updated 07:45 am EDT, Mon September 8, 2008
Real early on Monday introduced a potentially controversial app that could affect the legality of media transcoding. RealDVD would be one of the first DVD ripping programs from a major developer but claims to dodge the legal setbacks that have shut down earlier apps: the software preserves Macrovision's CSS encryption and limits sending copies to a maximum of five authorized PCs. The solution would let notebook owners or a whole home play a DVD movie from anywhere, Real claims.
The software also aims to simplify the process in a way that often isn't available with tools such as Handbrake. Real's software will automatically attempt to collect cover art and movie details for discs and let users browse ripped DVDs visually without needing the technical experience to manage videos by hand.
Real plans to ship RealDVD for Windows this month and is offering an initial early sales price of $30 that will climb up to $50 after a cut-off date; each PC playing the videos also requires a separate license key at $20 each. Versions for Macs or alternate operating systems haven't yet been discussed.
The move forces the issue of DVD copying back into the public. While movie studios and the DVD Copy Control Association have typically resisted any form of ripping, the complaints have often centered around the previous assumption that it would be necessary to break CSS for playback. Fair use advocates have demanded at least a basic right to copying for backup purposes and also for using content in digital form.
However, RealDVD's implementation is likely to draw criticism for limited access to videos. Besides the additional content and limits to the number of PCs, videos also can't be converted for use on an iPod or other portable media player. Videos can be stored on home network servers and will eventually support Windows Media Center but aren't yet known to support media extender devices.