In yet another case of the movie industry suing the fire truck builder after the house has burned to the ground, the MPAA sued RealNetworks to stop them from selling a program that rips DVDs to your hard drive.

SAN FRANCISCO - Hollywood calls it "rent, rip and return" and contends it's one of the biggest technological threats to the movie industry's annual $20 billion DVD market — software that allows you to copy a film without paying for it.

On Friday, industry lawyers urged a federal judge to bar RealNetworks Inc. from selling software that allows consumers to copy their DVDs to computer hard drives, arguing that the Seattle-based company's product is an illegal pirating tool.
First of all, shareware DVD ripping programs have been around a long time, so why anyone would pay for that ability is beyond me. But secondly, "rent, rip and return" isn't what's killing the DVD industry. 500 gig hard drives for under 150 bucks are killing it. DVRs are killing it. Digital on Demand is killing it. Evolution, in other words, is killing it.

DVDs take up space, they gather dust, they eventually get scratched up, and no one other than the hard core fans of a movie or tv show ever watches the commentary. About the only special feature I ever look at is the deleted scenes, and I mostly wind up shaking my head and saying "that was a good cut." And I do that rarely these days. In other words, DVDs are rarely worth the trouble to actually hold onto, especially since there are so many other ways to access digital media these days. Why hold onto a medium that takes up a huge amount of space compared to a hard drive, if all you want is the ability to watch the movie or tv show you've selected?

The movie industry decided years ago that what viewers wanted was higher resolution, in part to get their machines into homes so they could then resell their remastered catalogs. It's the music industry's model--lp's give way to cassettes give way to cd's give way to .mp3's; you wind up buying the same album four times (unless you rip that cd). But with movies there's been a little bit of a rebellion--people had options. Do you really need to buy the Blu-Ray version of The Transporter 3 when you can get it on-demand from your cable company in hi-def? Or maybe you'll just wait for it on Showtime and record it then--you can keep a fair number of movies on the DVR these days. Sure, you don't own them, but how many of your DVDs do you actually rewatch these days? How many of you have DVDs still in the shrink wrap in your collections, not because you want to keep it pure for collectors' purposes, but because you really were planning on watching LadyHawke when you bought it and then just never made the time?

Seriously, the DVD industry is going to die, and sooner rather than later, and it won't be RealNetworks software that does it in. It'll be the evolution of the way we access data that makes them obsolete.

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