I have written about the legal battle going on over RealDVD before (see here and here). For those of you who don't follow the issue RealNetworks developed software that would allow consumers to legitimately save a copy of DVDs they own to their computer's hard drive for back up in case of loss or to watch without needing to carry around the hard copy (for a fuller discussion see here). They sought to obey the law in this area and to discourage illegal downloads and other piracy.
The big Hollywood studios, however, successfully blocked the release and the case will be heard before a U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco on the 24th of this month.
Not surprisingly this is in marked contrast to what consumers expect and want. Instead, consumers strongly believe that they should have the right to use their DVDs in the way RealDVD envisions. According to a new survey released today by the National Consumers League Americans are overwhelmingly interested in the ability to copy or back up their DVDs to their computers and laptops.
- 90% of respondents (93% with kids in the house) believe that as owners they should be able to copy a DVD to their computer in the same way that they save music from a CD.
- 51% of those surveyed (67% of 25-34 year-olds) were bothered about their inability to save most DVDs to their hard drives without cracking the encryption or purchasing an expanded version.
- 46% of those who said they should be able to save a copy of a DVD onto their hard drive have had to repurchase DVDs due to loss or damage.
So we have consumers who believe that they should have the same rights and abilities to manage their DVDs as they do with other media and who have legitimate reasons to do so. And we have a likely growing group of consumers who are frustrated with those blocking this ability. Does this sound like a winning sales strategy in a trouble economy?
I don't think so.
Hollywood studios would be wise to find ways to give consumers the flexibility and convenience they want instead of blocking innovation with heavy-handed legal tactics.
But given their history, I won't hold my breath.