New Program Would Make Ripping DVDs Easier
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block. Today, the digital media company RealNetworks introduced a $30 software program called RealDVD. It lets you copy movies onto your computer hard drive. Ideal, says RealNetworks, for traveling on business or entertaining the kids on a long trip without having to tote along the physical discs. But why would movie studios go along with this? Well, they probably won't. Brad Stone covers Internet trends and consumer technology for The New York Times, and he's written about RealDVD. He joins us from San Francisco. And Brad, how would this work? What does it allow you to do?
Mr. BRAD STONE (Technology Correspondent, New York Times): Well, it actually sounds utterly conventional. We've been doing this with our CDs for a long time. You download a copy of the software from Real.com, and then you put your DVD in the computer, your copy of "Star Wars" or the first season of "Lost," and it makes a copy. It copies the episodes, the movie or TV show. It copies all the extras, the bonuses, the previews. It even copies the art from the box, and then it puts it in the software, and you can tote it around on your computer. You can also send it to up to four other computers, but you've got to buy additional copies of the software.
BLOCK: And this only works on PCs, not on Macs. What can't this program do?
Mr. STONE: Well, you know, there are a lot of free - what they call DVD- ripping software out there, with names like HandBrake, Mac The Ripper. Those are generally illegal. You can find them on the Internet. And if you're a sophisticated computer user, you probably know where to look. And they let you make unlimited copies. Of course, they are illegal.
RealNetworks has built some restrictions into RealDVD to try and skate the legal line. They are only going to let you make those five copies in all, and they're going to charge you for each version of the software you buy for every computer. And they pay licensing fees to a consortium called the DVD CCA, the Copy Control Association. That's a group of studios and consumer electronics companies that manages the encryption on DVDs.
BLOCK: I gather the way this is supposed to work is that you're only supposed to be copying DVDs you own legally. But there wouldn't be anything to keep you - if I went to Netflix and got a movie, or rented one from my store or borrowed it from a friend, I could copy that onto my hard drive with RealDVD, the way it's structured now, right?
Mr. STONE: Exactly. And the Hollywood studios have always feared that. They call it rent, rip and return. You know, they worry that no one will ever buy a DVD again. And really, with the new software, RealDVD, there's nothing to stop it. I think they're counting on people to do the right thing and only make copies of DVDs they have purchased.
BLOCK: Well, what's Hollywood doing to try to stop RealDVD from flourishing in the marketplace?
Mr. STONE: Right. Well, they do have a long history of suing companies that have products like this. About five years ago, they sued a company called 321 Studios out of existence. And two years ago, they sued a company called Kaleidescape. It made a $10,000 server that allowed anyone to make copies of all the movies they own and put it one giant server connected to their TV. Well, they sued Kaleidescape, and they actually lost that ruling in a California district court. And that created the legal opening that RealNetworks believes allows them to produce the product RealDVD.
BLOCK: So RealNetworks isn't worried about getting sued?
Mr. STONE: I think they are. I think - they are right now sort of a marginal company in the digital media space, and I think they realize they need to get aggressive in offering people what they want and walking the fine line.
BLOCK: Would this program let you - once you've copied a DVD onto your hard drive, does it let you then, you know, if you don't want to watch it on your laptop, can you have it play on your nice, 52-inch, flat-screen TV?
Mr. STONE: Right. My understanding is you cannot. And certainly that will be a limitation for some people. My feeling is that RealNetworks hopes to put a stake in the ground here. And if they don't get sued, and if the product does prove successful, then they'll do that with future versions.
BLOCK: Brad Stone covers Internet trends and consumer tech for The New York Times. Brad, thanks very much.
Mr. STONE: Thank you, Melissa.