Are you one of those who frequently use free but illegal DVD-ripping software found on the Internet such as Handbrake and Mac the Ripper? Well, you have another option now which is not free but keeps you on the right side of copyright laws. RealNetworks has introduced RealDVD, a $30 software programme for even the non-tech-savvy to make digital copies of complete DVDs.

RealDVD is touted to let consumers do something they have always wanted to do and yet stay within the confines of the law by retaining certain anti-piracy features. The product nevertheless raises grave concern among Hollywood players who worry that it will open the same floodgates to allow widespread ripping such as the CD. Unlike the CD, the DVD has built-in mechanism to prevent copying and had been zealously guarded by Hollywood movie studios since it was introduced a decade ago. The CD has been the bane of the music industry with pirate music services such as Napster triggering widespread sharing and downloading of free music illegally from the Internet.

About five years ago, a company in St Louis, 321 Studios, was sued by Motion Picture Association of Americay for introducing DVD X Copy. The court subsequently ruled that the product had violated digital Milennium Copyright Act and the company closed down in 2004. However, in March 2007, the DVD Copy Control Association, an alliance that licenses the encryption for DVDs, lost a lawsuit against Kaleidescape, a Silicon Valley start-up company that sells a $10,000 computer server that makes and stores digital copies of up to 500 films. The trend seems to be for more relaxed regulations and restrictions on DVD sharing.

Interested users can get the software from Real.com or Amazon.com this month. The software allows buyers to make one copy of a DVD, playable only on the computer where the copy is made. The user can then transfer that copy to five other Windows computers by paying $20 each to install additional copies of the software for these computers.

How does it work? Another advantage of RealDVD is its ease of use and user-friendly features. You just need to insert a DVD and the computer will start copying the entire DVD to your hard drive. The files are not compressed and will include everything on the disc such as the extras or alternate audio tracks. RealDVD is a completely standalone program–it’s not integrated with or related to the company’s RealPlayer software or Rhapsody subscription music service. However, the software does not work on high-definition Blu-ray discs. Moreover, it can only import copy-protected DVDs. The software rejects discs that are DRM-free and assumes that they are illegitimate.

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