Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have some relatively young children and when I got a faster computer, I gave them my old one. For the moment, I am keeping that computer entirely off network, but I would like to be able to put a few movies or tv shows on it for them.

But I am being stymied in looking for a legal way to do this. I would love to be wrong, but I believe rippin a DVD generally violates the DMCA, so I cannot go that route. When buyin movies that are supposed to come with a digital copy, installing the digital copy virtually always requires an internet connection and is not (at least in a reasonably easy and legal way) transferrable to another computer which is not networked. I cannot find any site that would legally sell decent show downloads which are not heavily encumbered by DRM that also often requires an internet connection, even for government supported programs like Nova on PBS.

So, are there any options I am overlooking?

share|improve this question
I think this is more of a legal matter than computer related, so VTC - but, I would say, why not network it and use parental tools to restrict internet usage? – William Hilsum Nov 18 '11 at 19:55
Is playing a DVD from the DVD-ROM drive out of the question? Does the computer not have the hardware to read DVDs? – iglvzx Nov 18 '11 at 20:07
@WilliamHilsum My primary reasons for not networking are physical rather than control. My router is downstairs and their computer is upstairs, so physical is out. I could use wifi, but that computer is older and doesn't have wifi built in. I could add that of course but I'm reluctant to spend money doing that for a computer that has no reason to get on the network other than accessing silly DRM servers.. – TimothyAWiseman Nov 18 '11 at 20:29
@iglvzx We occassionally use DVD's now, but that is much less convenient (Small DVD collection of mostly kids shows is downstairs with the only TV) and while my son handles them quite well, my daughter is much younger than him and has a tendency of using them like frisbees. – TimothyAWiseman Nov 18 '11 at 20:30
ripping dvds is probably legal for personal use. IANAL, nor do i play one on TV, so do not take this as legal advice ;) – Journeyman Geek Dec 8 '11 at 1:37
up vote 8 down vote accepted

No, you're not missing anything. If you intend to abide by the strictest letter of the law, you either hook the system up to the internet, find freely available kid-friendly non-DRMed content, or go without.

What in particular are you worried about?

If you're worried about acting unethically, ripping DVDs that you already own for the purposes of easier viewing (and keeping grubby little hands away from shiny discs) is pretty hard to argue against unless you're conflating legality and morality.

If you're worried about doing something that's technically illegal and having to defend that action to your children, Parenting.SE is that-a-way.

If you're worried about someone finding out what you've done and being arrested, please tighten up your tin foil hat. (Unless you're distributing the files via P2P, which is a whole different ball of wax.)

If you need a pointer to some software to help the process along, it's hard to beat MakeMKV and HandBrake.

share|improve this answer
Heh. Ethically, I think it is a somewhat complex question. I think ripping DVD's ought to be legal. But I also think that people ought to obey the law (except in cases where obeying the law is patently unethical, but that is fortunately a fairly rare issue in the US compared to say Nazi Germany). My goal is to find options that are entirely legal. – TimothyAWiseman Nov 18 '11 at 20:38
It appears that I disagree with your view on the ethics of DVD ripping (presuming that you don't share/distribute copies, keep the discs, etc.), but you're the one who has to live with yourself at the end of the day, not me. :-) So I don't have much more to offer than to wish you good luck and to urge you to post your resolution for others who are looking for something similar. – afrazier Nov 18 '11 at 21:16

Stick to movies that are now in the public domain, and thus can legally be copied however you please. Or lobby your representatives to get the law changed to permit people who have legally acquired a copy of a movie to copy it for their own use without Hollywood's approval.

share|improve this answer
I don't think it matters if the material is public domain if the DVD is CSS protected. I suppose there's VHS capturing, as long as they're not protected with MacroVision. – afrazier Nov 18 '11 at 20:02

I believe that DMCA only applies to breaking the encryption on the DVD. I am not a lawyer, but I do not believe that it applies to making a disk image out of the DVD. You can then load DVD images onto your kids machines and use legal DVD image mounting software (such as Daemon Tools) to allow your kids to watch them. The interface is pretty user friendly, so you should be able to teach your kids to use it.

share|improve this answer
If you just make an image of a CSS-encrypted DVD with "regular" reading software, you don't get a copy of the key required to decrypt the stream. Those are stored in the lead-in area. You still have to crack the encryption to actually watch the movie. – afrazier Dec 8 '11 at 2:44
I am also not a lawyer, but I believe you would run into the problem that afrazier described. Worse, many DVDs include "anti-ripping" technology like RipGaurd from Macrovision. They have all been cracked, but employing the tools to bypass them would violate the DMCA. – TimothyAWiseman Dec 8 '11 at 17:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .