updated 09:15 am EDT, Fri April 24, 2009
Real Facet Prototype
RealNetworks is developing a digital media hub reference design that would let users store protected rips of their own DVD movies, the company's project lead Jeff Albertson revealed late yesterday. Nicknamed Facet, the Linux-based device mentioned to the New York Times would use the same technology as Real's RealDVD software and would let users store copies of DVDs on a hard drive, letting them play movies they own themselves while preserving the CSS copy protection to prevent piracy. An example Facet would hold about 70 movies.
The company is aware of the potential legal obstacles but is wagering that a court victory by Kaleidescape, which fought off a DVD Copy Control Association lawsuit over the legality of a network media hub that rips DVDs, will give it adequate support to launch Facet. Real is also counting on successfully defending itself against a lawsuit by movie studios that believe it's encouraging piracy through RealDVD by allegedly circumventing CSS.
Albertson expects that players would be ready as early as the fall if the court case is ruled in Real's favor, though they would most likely be third-party devices with royalties collected on each player. Prices would sit below $300 for most of these devices.
While Real has a legal precdent, studios are concerned that RealDVD and software like it would effectively turn any rental into a purchase by letting owners store a permanent copy of a movie they owned only briefly; they instead prefer download-only rentals like those from iTunes or streams from Hulu, Netflix and others. However, DVD ripping software already exists on PCs that lets users perform a similar feat but in many cases strips the CSS encryption entirely as part of the transfer.