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Latest on DVD Ripping: RealNetworks, Control4, Crestron, Kaleidescape

RealNetworks may be the first big-name brand to offer DVD ripping software, as Kaleidescape case is appealed; Escient, Crestron, Control4, Request take different approaches.


RealNetworks claims its RealDVD ripping software is legal. We'll see.
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RealNetworks is causing quite a stir with a new DVD ripping program called RealDVD.

Big deal? The software appears to be the first from a studio-friendly, name-brand provider, and the company claims it is entirely legal.

From the RealDVD FAQ:

Is it legal to save movies with RealDVD?
Yes, provided that you are the owner of the original DVD and you use your saved copy solely for your personal use.

I’m not sure where this stipulation comes from – certainly not the DVD CCA (Copy Control Association), which licenses the decryption software to RealNetworks for DVD playback.

Even so, RealNetworks says it is abiding by the DVD CCA’s licensing mandates because the ripped DVDs maintain their copy-protection wrapper (and, by the way, everything else about the DVDs including the extras).

Kaleidescape Part II

Sounds a lot like Kaleidescape, which has been in and out of court with the DVD CCA on this very same matter.

Kaleidescape, developer of very-high-end media servers, prevailed in the last hearing, but the DVD CCA thinks the ruling didn’t prove anything. Rather, it was merely a contractual technicality.

There is a vital DVD CCA document called the “CSS General Specifications.” Apparently, that’s the piece that stipulates a physical DVD must be present in a DVD player in order to play protected content.

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Kaleidescape, which signed that document after agreeing to the DVD CCA’s “Technical Specifications” and paying a licensing fee, argued that the CSS General Specifications are not part of the original licensing agreement to which the company is bound.

The court agreed. The DVD CCA is appealing.

So I’m wondering: Did this technicality occur in the case of RealNetworks, too?

DVD Ripping Developments in the CE Channel

The subject of DVD ripping is heating up, as evident at CEDIA Expo 2008.

Escient, a pioneer in the CD-ripping and management category, finally released its Vision series of DVD management products.

Originally, Escient skirted the hairy DVD copyright issues by not allowing users to rip DVDs directly to its servers. Rather, DVDs would have to be ripped to a PC, and then copied to the Vision hard drive.

In the shipping version of the product, though, “Vision will in fact support direct import of encrypted DVDs maintaining all of the DVD’s original content and CSS encryption,” says product manager Marty Wachter. “Vision also applies the extra step of further encrypting the copy on the Vision hard drive so that if in the unlikely event that someone were to hack it, they still can’t copy the DVD’s off the drive and play or distribute them.”

Like Kaleidescape, Escient believes that “extra encryption” mechanisms will insulate the company from DRM lawsuits.

Other manufacturers think they’re litigation-proof because, theoretically, they’re not doing the decrypting.

Fuze Media, for example, originally ignored the issue of DVD ripping with its Media Center-based servers. “We felt there were adequate solutions for getting DVDs onto the system, so we left it alone for DRM purposes,” says VP of marketing and sales Bob Silver.

But customers wanted a more seamless way of integrating DVD libraries into Fuze’s media manager, so now Fuze offers a ripping solution that works in conjunction with AnyDVD software from SlySoft (sold separately).

This approach provides an easy solution for consumers, Silver maintains, while insulating Fuze from copyright-protection issues.

AnyDVD, he says, “resides in the background of the computer and decrypts any type of encrypted DVD that you put in the computer. Our software sees the DVD as an unencrypted DVD and imports it without any type of encryption.”

He adds, “We’re not unencrypting DVDs; AnyDVD is. We’re clean.”

Axonix and the now-defunct Xperinet have taken similar approaches with their movie servers. Neither has had licenses with the DVD CCA.

They rely on users to install their own DVD decryption software, which keeps them immune from CSS-related litigation, so they claim.

On the other hand, Fusion Research proudly touts its CSS license and the fact that users need not download their own decryption software to rip DVDs.

AMX, which also has a CSS license from the DVD CCA, works similarly to the Kaleidescape and Fusion servers. In the past, the company has skirted DRM discussions by claiming that its products are used primarily for commercial digital signage applications, where users develop their own content.

Crestron and Control4 are bypassing the issue altogether by not allowing users to rip DVDs directly to their servers.


  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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