Real Makes Its Video Move: Downloads

Real is announcing today a test version of its new RealPlayer, fully 2.5 years since the product’s last major update and well behind the explosion of web video. We give the company points for trying to add something different to all the other official options out there: a plug-in that helps you download streaming video from anywhere on the web.

The Windows-only (for now) plug-in detects a video on a page and offers the option to download it to a desktop video collection (screenshots below).

The idea is to enable convenient video collecting for enjoyment offline, in the living room, or anywhere else at the user’s convenience. What is lost is the context of a video on a page with the comments and links surrounding it. What’s gained is the opportunity to build a permanent web video library.

The product is free, and Real plans to make money by charging people to burn videos to DVDs (CDs are free). Beyond the RealVideo format, playback works for Windows Media, QuickTime, and most importantly Flash.

As for the obvious question — what about copyright and terms of use violations — Real says it will not download when a video site has wrapped protection around its content. In that case, the plug-in displays a message saying “the provider of this content does not allow downloading or recording.” This is not done through formal arrangements, but rather automatic detection.

In any other case, “When something is streaming it’s in the clear. It’s like TiVo,” Jeff Chasen, Real VP of RealPlayer and Horizontal Products told us.

The beta is to be available in mid-June, though Real promises it will set aside some pre-release accounts for NewTeeVee readers who leave their emails below. Get it fast — we wouldn’t rule out legal challenges in this product’s future!

Here’s a video demo from Andy Plesser at Beet.TV: