Real Networks, the company behind the popular RealPlayer® and the Rhapsody music service, has just announced RealDVD, a program that lets you “legally” save the contents of protected DVDs to a PC hard drive.
Once movies have been copied to your PC, you can restrict access based on the MPAA rating such as PG-13, PG or G. With the ratings turned on, kids can only watch movies at or below their rating (kids allowed to watch PG-13 could also watch a G movie) but parents can watch whatever they want by entering a password.
This is the first DVD ripping program from a well known U.S. company that can handle protected commercial DVDs. Hollywood studies put encryption codes on almost all commercial movies to prevent copying and, until now, respected software companies avoided letting people get around those codes.
There have long been workarounds. For example, DVD X Copy from 321 Studios allowed PC users to make backup copies of DVDs. 321 was sued by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and ultimately closed up shop after its product was found to be in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA). Similar programs are still floating aroudnd the Internet. PC Magazine recently did a round-up of DVD ripping programs.
I’ve been testing a pre-release of RealDVD and it pretty much works as advertised. I copied several movies from my DVD collection to my PC’s hard drive and, after putting the original DVDs back on my shelf, was able to play the movies on my PC. By recording to an external drive, I was able to watch the movies on both my desktop and laptop.
For families, having movies on a PC hard drive could be very convenient, especially if you have children who love to watch movies over and over. By putting them on the drive, your kids don’t have to fiddle with DVDs and you don’t have to worry about the discs being damaged. And the ability to restrict kids to certain ratings means that the adults in the family can still have age-appropriate movies in their collection while preventing kids from watching them.