Is It Legal to Copy a DVD?
By David LaGesse
Recent court rulings have tightened studio controls over the movies they sell on disks.
Consumers are accustomed to copying music disks to their computers, making it easy to transfer them to portable MP3 players like the iPod. Many wonder why they can't do the same with movies on DVD. Two recent court rulings nixed novel approaches that sought to make it easy and legal for consumers to copy DVDs to computers and elsewhere. Here's a quick guide to what the courts have said, what it means to consumers, and if and when we can hope to legally copy a DVD.
What stops a DVD from being copied?
When movie studios were preparing to release movies in a digital format for distribution on disks, they learned from the mistakes of the music industry.
So it's illegal to copy a DVD? Interestingly, no.
Judges have said that consumers have a right to copy a DVD for their own use--say, for backing it up to another disk or perhaps watching it on another device, such as an iPod. That's the same "fair use" rule that made it legal to tape television shows for watching later, perhaps on a different TV. The problem is that consumers can't duplicate DVDs without software tools that get around the copy protection on those disks. It is those tools that
Is it still legal to copy a CD?
The same fair use doctrine allows consumers to copy their music disks to computers and other devices. Because CDs don't have anything to protect them from being copied, it's also legal to distribute software for "ripping" them to a PC's hard drive. The ripping software doesn't have to circumvent any anticopy protections.
Who tried to loosen
Kaleidescape is a product that copies and stores DVDs on a hard drive in a proprietary and expensive home system. RealDVD did essentially the same thing, only it used the PCs that consumers already own, and it cost just
Why did the studios sue?
Even if such a system prevented a copy from being distributed, movie executives argued that it hurt sales. Consumers could "rent, rip, and return." Nothing stopped rented DVDs from being copied to the Kaleidescape and RealDVD systems. The studios argued that Kaleidescape and RealDVD broke a DVD licensing agreement, and that RealDVD circumvented copy protections and thus violated federal law.
What's the fallout? The court said RealDVD can't be sold.
Isn't there still software for ripping DVDs?
Plenty of tools can be found on the Internet for sale, or even free downloading, that make it reasonably easy to copy DVDs. Some even work on the stronger software that protects high-definition, Blu-ray disks. But you won't find them in stores. Producing or distributing such software would appear to be illegal in
Will stores ever sell tools to copy DVDs?
Some moviemakers are experimenting with DVDs that include an extra digital copy, either on the original disk or a second disk. Some will allow the second copy to be transferred to portable devices. It's unclear if any particular approach will catch on, or how much consumers will have to pay. Most studios are also experimenting with digital downloads, and some are looking into other media, including memory cards. Besides fighting piracy,
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Mortimer B. Zuckerman
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