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Corporate Behemoth Keeps Ripping "Real"

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the ripping-rocks dept.

121

Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton has written in with a tale of media rippers and corporate giants "In 2001 RealNetworks sued and blocked Streambox from distributing the Ripper, a program that let users rip and save RealAudio and RealVideo streams even if the stream contained a proprietary "do not copy" flag. Then one year ago this month, RealNetworks caused a stir by releasing a beta of RealPlayer 11 that similarly let the user record and save streams from sites like YouTube and Pandora. YouTube rippers and the like had existed before, but this was the first time a major company had included a stream ripper in its media player. And while RealPlayer 11 didn't explicitly ignore any copy protection flags, the release still provoked legal rumblings: in a Variety article by Scott Kirsner, an anonymous network exec said accused RealNetworks of 'aiding and abetting piracy' and said that they would 'more likely than not' take action against RealNetworks. But now that the feature has stayed in RealPlayer for a year, its real impact will be not on piracy but on the perceived legitimacy of ripping programs. The corporate behemoth, raked over the coals in the past for privacy violations and nuisance-ware, strikes a blow for free-culture hackers." The rest of Bennett's essay is available by following that magical link right below these words.

First, the reasons I don't think that RealPlayer has much effect on actual piracy. Yes, if a pirate has uploaded your favorite song to YouTube, you can save a copy of the video file to hear the song over and over, but you can do the same thing on YouTube itself as long as you're connected to the Internet. The anonymous network exec in the Variety article points out that RealPlayer "allows you to own [content] forever on your hard drive, even if the Web site that distributed that content illegally has taken it down in because we've complained." But regardless of what complaints they've been sending, almost all popular songs are currently available for listening on YouTube so that anyone with a Net connection can get them on demand, and that's a separate issue, with or without RealPlayer.

So then it becomes a question of whether RealPlayer enables the user to do more interesting things with the song or video, like take it with them on an iPod. RealPlayer only lets you save YouTube videos as an FLV file. But as long as doing things like playing an FLV file on an iPod requires an outside hack, that option is only available to people who are resourceful enough to go out and find tools like that (admittedly not a very high bar, but too hard for many people). So, suppose you define a "resourceful" person as someone smart enough to figure out how to convert an FLV file into an iPod-viewable format. Then there are two possibilities: (a) either a person is not that "resourceful", in which case if they want content to take with them, they'll still have to get it through legitimate channels like the iTunes store, or (b) if the person is "resourceful", they would have known about tools for ripping YouTube videos to MP3, long before RealPlayer 11 came out (in fact, most sites that come up in a search for "flv to mp3 converter" are just rippers specifically for YouTube). In either case, RealPlayer's ability to save FLV files has no impact on the market for the song.

I haven't talked about some outlier cases where RealPlayer could perhaps help a novice user avoid paying for content (if a novice pirate didn't know enough to download a movie from a BitTorrent network, they could perhaps save up enough interesting videos from YouTube for a long plane ride where they won't have Internet access). But there's an easy way to get a verdict on RealPlayer's impact on piracy: How much have you heard teenagers talking about it? You heard teens through the years buzzing about Napster, KaZaA, and BitTorrent, but... RealPlayer? The cliche among teenagers today is to go "find something on YouTube", but "and then grab it with RealPlayer" has yet to prove useful enough to enter the vernacular.

Similarly, RealPlayer can be used to rip streams from Pandora, but it's just hard enough to do it that most people are likely to give up. Before going into details, I should say that I'm against anyone trying to circumvent paying for music. Most of the time when you read that on the Web, it carries this nudge-wink subtext right before the author launches into a detailed description about how, exactly, to circumvent paying for music. But I really do believe that there is a vast untapped potential of unwritten good music out there, and that it could be tapped if there were only lower barriers of entry for musicians, better channels to distribute music to users, and a guarantee that users would pay instead of stealing it -- all of which is helped by services like Pandora. On the other hand, I also believe that if a copying scheme can be circumvented, and especially if it can be circumvented in a way that's fairly easy to discover, there's no point in keeping it secret: We might as well push things forward by acknowledging that the scheme is beatable, and deciding what to do about it.

The outing commences: if you save a stream from Pandora, RealPlayer will give you an error if you try to play the stream back from your RealPlayer library. But if you find the "mp4" file in your RealPlayer downloads, you can play it in WinAmp. However, the file as saved will not play in Windows Media Player, iTunes, or RealPlayer itself. Plus, since Pandora does not let you pick which song you want to listen to on demand, your stream might contain all the songs that you had to skip past to get the one you wanted, and you'd have to find a utility to edit the mp4 file to get rid of that cruft at the beginnig. At some point, the effort probably exceeds the dollar you'd have to pay to get the song on iTunes (or, if you're a pirate, the effort to find it on a p2p network).

Again, the "teenager buzz test" is instructive. You do hear kids these days talking about listening to songs on Pandora, but not about ripping them with RealPlayer.

Where I think RealPlayer will make the most difference in the long run is in its political and legal impact, by legitimizing stream-ripping as something that "real" companies, so to speak, are allowed to do. In 2006, Google sent a cease-and-desist letter to TechCrunch for hosting a tool that lets users save YouTube videos to their hard drives. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch blogged at the time, "I am likely to remove the tool to preserve my relationship with the company [Google/YouTube]", but the tool is still up, and I don't know whether it was ever taken down at all (TechCrunch did not respond to an inquiry). Today, there are more YouTube rippers than ever, several of them even running AdSense ads. (I'm not sure if that's within Google's rules, but I mentioned those sites while e-mailing back and forth with Google for this article, and they're all still running AdSense ads a week later.) Certainly Google would look pretty silly trying to force TechCrunch to take their ripper down today, now that Google itself is distributing RealPlayer as part of the Google Pack.

