MPAA vs. RealDVD

by Casey Lynn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

RealDVDRealNetworks has a piece of neat new software–RealDVD, which lets you rip the contents of a DVD onto your computer, just as you would an audio CD. Granted, the technology already exists, but you can see why Hollywood wouldn’t like the idea of this being an easy and legitimate activity for the general public. Currently, ripping a DVD isn’t the sort of thing that a casual computer user can easily do (the common software for the task isn’t exactly user-friendly, and often difficult to find), but RealDVD, at at introductory price of $30, is apparently at a difficulty level on par with iTunes. Additionally, RealDVD would be a legal way to get digital copies of your movies. The copyright protection remains, and in fact it adds another layer of DRM (probably what makes the movies only playable through the program).

Of course, the MPAA is already questioning its legality. They filed a lawsuit against RealNetworks a couple of days ago, seeking an injunction to stop distribution of the software.

The obvious question is: how is this any different than what has been going on with CDs for ten years? Maybe it’s not, and maybe that’s why MPAA’s legal complaint rests on a contract dispute rather than copyright. I was going to walk through the complaint, but it appears that that’s already been done for me. The bottom line is that RealNetworks was given a license to build products to play DVDs, not to copy them.

What do you think? If this technology is held to be legal and makes its way into the mainstream, is it going to spell doom for Hollywood because everyone will start ripping the DVDs they rent from Netflix instead of buying copies for themselves? Because of the copy protection, this is probably more of a concern than inducing piracy, but it seems like a legitimate one.