RealNetworks said on Thursday the newest version of its digital music player would allow users to save Internet video like those found on YouTube for viewing at a later time.
The digital media company, whose free software is one of the most popular applications for listening to audio and watching video on the Web, will let consumers grab the clips and also store them on DVDs starting in June.
The software arrives as the market heats up for systems that let enthusiasts take video from the Internet and view it home televisions, phones, or pocket sized digital devices like Apple Inc's iPod.
For example, on Wednesday, Apple said it will put Google Inc's YouTube catalog on television through its Apple TV set-top box.
With RealPlayer, a "download this video" button will hover next to video seen on thousands of Web sites, RealNetworks said. Consumers can download multiple videos simultaneously, including videos in the Flash, Windows Media, and Quicktime formats.
The new version of RealPlayer may also add fuel to the debate over the use of copyrighted programs, a topic that has created a legal firestorm in recent years. Much of that fight centers on YouTube, where users often post copyrighted programs they have saved at home.
Real, which says that some 1.5 million copies of RealPlayer are downloaded daily, says that the program will not download programs prohibited by digital rights management software.
"The technology we have enabled is for personal use, and that is within copyright laws," said RealNetworks General Manager Ben Rotholtz. "But we honor any copy protection."
Forrester analyst James McQuivey said that media companies may in time embrace this technology, but only after safeguards are enforced on YouTube to reduce the mass of illegally uploaded video. Eventually, RealNetworks and the media companies could share in an advertising revenue-sharing system.
"This essentially frees up the content so that it can go anywhere you want to consume it, which means more people will consume it," McQuivey said. "That is why media companies are going to line up behind this."