The most useful and controversial feature of the upcoming version of Real’s media player, RealPlayer 11 (see our review), is the ability to download almost any online video to a user’s hard drive. This includes content from YouTube and Google Video for example, as well as mainstream media Internet properties such as Comedy Central or ABC.com — regardless of whether those site’s terms and conditions rule out downloading and saving video. In fact, the only content that RealPlayer 11 won’t enable users to save a copy of are those videos that explicitly use Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. Though, for now, in terms of free-to-watch online video, these are in the minority.
Is RealPlayer 11 fair use?
In its defence, Real likens its new player to a VCR. Writing on the company’s blog, CEO Rob Glaser says:
“It knows nothing about whether or not a piece of content is copyrighted. Like these earlier video players, the new RealPlayer facilitates many legal and appropriate uses, for instance downloading public domain content and content for which the owner has given permission.”
Additionally, the company could be protected under the DMCA, as copying is for personal use only, and the software doesn’t allow users to share their video collection (only a link to the originating site) unlike peer-to-peer applications such as Limewire or Grokster.
Could more DRM be the answer?
Despite RealPlayer’s favorable chances of being on the right side of the law, as already stated, the software does make it possible for users to download and save a video, regardless of the wishes of content owners.
Unless, of course, those videos use DRM.
Therefore, if products like RealPlayer 11 become popular with users, might this lead to more online video sites employing the use of DRM?
Mike Wolf of ABI Research, writes:
…DRM vendors will likely see a boost in business, whether its turning on Windows Media DRM, Adobe’s forthcoming Flash DRM or using a solution from a vendor like Widevine.
Let’s hope not, but it’s certainly a possibility.