RealNetworks could argue that the main difference between RealPlayer 11, and the Streambox Ripper that they sued to have outlawed in 2001, was that the Streambox Ripper ignored the "do not copy" flag present in some RealAudio and RealVideo streams, and thus violated the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. RealNetworks says the do-not-copy flag is no longer used, having been supplanted by more sophisticated Digital Rights Management, and RealPlayer 11 will honor any DRM-protected streams and refuse to save them. But how much difference is there between "ignoring" the do-not-copy flag and "ignoring" the Terms of Service for sites like YouTube (which the program may not be aware of, but which its makers certainly are)?

We've all heard about the First Amendment implications of DeCSS code, the code for decrypting the copy-protection scheme on DVDs, being outlawed in the U.S. But the Streambox case set the bar for "violating the DMCA" considerably lower -- the Streambox Ripper didn't actively decrypt anything, it just ignored a flag set in the streaming media. What are the implications if "ignoring" a flag counts as "breaking" copy protection? Suppose Behemoth Corp releases Version 1 of some media format, and I release a third-party player that plays Version 1. Then Behemoth Corp releases the specs for Version 2 of the format, which is similar enough that it works in Version 1 players, except Version 2 now contains a "do-not-copy" flag, which my player doesn't know about. Is my player now illegal? (Well, in this case Behemoth Corp would just make sure that Version 2 doesn't play in Version 1 players. But what about general-purpose programs like Total Recorder that can record any sound playing through your computer to an MP3 file? Does that program become illegal if a company releases a new sound file format that they don't want to be copyable?) So I think the acceptance of RealPlayer has nudged us closer to legal acceptance of software that can interact with third-party sites and programs in a way that their makers don't like. That's good. It should not be against the law to make a program that interacts with third-party web sites in a way that they haven't given permission for, something I literally grew up saying.

It's brave of Google especially to be distributing RealPlayer along with the Google Pack, at the same time that YouTube is constantly attacked for enabling copyright violations. A content owner mounting a lawsuit against Google, would be foolish not to say something like, "Your Honor, not only does YouTube host thousands of videos violating the intellectual property rights of my clients, they even distribute a tool called RealPlayer that lets people violate YouTube's own Terms of Service by saving the videos to their hard drive!" Logically, of course, it's a weak argument -- RealPlayer is universally available whether Google distributes it or not -- but rhetorically the argument is golden.

On the other hand, since that hasn't happened, and RealPlayer 11 is pretty well entrenched after being out for a year, the result has probably been an expansion of our rights. Anyone else who got sued or threatened for releasing a ripping program would be able to point to RealNetworks. "Look at them, Your Honor, their Web site even tells people, 'Grab videos from thousands of Web sites with just one click', something that those 'thousands of Web sites' would probably not be thrilled with. If it's legal for RealNetworks to tell people that, how can it be illegal for me just to have a ripping program on my site?"

If a small-time programmer had made themselves a legal test case before RealPlayer 11 came out, things might have gone differently; it is an unfortunate truth that courts are probably more likely to consider something legal when it is done by a large and legitimate-looking company like RealNetworks. Big companies do well in court partly because their lawyers are paid to make good arguments, but they almost certainly also get more benefit of the doubt just by virtue of being big companies. I think the time is long overdue for using controlled experiments to measure the bias and objectivity of judges -- for example, having different actors, one white and one black, go into different courtrooms for "mock trials" (which the judges think are real), where both actors are standing trial for exactly identical crimes and their lawyers say exactly identical things, and repeat this experiment enough times to see how differently black and white defendants are treated. (We already see this, for example, in the disparity of sentences for powder cocaine vs. crack, but skeptics may have a point when they say that's not a controlled experiment, because the effects of crack and cocaine are different.) Similarly, have mock trials where a small-time "activist" and a large company are sued for doing exactly the same thing. I would bet that the disparity in the outcomes of those cases would far exceed any bias due to race or gender.

But since it was RealNetworks, with their lawyers and their NASDAQ listing and their former exec in the U.S. Senate, that brought ripping to the masses, that probably makes it OK for you and me. It's not fair, but in this case, it's a good thing.

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The Real Story is that... (5, Insightful)

pdusen (1146399) | more than 6 years ago | (#23811781)

People still use RealPlayer?

Re:The Real Story is that... (3, Interesting)

simong (32944) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812055)

The BBC Radio iPlayer is still RealPlayer at its heart although it also has a Windows Media version, and it's one of the biggest installations in the world, although their agreement must be up for renewal in the next year or so.

Re:The Real Story is that... (4, Interesting)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812313)

I am even afraid that BBC may switch to Flash from real plugins like Real Player or even Wmedia.

They actually deliver their promise, even in broadband thanks to these plugins actually being designed to stream media. Real switches to UDP, switches bandwidth when in need and perform great on low bandwidth. I couldn't watch a single "flash player" BBC thing in its full.

Also if there wasn't a competitor, example like Real in hand, BBC iPlayer would be wmedia only along with wmedia drm. MS lost it when people showed how many platforms Real supports even including Symbian and Solaris.

Re:The Real Story is that... (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 6 years ago | (#23813101)

Even if the player is not needed for playing web content, the one click save to hard drive option is very nice and seems to work with most media types. The player does not need to play a video in the browser to allow saving a copy, and it does not use the browser cache either. Saving music does have the disadvantage of getting it in the RealAudio format, but everything else is saving as flash, and replayed on The Real Player. Avoid the default install and it is not nearly as bad as it used to be...

Re:The Real Story is that... (2, Interesting)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812109)

Well, they are one of the first proprietary video/audio player companies to have a version for Linux, so while their software is not very good, you have to give them credit for at least providing their crappy software for Linux.

To add to that, has anyone actually tried their Linux version? Is it fully featured like the Linux one? Is it just as full of ads?

Re:The Real Story is that... (2, Funny)

Buran (150348) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812179)

To add to that, has anyone actually tried their Linux version? Is it fully featured like the Linux one?
... huh? Of course it's as fully featured as itself.

Re:The Real Story is that... (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812199)

It is almost same as OS X version minus the Quicktime framework capabilities of it. The source is open minus the codecs.

Re:The Real Story is that... (4, Interesting)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812477)

It's not much different from Totem, last I saw of it. Looked very lean, ad-free and very unReal. It also has no incentive to use over Totem.

Re:The Real Story is that... (1)

hkmarks (1080097) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812927)

My university streams some courses in RealPlayer format, so I tried the Linux version. It didn't work at all on my laptop running Ubuntu. The program would install but it wouldn't start. The Windows version wouldn't work under Wine either. I fiddled for a little while then just booted Windows instead.

Re:The Real Story is that... (1)

Deadplant (212273) | more than 6 years ago | (#23814025)

I have tried the linux realplayer and it is really very nice.

Ads, and bullshit are strictly features of the windows version.

I highly recommend you check it out.

Re:The Real Story is that... (0, Flamebait)

macbuzz01 (1074795) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812215)

I don't. They have one of the most invasive programs next to adware/spyware. I guess it could be considered adware...

I found this alternative [free-codecs.com] that takes care of the basic streaming...

Re:The Real Story is that... (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 6 years ago | (#23813893)

Really? I would consider it spyware myself. They have spied on their customers too many times for me to ever put Realplayer anywhere near my network. For examples see here [cnet.com.au] which is for 10.5 and their latest 11, and here [pcworld.com] is PC World's Steve Bass advising folks to grab the BBC version of Realplayer as it is a "spyware free" version. Personally, I just avoid anything in Realplayer formats like the plague. I had to fix enough Realplayer infected machines in the late 90's and early 00's for me to ever touch that crap. But that is my 02c,YMMV

Re:The Real Story is that... (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 6 years ago | (#23814327)

accused RealNetworks of "aiding and abetting piracy"

I don't. They have one of the most invasive programs next to adware/spyware.
It's going to take more than them becoming "The Pirate's Best Friend" for me to install their crappy software. I don't know what it is about Real - they always leave me feeling dirty when I see their software in action... Note that I don't say 'when I use their software'; I don't recall willingly using it; usually I'm trying to figure out how the auto-updater became active again and disabling it from starting.

Re:The Real Story is that... (4, Funny)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812225)

Hey, I love Re...buffering...buffering...buffering...alPlayer!

Re:The Real Story is that... (1)

GigaHurtsMyRobot (1143329) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812713)

Seems about a year ago they implemented an actual useful feature. :) Previously there was no good reason to use it besides accessing some exclusive sites that used Real Audio.

Re:The Real Story is that... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23812799)

Your post at +5 Insightful tells how much we are away from reality.

All my friends use Real Player - all of them! It is the "best player" for windows. When it fails, THEN they give Vlc a try.

I have tried it myself, it is no more "Real One" hegemony. It is still a behemoth, but does not go out of their way to be intrusive anymore (for values of intrusion applicable to Windows).

Re:The Real Story is that... (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#23813113)

All my friends use Real Player - all of them! It is the "best player" for windows. When it fails, THEN they give Vlc a try.
This is true. All the "cool kids" use Real Player. When one of them saw me using it she asked if I wanted to "go hang with them".

Re:The Real Story is that... (5, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812853)

The "real" (ahem, sorry) story was glossed over in the summary and ignored completely in the body. That's Real's filing suit against a company for making software that will rip their streams, then coming out with a player that will rip others' streams. The hypocracy is sickening, but then again just about everything any money-worshiping corporation does is sickening.

If a big multinational corporation doesn't have to obey the law, why should you? I've said "when my congresscritters start writing respectable laws I'll respect the law" before, but I'm going to have to add "as long as corporations won't obey the law I'll be damned if I will either". Especially since those same foreign corporations have access to "my" legislators and I don't.

Someone is bount to reply that Real is an American company, but as long as a single foreigner can buy a share of its stock, it's no more an American company than Sony or BP and should neither be able to "contribute" to my legislators or have any access to them at all.

Re:The Real Story is that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23814561)

The "real" (ahem, sorry) story
http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=puns

Re:The Real Story is that... (1)

Narpak (961733) | more than 6 years ago | (#23814893)

"That's Real's filing suit against a company for making software that will rip their streams, then coming out with a player that will rip others' streams. The hypocracy is sickening, but then again just about everything any money-worshiping corporation does is sickening."

Is it hypocracy in this case? I was under the impression that Real tried to stop the "Ripper", but failed. Then they considered this and evolved. If you can't beat them; steal their features and sell it.

Re:The Real Story is that... (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23814981)

The Summary said "In 2001 RealNetworks sued and blocked Streambox from distributing the Ripper, a program that let users rip and save RealAudio and RealVideo streams..."

From the summary it looks like they did in fact stop Streambox, and now are doing what they stopped Streambox from doing.

Not that I actually RTFA or anything.

Re:The Real Story is that... Maybe REAL is trying (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812943)

to REALly impress Jack the Ripper by going a "Rack the Jipper" campaign..

Freedom... Limited (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23813665)

The corporate behemoth, raked over the coals in the past for privacy violations and nuisance-ware, strikes a blow for free-culture hackers.


Yeah, if you use their software. They are still against any competitors doing it.

Re:The Real Story is that... (1)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 6 years ago | (#23814259)

People still use RealPlayer?
In the early 2000s I found "Real Alternative", which is a no-nonsense, stripped-down player and browser plugin (incl. Firefox) for RealAudio and some video. At the time it seemed like a miracle, an unbelievable breath of fresh air after the adware-infested official player that took over your machine. I've carried version 1.22 (realalt122.exe, 5.8MB, md5 506f4d76f3a13971cc4c4110050921f7) from one Windows machine to the next over that time, since I know it's fast, uses little memory, and works for .ra and .ram files I find here and there. I see that it seems to be up to version 1.80 now, which is likely more modern, but - especially after watching WinAmp "evolve" - I haven't yet been motivated to see what features have been added, since 1.22 just does what I want and nothing else; why fix what's not broken. :)

How to "rip" videos with your browser (3, Interesting)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 6 years ago | (#23811795)

Just copy from the cache...

Re:How to "rip" videos with your browser (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23811923)

I prefer this little bookmarklet. [1024k.de] It does all the dirty work, doesn't need an online service, doesn't phone home and it's free.

Re:How to "rip" videos with your browser (2, Informative)

SpiderClan (1195655) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812979)

Your link is broken. Here [1024k.de] is the right one.

And quite convenient it is, too. Thanks.

Re:How to "rip" videos with your browser (1)

darth dickinson (169021) | more than 6 years ago | (#23813015)

Wow a 404 in German. Well, at least your post is still correct...

Re:How to "rip" videos with your browser (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23813137)

Link [1024k.de]

Re:How to "rip" videos with your browser (4, Insightful)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812021)

If these people actually used a real (quicktime, real, wmedia) streaming plugin, it wouldn't be in cache obviously. Things would get a bit complex to rip it (not impossible).

As they choose to use 1994's "Embed huge file inside page" trick, their horrible bandwidth waste finally gets a punishment.

cannot seem to do it with firefox (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812081)

and I try and update various streaming rippers only to have it save an htm instead, tell me it cannot handle the page, or find the cache file locked to another application. Now I do cache raid IE sessions but would love to find a nearly fool proof way to get them through firefox.

Re:cannot seem to do it with firefox (1)

Cardcaptor_RLH85 (891550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23814219)

The htm file that you find is normally the correct file just with the wrong extension. However I just use the Orbit Downloader [orbitdownloader.com] function called Grab++ it works quite well with Firefox. You just activate it before visiting a streaming video page and it will list the page elements that it can grab.

Wait... (3, Insightful)

Codeman125 (1168085) | more than 6 years ago | (#23811943)

Real still exists? I have not seen a file in that format for years. Who in the Slashdot community actually uses any Real product, and not just for Pr0n.

Re:Wait... (5, Interesting)

Silverlancer (786390) | more than 6 years ago | (#23811971)

Real stopped being a "real" format years ago; their latest formats RV30 and RV40 are just ripoffs of early drafts of the H.264 standard with slight modifications.

Re:Wait... (1, Funny)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812195)

Well this slashdot user still uses Rea*%^ (buffering...)

Re:Wait... (1)

SpiderClan (1195655) | more than 6 years ago | (#23813059)

MIT's OpenCourseWare [mit.edu] uses Real for their video lectures. I can't think of any other website that does, but for me, this was more than enough reason to install the player.

RealPlayer is a blight on humanity (4, Funny)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 6 years ago | (#23811953)

But now that the feature has stayed in RealPlayer for a year, its real impact will be not on piracy but on the perceived legitimacy of ripping programs.
Specifically, it will significantly damage their reputation.

Re:RealPlayer is a blight on humanity (2, Funny)

pdusen (1146399) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812651)

Their who?

Re:RealPlayer is a blight on humanity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23812813)

Specifically, it will significantly damage their reputation.
Heaven forbid anything should damage Real's reputa... BUFFERING...

Re:RealPlayer is a blight on humanity (2, Funny)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812901)

No, no, the point was it will damage the legitimacy of the other ripping programs, by having Real associated with them.

</attempt-to-explain-joke>

Of course, everyone is free to pirate except user (3, Interesting)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23811973)

Google can make millions of dollars over Youtube by putting Text Ads to ripped content but when time comes that people actually saves the FLV file they already downloaded, it is a problem. Do you know the solution to prevent regular end user from ripping your (read, YOURS) content? DRM it. It will at least create some hassle and legal responsibility. Not like DRM ever actually worked.

Also targeting Real Networks will really work on Slashdot considering there are thousands of people who types almost memorised things like "Spyware!" when they hear Real Networks, a company who offers entire source in GPL on https://www.helixcommunity.org/ [helixcommunity.org]

Nice, targeted article which you can only expect from a media professional having a pinpoint target. It wouldn't be wise to target Apple Inc. who offers "Save as source" in their Quicktime Plugin for ages when user pays $30 to their software making it "Pro".

Re:Of course, everyone is free to pirate except us (1)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812377)

Google owns Youtube.

And Quicktime doesn't let you rip movies from Youtube, etc.

Re:Of course, everyone is free to pirate except us (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812511)

Worse, if your entire work is based on Quicktime, you put Quicktime/H264 embedded to page and know that people paid $30 to Apple can easily save it as source, transcode it horribly (in general) and put to Youtube. You hate that junk presented by irrelevant text ads, contact them and they put a convenient "don't blame us, evil copyright owner forced us" toned thing to that page making your potential customers hate you.

Some spends time to "Do Not Allow Save" flag of Quicktime file but never seen that "Save As Source" grayed out so I don't bother anymore.

Re:Of course, everyone is free to pirate except us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23812871)

I thought google hasn't been able to monetize youtube?

No longer relevant (4, Informative)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#23811995)

Between Firefox extensions such as DownloadHelper (and half a dozen others with similar functionality), and the handy "dumpstream" option to MPlayer, does anyone really care that Real has decided to support what we've had the ability to do all along?

The only effect this might have (and the reason it scares companies)? It might reduce ad revenue from page views because Joe Sixpack can now store the "funny" clip of some guy getting his 'nads crushed by a 2x4, rather than needing to reload it live every time he wants to make his friends squirm. But even that depends on Joe Sixpack remembering where he saved the file, no small feat for Joe (in my experience).

Re:No longer relevant (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812577)

It might reduce ad revenue from page views because Joe Sixpack can now store the "funny" clip of some guy getting his 'nads crushed by a 2x4, rather than needing to reload it live every time he wants to make his friends squirm.
Unlikely. If Joe's got a decent connection, he's much more likely to simply type "2x4 nads" into YouTube's search if he wants to show it again. Much easier than making disk space and remembering where you put it.

No, this only really becomes useful if you want to put it somewhere you don't have access to YouTube -- like an iPod. Or if you're like me -- Flash performance on my Linux sucks so much that anything fullscreen is completely unwatchable, so if it's worth watching fullscreen, I download it and play it with mplayer.

Re:No longer relevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23812595)

Those were my 'nads you insensitive clod! Now where did I put them...?

Re:No longer relevant (1)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812941)

Well, read the article. The notable thing is that with its inclusion in RealPlayer, Real Networks legitimized ripping software.

Average Joe has no idea wtf MPlayer or DownloadHelper are. In reality those are just small free projects.

But he knows what RealPlayer is, and he knows there's the all-important corporation behind it. If RealPlayer lets you do this stuff, it must be OK.

I followed the link right below... (3, Funny)

TheJerg (1052952) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812007)

And it took me to a list of stories tagged with "media." Slashdot has turned into a joke of an info site.

Re:I followed the link right below... (1)

brenddie (897982) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812097)

The rest of Bennett's essay is available by following that magical link right below these words.
Its a magical invisible link. Only the worthy can see it

Re:I followed the link right below... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23814071)

This is very poor editorial comment. The "magical link" means the "Read More" link, the link to the full story. The confusing part is that you see this text about the "magical link" even after you click on the magical link.

The make things worse, usually /. just discusses stories from other sites, so we all expect a link to the actual story. But in this case the submission *is* the story. So we are all expecting to find a link to the story, even when the story is right there on the page.

Confusing, bad.

hasn't affected piracy? (4, Informative)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812009)

Realplayer has not had any effect on piracy because nobody in the right mind uses it. VLC plays pretty much anything you throw at it and for something stubborn theres "Real Alternative"

Re:hasn't affected piracy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23813699)

VLC doesn't work for streams locked up in DRM. That covers a hell of a lot of sporting events, and a PITA for those of us that subscribe to live feeds on match days.

I can remember... (2, Interesting)

Perseid (660451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812013)

...back in the day when RealAudio kicked ass. AM-quality stereo(I think) audio over a 28.8 modem through a tiny unobtrusive program. What happened?

Re:I can remember... (4, Interesting)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812145)

Well, OS X version always stayed as a focused media player which also saves users of previous versions of Quicktime Player to pay $30 for "fullscreen".

Most of things Real Networks and others have done happened because of Microsoft. Why? When they figured Microsoft can easily steal their media extensions , they were forced to put a startup item. When others saw it, people ended up having "winamp agent", "quicktime task", "real taskbar" on their windows taskbar. I can't blame anyone for putting a small agent which maintains extensions on Windows because the Windows vendor doesn't play nice. I had to install "Yahoo Companion" just to make sure IE 7 stays with Yahoo search engine, to prevent it from changing "accidentally" to MSN Livesearch.

When MS decided to put Windows Media 7 preinstalled (remember how good was 6.4?), the companies were forced to code a "all in one" application which will have library, CD burning and to cover the costs, advertisement of paid content. They also figured the Microsoft one does GUID without asking user so they decided to enable it for their best server customers who offers paid content (guess who?). It was a horrible mistake. The people didn't bother to check the competition directly attacked them and become hero in end user eye.

Now they produce complete open source software for all platforms (except codecs) and still, they get hit instead of the ultimate privacy invaders like Google.

I would say "Karma" but it is beyond it. Something strange happening. For example, it is almost impossible for one to be on slashdot and never heard the Helix project (not you) and whine around saying Spyware spyware.

Re:I can remember... (3, Insightful)

Buran (150348) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812239)

Now they produce complete open source software for all platforms (except codecs) and still, they get hit instead of the ultimate privacy invaders like Google.


What? You willingly typed your search query in, you willingly signed up to use their email service, you willingly allowed them to place cookies on your computer, clicked their ads, etc. etc. etc. Google can't get any info about you unless you give it some.

That is nowhere near the same thing as media players that phone home on you, when you expect them to just play your movie.

And you don't have to have all that crap in your system tray if you don't want it to be there. You can always not install it there in the first place and/or remove it yourself.

Re:I can remember... (1)

British (51765) | more than 6 years ago | (#23813179)

And you don't have to have all that crap in your system tray if you don't want it to be there. You can always not install it there in the first place and/or remove it yourself.

How do you get rid of the 'safely remove devices' systray icon? That seems to never go away. What's worse are those apps that you can't do a simple rt-click & close, where instead you have to exit it from the File menu,or from the systray icon. Irritating.

Sadly, Linux apps are now catching up with annoying taskbar icons as well. Amarok, the wonderful media player that can't play over fucking Samba shares, has one.

Re:I can remember... (1)

Buran (150348) | more than 6 years ago | (#23813315)

That I don't know, as for me I only see it when I should, but you're not the only one to say it shows up all the time. Sorry. I hope someone else knows!

Re:I can remember... (1)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812603)

I had to install "Yahoo Companion" just to make sure IE 7 stays with Yahoo search engine, to prevent it from changing "accidentally" to MSN Livesearch.

I hate to be a pedantic asshat... But how did you have that problem?

I've used Internet Explorer 7 since Beta 1, and it's never done that. When you open the browser for the first time, it takes you to a page to pick what search engine you want as the default. I always pick Google, and it sticks.

I also work for Technical Support on a college campus. The lab and student machines all run IE6 and Firefox 2, but a few of the faculty machines have IE7. All of these machines (about a dozen that I've worked on) never have any problems sticking with Google.

Maybe you just missed the news that Microsoft bought Yahoo, and that Yahoo! search is now "MSN Livesearch"... ^.<

Re:I can remember... (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812657)

Well, I saw it happen 3 times and I remember choosing Yahoo over and over on that page. I ended up with "Internet Explorer for Yahoo!" and gave up when I figured Live search came back like a zombie.

It could be another convenient windows bug effecting minor number of users, you know... ;)

Re:I can remember... (1)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812833)

Hee hee. Make sure you check "use this as my default search engine", and it could help to remove MSNLive from the list of search providers after that. (And make sure it's plugged in...) Besides, you can choose whatever search engine you want from the drop-down list to the right of the search box; I have Google, thottbot, and Wikipedia.

Magic and kittens!

April 1 was months ago... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23813767)

Maybe you just missed the news that Microsoft bought Yahoo, and that Yahoo! search is now "MSN Livesearch"...

Not quite yet, Bill, keep your pants on.

Re:I can remember... (1)

afabbro (33948) | more than 6 years ago | (#23814115)

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno." --John McCain

He just won my vote. Thank you.

Re:I can remember... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23813033)

>Most of things Real Networks and others have done happened because of Microsoft. Why? When they figured Microsoft can easily steal their media extensions

Real screwed up way more than just that. I remember a time when it took more than 60 clicks to turn off all their advertising, spyware, file extension hijacking, realplayer notification crap, junk icon installers, auto downloaders, toolbars, bug-me-when-I-open-the-program type warnings (you didn't buy me, you didn't update me, you don't love me anymore, do you like clicking yes? (yes/no) etc.), and about a billion other pieces of garbage. Once you got the thing installed, you spent another 10 minutes adjusting the interface so it was a MEDIA PLAYER and not a WEB BROWSER (WTF???!?!?!?!!!) I don't think Microsoft caused all that.

And that's if you could get the software. I also remember when the "free" link was about the size of a dime... on the THIN side. And getting to the actual software after finding that link took answering a maze of questions on their website. Otherwise you spent $19.99 on an even MORE bloated, crappier version! It was amazing, $19.99 and all you got was an EQUALIZER, more GARBAGE, and the ability to rip CDs to a format so low quality you'd rather listen to 45s over an AM radio.

To add insult to injury, the download size itself was incredibly large for the time, taking incredible amounts of time to download. All in all, not including download time, we were already talking 60 minutes of your time wasted from www.real.com to finishing rebooting (yes, that was required too).

This [jogin.com] really sums it up well, I just wish I could find the post on slashdot years ago that listed all the clicks required to make realplayer not suck at the time. I'm sure it was over 60...

Re:I can remember... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812185)

...back in the day when RealAudio kicked ass. AM-quality stereo(I think) audio over a 28.8 modem through a tiny unobtrusive program. What happened?

Really??? My experience is the opposite, that Real is one of the few applications that's gotten less bloated over the years. When Real first came out it was horribly bloated, slow, and adware-riddled, and current Real (while I don't use it) isn't nearly as bad.

Re:I can remember... (4, Interesting)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812263)

Some AC from Real Networks said "There has been a geek/nerd coup here" on Slashdot. The suits decided those "add ins" (everyone at that time did it) are all gone I heard.

They should figure it a lot earlier. They should see the feedback of their MacOS/ OS X version and compare it to Windows one. It is very common for OS X machines to have Realplayer since they always shipped a media player rather than circus they ship with Windows version.

Re:I can remember... (1)

Perseid (660451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812447)

I don't mean RealPlayer. I mean RealAudio. It was from the mid-90s. A tiny program with no "addins", adware or anything else.

Re:I can remember... (1)

lastchance_000 (847415) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812745)

It wasn't always that way - there was a reason they got enough market share to start seeing dollar signs. As the GP said, they made an efficient, lightweight player back when the idea of streaming audio was brand new -- if they didn't invent the idea, they certainly made it popular.) I'll admit, though, that it didn't take them long to turn to the dark side.

And a good ripper it is (4, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812049)

Their hypocrisy allowed my wife and I to download a lot of TV shows from Youtube that we couldn't get elsewhere. Can't say that I have too much to complain about there.

hmm (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23812053)

TLDR

wow

alsadump and videodump (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812131)

Someone should write a alsadump program that saves everything that should go through the sound card to a .wav file. And the same for video.
That should bring discussions like this to an earlier end. (and maybe lead them directly to "trusted computing"/DRMed hardware)

Re:alsadump and videodump (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812249)

No DRM for non-interactive material (that is video, audio and e-books) is immune to the Analog Hole [wikipedia.org] .

If you can see it, hear it, or read it, it can be copied. No exceptions.

For games it is a bit harder.

Re:alsadump and videodump (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812435)

The issue is, Real Player is in millions of end user machines while alsadump etc. are in hands of advanced people who can also easily save the file from their cache.

Another issue is, Flash is not designed for streaming media and it can't do even 1990's tricks like bandwidth switching back and forth. Result? People figure they can't watch the video conveniently and decide to use "Save As" instead of watching it embedded along with the "Text ads" right next to it. That kills them.

Re:alsadump and videodump (1)

FauxPasIII (75900) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812741)

> Someone should write a alsadump program that saves everything that should go through the sound card to a .wav file

If you're using a relatively modern distribution, you're already using PulseAudio for sound, and thus have parec.

The actual real story is (1)

hansoloaf (668609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812193)

Real is considered a corporate behemoth?

What the hell /.? (2, Funny)

Pyrion (525584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812229)

This is a Real thread. Where's the expected onslaught of "buffering..." jokes?

Re:What the hell /.? (5, Funny)

mounthood (993037) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812339)

This is a Real thread. Where's the expected onslaught of "buffering..." jokes?
They're on the way, just be patient.

Re:What the hell /.? (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812921)

Here you go [viewimages.com] . Sorry it took so long.

Re:What the hell /.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23812371)

There are still in the que(Buffering...) ue waiting to(Buffering.. eh forget it!

You have to wait... (3, Funny)

Tmack (593755) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812401)

They are still buffering

tm

Re:What the hell /.? (1)

Captain Spam (66120) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812607)

I'm just wondering why said jokes are still around. Okay, yes, when RealPlayer first came out, nearly nobody had broadband, so buffering lag on even simple videos was inevitable, and they were kinda the only consumer-level game in town for a while. Fine. But is it still THAT bad a problem nowadays? Ignoring for a second that nobody uses Real anymore, does it still not stream right on a decent connection for some reason?

I guess what I'm saying is, should we really harp on them for the way things were on the internet around ten years ago?

(the spyware junk from the last version(s), yeah, that was still their fault and in more recent memory)

Re:What the hell /.? (1)

Trauma_Hound1 (336247) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812879)

What do you mean recent? There's hasn't been any spyware in RealPlayer in a decade.

Re:What the hell /.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23813007)

If that's true (I have no idea), then it just goes to show: a fucked up reputation is quickly made, but slowly repaired.

If I want to rip a protected audio stream, I use (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23812295)

Audacity. Just set the inputs correctly, and it will save the input.

Some fun lawsuits ... (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812343)

So is Streambox preparing a lawsuit against Real Networks for what is now clearly a case of "restraint of trade" against a competitor? RN's motive was clearly not to stop "ripping", but to kill a competitor to their own ripping tool that wasn't yet ready for the market.

I wonder how Streambox could do with a claim that RN has ripped off their product design? Perhaps they could apply for a patent on their software, then charge RN with patent violation.

All sorts of possibilities come to mind. Of course, the "system" does have a way of siding with the biggest corporation. But it would be fun to see a bit of turnaround here, if there's any way it could be done.

Rhapsody rocks. yes, Real is cool (1)

olele (785597) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812397)

while I don't hew to the subscription model for most of my media, as a musician and erstwhile student of music history, I've found Rhapsody to be an excellent tool. I can't afford to purchase (and don't have the time to steal) everything in Big Media's back catalog. Rhapsody enables that search/ listen/think cycle that makes me feel like I'm effectively schooling myself in musical history.

Really not that difficult (3, Informative)

flerchin (179012) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812409)

I spent the majority of this weekend helping my 60 year old father in law find out of print records on Youtube. Eg, Brenda Holloway "Every Little Bit Hurts" [youtube.com] I captured the sound via Audacity, and exported to mp3. He burned himself a CD of out of print 50's songs that he would have no other way of getting, and he was happier than a clam. I explained to him that this was only quasi-legal, and we searched for every song he wanted to aquire on Itunes before taking this route. Surprisingly, on a CD he burned with 24 tracks, only 2 were available for purchase, the rest were only available on the internet, or via a CD he already had.

Whether RealPlayer 11 can capture youtube audio is rather besides the point, as the "analog hole" will always be available.

YouTube to iPod, even Apple helps... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23812467)

I have a program that loads a video page from YouTube or any site that hosts such video, rips it to an FLV file, and converts it to iPod-compatible MP4. It's very good and the video comes out crisp (the audio is unchanged so always identical).

But Apple even helps out.

You can import the video as a "movie" or their new category, "music video". The music video choice means the song will play normally in a playlist in iTunes or on the iPod, but it will also play the video while playing the song. The nice feature is that on the iPod, it doesn't keep the backlight on unless you ask it to, so you don't waste your battery if you just want the music.

It's very easy to see why the iPod has been the leader in MP3 players. It does everything but [phrase omitted].

Corporate Behemoth? Real? (2, Interesting)

RickRussellTX (755670) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812473)

Real has been on the decline for a decade. They are not making any money, their media player is a living joke and I can't remember the last time I went to a site that actually required RealPlayer, or even offered it as the default/first choice.

Adding stream ripping is nothing but a desperate attempt to promote their software. They haven't the slightest desire to make people's lives easier, they are just desperately trying to regain market share.

Re:Corporate Behemoth? Real? (2, Insightful)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812609)

Real in decline? They hit the nail on target by their multiplatform, platform neutral philosophy. Near all Symbian devices have Real Player, their Mobile game business is so huge that they decided it to separate it, mobile media deals are huge too.

Except Microsoft, all decided not to re-invent wheel. Everyone does things based on a real standard like MPEG4/AAC now, there is no Codec war anymore. All except that spoiled, rich Microsoft who never paid for their mistakes have decided the existing ISO standards are all fine and they can do things sticking to them as basis of things.

Sites not having Real Player as choice or even having other choice by default are ones who got tricked by Microsoft Media Division. You sound like great to have anti-everything-windows, non standard choice like wmedia instead of a multi platform, platform neutral thing is nice. I seriously miss the days where people had 3-4 choices choosing whatever works best.

Re:Corporate Behemoth? Real? (1)

Trauma_Hound1 (336247) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812905)

Well according to their financial listings you're either really mis-informed, don't read much out side your box, or just a plain liar.

Re:Corporate Behemoth? Real? (3, Informative)

RickRussellTX (755670) | more than 6 years ago | (#23813695)

Yeah, I checked the financial listings.


To quote Mr. Hammer, let's break it down:

  1. Their stock has not appreciated in 10 years.
  2. They are trading at 106 times price to earnings.
  3. Their incoming from operations in 1Q 2008 was -11 million and has been declining consistently over the past 3 years.
  4. Net income has declined consistently for the past several years.

Number 3 is kind of important. It means they are not actually making money. The tiny profit they show is due to investment income -- not anything they actually make or sell.


That is, they've taken investor's money, invested it themselves, and they are using the returns to pad the top line *just enough* to stay positive.


Number 4 is important because it means that, despite the fact that they are growing revenue, they are making less money. Less actual money on more sales. In other words, they are investing more cash into sales operations and getting less return on that additional operating expense, indicating that they are having a hard time selling anything that people want to buy.


All those things aside, it's time to face facts:


  • Everybody is going to offer Flash as the default choice, if they don't already. Show me a relatively popular new service that is not using Flash as the default. Please, name one. Where RealPlayer is offered, it is offered only for legacy reasons. Flash works without having to maintain a complicated dedicated client, and if your goal is to put more media in front of more faces, that is the way to do it.
  • Fewer and fewer sites offer non-Flash dedicated streaming feeds, and when they do, they are using Quicktime or WM, which work pretty consistently in their native operating systems.

A Win Win (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812489)

step 1) tivo/vcr
step 2) pc video recorder
step 3) youtube upload
step 4) real ripper
step 5) I get a copy!

In the end, tivo will get blocked by networks, pc software will just stop working as they are now with DVDs, youtube and real will get sued by the studios, and I will get arrested.

Logical argument? Huh? (1)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812647)

Logically, of course, it's a weak argument -- RealPlayer is universally available whether Google distributes it or not -- but rhetorically the argument is golden.

You're new around here, aren't you?

I will take Winamp over Realplayer (2, Insightful)

LM741N (258038) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812817)

any day. First it doesn't bring 20Meg of crap along with it thats takes you an hour to turn off, and Winamp will play Windows Media and the format for streaming video that Firefox Download Helper saves.

Re: How to "rip" videos with your browser (2, Informative)

gabrieltss (64078) | more than 6 years ago | (#23812835)

Simple use the "Unplug" plugin for Firefox then use "Super" to convert the .flv/.rm fiel to whatever format you wish. BOTH products are FREE!

I bought Streambox ripper and Streambox VCR before Real put the kibosh on them. They were and still are good programs for rippping real media files. Then convert the RM files to some other format with Super...

The "REAL" story is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23812891)

People still read Bennett Haselton.

I noticed that StationRipper.. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23813697)

has started to record Pandora.com now (www.recordpandora.com) - makes it VERY EASY (just click and go), and it's somehow naming the songs and getting album art.

Who is this guy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23814959)

Why does he keep churning out these opinionated monologues?

Does he want the phone number/email address of someone who gives a shit about his opinion?

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