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

RealNetworks claims its RealDVD ripping software is legal. We’ll see.

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

Sep. 09, 2008 — by Julie Jacobson

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.

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 media server providers aren't so presumptuous.

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, keeping 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.

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

As demonstrated at CEDIA, Crestron's new Adagio Digital Media Server (ADMS) is a movie maven's dream, incorporating virtually every source of video content imaginable.

But you'll have to get DVDs onto the server in your own way – wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

"We don't rip DVDs," says VP of technology Fred Bargetzi, "but you can transfer them to the box or play them off NAS drives. If you can get movies into it [ADMS], you can play them."

Control4 is taking a similar approach.

The company has offered a music server from day one, and it has also enabled movie management through a connected multi-DVD changer.

Until now, however, Control4 has not supported libraries of ripped DVDs.

At CEDIA, Control4 unveiled the MediaPoint, which aggregates DVD content ripped to other devices on the network, including PCs, NAS drives, and channel-oriented servers such as those from Kaleidescape.

The MediaPoint application is available through Control4's software release 1.7. The hardware, which supports H.264, delivers video (up to 1080p) over Ethernet to any TV in the house.

Just like a million other digital media adapter (DMA), right?

Wrong, says Control4 CTO Eric Smith. "There are lots of DMAs out there, but they have bad GUIs [graphical user interfaces]. With the Media Point, you get the same Control4 experience as you would get from a DVD changer, but from the hard drive instead."

Media Point is expected to retail for less than $400.

Back to RealDVD

Which brings us back to the potentially game-changing RealDVD software from RealNetworks.

Expected to be available for download this month, the product wll retail for $50 after the introductory price of $30 expires.

So, is it or isn't it legal?

According to an article in the New York Times, Real CEO Robert Glaser calls RealDVD "a compelling and very responsible product that gives consumers a way to do something they have always wanted to do. … If you look at the functionality of the product, we have put in significant barriers so people don’t just take this and put it on peer-to-peer networks. … I think we’ve been really respectful of the legitimate interests of rights holders."

In a FAQ at RealDVD.com, the company says, no, you won't be able to share your movies with friends: "The DVDs you save with RealDVD will only play on your PC with the License Key you purchased."

The New York Times, however, reports that you can transfer copies of a ripped DVD to as many as five computers, as long as they're running copies of RealDVD, available for $20 apiece.

By the way, RealDVD does not integrate with a Media Center interface yet, but the company says a future release will enable it to do so.

Return to full story:

http://www.cepro.com/article/latest_on_dvd_ripping_realnetworks_control4_crestron_kaleidescape/D2

http://www.cepro.com/slideshow/image/3486/

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This is going to be huge. For me, I think this is the route I will go over buying a Blu 777.

Though, 1.7 is required. 1.6 just came out, what's the eta on that? LOL.

Also, implemented properly, this should do the same for movies that going to MP3s on hard drives did for CDs. The ability to watch a movie everywhere in the house, or have it playing in more than one location at different start times. No more waiting on changers to spin the disc around and load it up!

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MCE? maybe, maybe not. Digital media players with unintuitive GUIs (can you say Mediagate)? You bet! It all depends how the MediaPoint will handle metadata and content delivery. If it's as simple and robust as MyMovies for example, then it'll be a great thing!

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It doesn't say it anywhere but could I assume that in addition to streaming video files that MediaPoint might also have photo viewing functionality? Its a throwaway feature these days on third-party DMAs, which is why it probably wouldnt make it into the article above.

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Don't discount the feature of viewing photos. This is one of my favourite uses of the Apple TV. High res photos look amazing on an HDTV!

www.flip4mac.com is offering Drive-In which appears to be similar to RealDVD. It copies the contents of the DVD to the hard drive and applies additional encryption to the new image file. Both keep CSS encryption in place so it's shouldn't violate DMCA.

Both are counting on the Kaleidascape ruling (albeit a contractual one) that a physical disc is not required for playback.

Although these files will be large, 4-9 GB each, they wont be interoperable. I expect many proprietary encryption formats to appear for this new DVD image file. This still leaves consumers guessing which format will eventually win out. Seagate and Western Digital will be the winners.

Regardless, it's a slow evolution of what consumers want.

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I'm not discounting anything, or shoveling vaporware.

What we were showing at CEDIA was a technology preview. Until it's an officially announced product, in an official press release, it's not a product. We may (and have previously) decide from time to time to not develop products that were technology previews, although I would find it unlikely in this case.

If it's been in an official press release, and *then* Control4 doesn't produce it, it's vaporware.

Until it's actually a product, feature sets are in flux, and this is not a place where we would typically discuss those features.

The reason we were showing it is to highlight the *direction* we're heading for Digital Video. We weren't using Control4's media player to play the media we were showing, we were using a Netgear piece.

If you'll notice, the press release talking about video distribution does not even mention the Media Point:

http://www.control4.com/company/press/2008-9-4-Video.htm

The *direction* is the takeaway from the show, not the *unit*.

RyanE

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I agree Ryan, it's about time Control4 throw us a bone about their video distribution strategy.

As previously mentioned, I hope C4 also considers a storage strategy since this will lead to some very large media libraries. I hope the strategy is architected to centralize storage with any of the leading network attached storage devices. With some companies trying to offer disc-less playback (like RealDVD) I estimate the average DVD copy to HDD will be 7GB. A 400 DVD collection (like that which can be handled with Sony's DVD changer) would require 2.8 TB of storage. That's not cheap with some RAID redundancy!

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I'm not discounting anything, or shoveling vaporware.

What we were showing at CEDIA was a technology preview. Until it's an officially announced product, in an official press release, it's not a product. We may (and have previously) decide from time to time to not develop products that were technology previews, although I would find it unlikely in this case.

If it's been in an official press release, and *then* Control4 doesn't produce it, it's vaporware.

Until it's actually a product, feature sets are in flux, and this is not a place where we would typically discuss those features.

The reason we were showing it is to highlight the *direction* we're heading for Digital Video. We weren't using Control4's media player to play the media we were showing, we were using a Netgear piece.

If you'll notice, the press release talking about video distribution does not even mention the Media Point:

http://www.control4.com/company/press/2008-9-4-Video.htm

The *direction* is the takeaway from the show, not the *unit*.

RyanE

Hey, come on, I know C4 gets a bad rep, note the smiley... didnt mean for you to have to put the flame suit on. As far as I'm concerned, any progress is good progress.

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You know, the wording on the press release made it sound like there was no media point hardware required. Like if I loaded a video file onto an HC-500 it would recognize it and play it w/o any additional hardware.

Control4’s upcoming software update will include a new video proxy, making it easy to integrate third-party media players to deliver a simple, powerful user experience. With Control4®’s software release 1.7, the system will detect all music and video content anywhere on the Control4 system and generate a centralized list of all content. Users can then easily identify the songs or movies through cover art and the Control4 system can play the movie or music in any room, at any time.
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No, hardware to play the videos is still required, but a *media point* to play the videos is not necessarily required.

We were showing using a 3rd-party player at CEDIA.

Oh, and thecodeman, I didn't have my flame suit on, either. Just wanted to point out that sometimes Control4 is 'damned if they do and damned if they don't' reveal information about products that are still in development but quite a ways out yet.

No offense taken.

As far as Control4 managing your 'storage strategy', there are products already to manage your storage, since it's just files somewhere on the network. I assume that dealers, since they *are* responsible for managing devices on the network, are going to have to step up and provide backup solutions where appropriate.

Having Control4 do that at this point doesn't necessarily make sense, IMHO.

RyanE

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  • 7 months later...

I don't agree with the DVD CCA or DRM, however, I think that position may be naive and irresponsible if they knowingly support copyright infringement. I'm not aware of Netgear's EVA9150 supporting any protected/DRMed media content. If the studios do not sell content without DRM what is the point of these media players? Are home or independent movies really driving the media player demand?

I am a media junkie and Real Networks has gained alot of my respect for taking on this fight. At the very least, it provides a reasonable alternative for storing my existing DVDs on a media server.

The DVD CCA whines about rent-rip-return, however, they don't appear to have done anything (except fighting to prevent me from making personal copies) to address it. They could devise a method to "tag" rental DVDs so legitimate companies can innovate and respect these conditions.

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  • 2 months later...

Are we going to hear an update and hopefully a piece of hardware at CES in a few months or is this dead? With the Netgear product, the Popcorn Hour and the Linksys MCE I would think something officially branded and integrated as C4 product would go far...

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You won't hear an official update from Control4 until something is 'open books', meaning dealers can pre-order it.

Once you hear an open books announcement, it's very likely that the device will be shipped, typically within 30 days.

Until then, anything you might read on these forums or elsewhere is heresay.

Sorry.

RyanE

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  • 1 month later...

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