The biggest story from Demo so far: Real Networks RealDVD recorder, which lets you make legal copies of your DVDs on your computer, just like you can with your music CDs. It’s a simple concept wrapped in a legal minefield.
Real does this legally by paying the same licensing fees that manufacturers of DVD players and DVD playback software pay. The software unlocks the DVD, copies it whole over to your hard drive, then relocks it. It uses DRM, but only for the software that allows it to unlock the DVD for copying. That means you could try to share the files across a P2P network, but whoever downloads it wouldn’t be able to play them back.
The software is available for $30 now, and $50 after the intro period is over. But you get a 30 day free trial. No idea how much extra s**t Real puts on there; last time I installed any Real players, I instantly regretted it. It started nagging me at startup and wouldn’t stop til I uninstalled it.
Another downside: You can’t copy all your DVDs to a storage device on your home network and play them back on different devices. The Real guys say this is a limitation of how Windows recognizes network drives (though it seems that Kaleidescape manages this, if you’re willing to pay beaucoup bucks for the privilege). That means if you want to watch the DVDs on your laptop, you have to keep a copy there too. That kills a primary use of the technology, which would be to have a shareable jukebox on your home entertainment network. It basically makes it a tool for travelers who want to bring their DVDs with them without, well, bringing their DVDs with them. A nice idea, long overdue.
Now…. there’s nothing to keep you from copying a DVD to your hard drive and giving it or selling it to someone else, who can then do the same. Real says this violates their software license, but it’s not like they can do anything about it. If this software becomes popular, I could see a Lala.com like service that lets you swap your DVDs with other users after copying. And that Hollywood will definitely not like.