Real Networks has a nifty new service dubbed RealDVD. You can basically load all of your DVDs into your computer’s hard drive — legally — so that you can watch them on the computer.

RealDVD takes an exact copy of a DVD and puts it on the hard drive. It looks up the cover art for the movie so you can see it on a graphical menu. You can even play a movie while you’re saving it to the hard drive. For those with large collections, you can save it to an external hard drive. Those movies show up in your screen guide to your entire collection. You can sort through them by movie, genre, rating, or actor.

You can sort through the collection easily and resume movies where you were last watching them. It plays back from a hard disk drive. The limit, of course, is hard drive space. It takes maybe eight gigabytes of space to store a movie and perhaps 20 minutes to copy it to the PC. There are parental controls.

You can do the same thing with a Kaleidescape DVD storage system, but those cost $10,000 or more. Other rivals are Flip4Mac, Drive-In, Magic DVD Ripper, SlySoft, AnyDVD, and Xilisoft DVD Ripper. Kaleidescape won a legal ruling against the movie industry that paved the way for RealDVD, which is legal because it adds a layer of digital rights management and because it retains the original copy protection on the DVD. The DRM layer allows you to copy it to USB drives and view it on a total of five PCs.