Remember RealDVD, that famous piece of paid software that let you simply and easily let you make a fair copy of a DVD onto your PC’s harddrive as a “personal” backup? It’s been killed by Hollywood’s lawyers, very finally indeed.
RealNetworks released the software back in 2008, and though there are many equivalent bits of shareware and freeware for Macs and PCs that do pretty much the same thing, RealDVD was instantly one of the most famous, and one that did much of the tricky DRM-bypassing and movie re-encoding for you in pretty simple steps. The day after the software went on sale was a momentous one at RealNetworks, as that’s when the first legal challenge arrived in the company’s mailbox, and it’s been fighting the case until today. The company has capitulated, and settled with the movie studios ranged against it–as part of this deal it has to repay the nearly 3,000 purchasers of the code, and fork over $4.5 million in legal fees to the aggrieved movie studios, Viacom and the DVD Copy Control Association.
But this is a something of a pyrrhic victory for Hollywood, for two reasons. Firstly the DVD is fast becoming an obsolete delivery system for movies: Everybody and their dog has a high-def TV nowadays, requiring a Blu-ray player to push truly HD video to the screen, and people are increasingly adopting Net TV set–top boxes as an alternative to pre-recorded TV content in any case. In the light of this evidence, aggressively defending DVD copying seems strange.
Secondly, and this is the weird one, RealDVD–unlike pretty much every other piece of DVD-ripping software out there–actually preserved DRM on the hard-drive fair copy. You couldn’t move it to another machine, or convert it to a more portable format (like an AVI) to then upload and share it illegally. In other words, RealDVD actually was just a digital back-up of your movies for convenience, and in case anything happened to the original.
So, what are we left to conclude? It’s pretty clear: As often seems to be the case in DRM lawsuits, the only people who actually come out of the affair better off are the lawyers, and Hollywood has once again done nothing to endear itself to an ever more tech-savvy public.