Real vs. the MPAA: Dumb and dumberer

When reports first came out about a month ago that Real Networks was launching a DVD-ripping software application called RealDVD, a number of people — including yours truly — wondered what on earth the geniuses at Real were smoking. How could such a product not get sued? Even though the software uses its own digital-rights management controls to prevent sharing, burning, etc., it seemed obvious that the movie industry would have a conniption when they got wind of RealDVD. And guess what? They’ve gone ahead and launched a lawsuit against the company.

Real’s lawyers tried to get the jump on Hollywood (or rather, the Motion Picture Association of America) by filing a lawsuit against the organization first, asking the courts to rule that RealDVD complies with licensing agreements, but that’s the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass at best. But if Real is dumb for ever thinking it could launch such a product, the MPAA is even dumber for opposing it. If the app includes DRM controls that prevent users from sharing and burning, then why not let DVD buyers make copies that they can watch on their computers? Seeing any kind of copying as a crime hasn’t done the industry any favours so far.

Real launches DVD ripper — but why?

Brad Stone over at The New York Times has a story about how Real Networks — which owns the Rhapsody music service, but is probably best known for distributing one of the most irritating media players ever — is launching DVD-copying software. It will allow users to make a copy of a movie, along with all of the features and artwork, but they will only be allowed to play the movie on the computer that runs the software. It also can’t be burned to a DVD and played in a DVD player, and in order to play it on another PC, users will have to pay $20 to buy another copy of the software for each device they want to play it on.

This is the kind of product announcement that makes you shake your head and wonder what the hell people at companies like Real are thinking. Not only is the product likely going to make Real a target for legal action by the movie industry, but as more than one commenter at Slashdot, Digg and other technology sites and forums have pointed out, copying DVDs isn’t exactly rocket surgery. There are dozens of easy-to-use programs such as DVD Decrypter, Handbrake (for Macs) and others that can accomplish the same thing, and also produce files that can be watched anywhere, burned, shared and so on.

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