DVD Copying Gets Legal With RealDVD

San Diego-based RealNetworks on Monday unveiled RealDVD, a PC application that lets consumers save their DVDs to their hard drive to watch later without lugging around the physical discs.

According to RealNetworks, maker of RealAudio Player and RealJukebox, the application "is licensed DVD software that saves a secure copy of a DVD to the hard drive without removing or altering the CSS encryption." Preserving the encryption makes it legal to copy DVDs without infringing on copy protection and copyright laws.

In a statement, RealNetworks chairman and CEO Rob Glaser said "RealDVD gives consumers a great new way to get more out of their DVDs."

Currently, RealDVD works only with standard DVDs, not Blu-ray discs. It supports Windows XP and Vista, with a Mac version in the works.

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Essentially, RealDVD works like this: A user launches the software, inserts a DVD into a PC's DVD drive and hits "save." The application does the rest.

By saving DVDs to their hard drives, users can back-up their digital library on their PC or a portable drive for playback at home or on the road. RealNetworks added that watching a saved DVD, as opposed to the physical disc, can also conserve battery life since the disc drive is no longer needed for video playback.

"Saving DVDs to portable hard drives creates an easy to manage personal library that is great for travel," RealNetworks said. "Content saved to portable drives can be played on up to five machines licensed to an individual user."

Statistics from TDG Reports and Screen Digest indicate that half of U.S. households with broadband have more than 50 DVDs in their collections and last year consumers shelled out more than $15 billion buying DVDs. Additionally, Hollywood shipped 1.1. billion DVDs in 2007, an increase of about 30 million over 2006.

According to RealNetworks, RealDVD saves an exact copy of the DVD image to a PC's internal or portable hard drive, allowing users to watch and save a DVD simultaneously. Additionally, saved DVDs are encrypted and locked again to make sure they cannot be shared or stolen. Users can pause and auto resume playback where they left off and also browse titles by cover art, genre, title rating and actor information, which is imported automatically while the DVD is being saved.

Saved DVDs, however, can take up between 4 Gig and 8 Gig of space and take roughly 10 to 40 minutes to save.

RealDVD also features parental controls to ensure children can access only age-appropriate material.

RealNetworks said RealDVD was a natural evolution of its product line, which includes RealPlayer, RealAudio Player and RealJukebox, which was one of the first tools to let consumers save CDs to their PCs.

RealDVD is expected to be available this month for a retail price of $49.99, though RealNetworks has set up a special limited offer for $29.99. Additional licenses for up to four additional PCs will be available for just under $20.