in a way that’s simple and designed to avoid being sued into oblivion. That doesn’t mean that Hollywood won’t sue Real over RealDVD–I can’t imagine that content owners are thrilled by the idea, since they’d much rather sell you all the movies you already paid for as digital downloads.

I also suspect that folks who use existing DVD rippers will sneer at the idea of paying for an application that retains copy protection and therefore lets you do less with your ripped DVDs. But Real is presumably hoping to sell RealDVD to large numbers of consumers who don’t know about existing tools, find them intimidating, or–hey, here’s a novel thought–stay legal.

I think the software might do quite well with that audience, and I’ll give you more impressions once I’ve had a chance to try it…

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