So Real Networks is going to release a software player that allows you to rip your DVDs to your hard drive... legally? Not in the UK it won't be.

See: Legally rip DVDs using RealDVD

In the US there is the safety net of Fair Use, which means you're perfectly within your rights to make backup copies of music CDs, computer software discs and DVD films that you own. But only so long as you don't circumvent any copy-protection system. And that's where America's Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) comes into force. Media companies tacitly acknowledged that whatever they did to mess up the films and music they sold to their audience, to reduce the playability or copyability of that media, someone, somewhere would work out how to break it.

So not only did they make it an offence to break the DRM, they can also file to prosecute anyone who dares tell anyone else how they did it. This way, one bright hacker working alone or with a team of like-minded people can't ‘infect' the rest of the net with their neat solutions to let you copy your own discs.

But back to the UK situation. In this country, we are not even allowed to copy music CDs. Not ever, except with the express permission of the rights owner (excepting the clause of ‘fair dealing' in connection with criticism, review or educational purposes). Yet every day thousands of people happily pop their CDs into the computer drive tray, rip the music to mp3 or other file format, and upload those tunes to a portable player or laptop or home server.

In theory, every Brit who's ever put their own ripped CDs onto their iPod is a music pirate, to use the emotive language of the music industry.

Is it any wonder that some people have no qualms about doing the same with DVD movies, for example to carry a few films on a laptop or portable rather than mess around with delicate discs? Since copying their music is a crime, what does it matter if they do the same with a legally bought DVD film?

The RealDVD offer should make this process easier, but comes with its own list of restrictions on what you can do with a copied disc. So rather than mess around with Real's limiting DVD copying solution - even if it does somehow get offered over here - I think most will stick to their favourite deCSS app to do the job properly.

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