Is it illegal for one use a ripping and decoding software to rip his or her own DVD collection? Does the Digital Millennium Copyright Act make it illegal? I was always under the impression that a person may make legal copies of his or her own DVD collection. This question comes after reading a CNET story titled: “White House wants new copyright law crackdown.”

Under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it's generally illegal to distribute hardware or software -- such as the DVD-decoding software Handbrake available from a server in France -- that can "circumvent" copy protection technology. The administration is proposing that if Homeland Security seizes circumvention devices, it be permitted to "inform rightholders," "provide samples of such devices," and assist "them in bringing civil actions."

Personally, I have ripped nearly everyone of my 150+ legally bought and paid for DVDs with Handbreak. Now I am not sure if I did it legally. I have the original DVD for nearly everyone of the ripped videos. There are few that I missing after some of my DVD collection was destoryed due to a rocket attack during my first deployment to Iraq.

That attack is what prompted me to continue ripping. If had not rip the movies before that event, I would have been out of some cash. As a side note, I did lose some movies/dvds forever because of the attack.

Since I continue to serve overseas in non-friendly areas, this is a hot subject. I want to keep my movie collection protected and backed up. Not to mention, it is more convenient to carry around a small portalable hard drive with my collection campared to a large and heavy folder(s) of DVDs.

BONUS: Are there any legit groups who is working with the U.S. law-makers to get the DMCA and/or Fair Use Policy updated? I agree that we need it but I believe there are many flaws with these laws.

  • Since you are backing them up for your own personal use you should be fine under the "Fair Use Policy" just don't start sharing them on the internet lol – Riguez Mar 21 '11 at 2:57
  • @jb48394: Thanks to the RIAA, in some countries that's actually illegal if copy protection has to be circumvented. – Randolf Richardson Mar 21 '11 at 3:04
  • I value my freedom. I do not distribute of my stuff. Plus I am currently in Afghanistan. The internet sucks here. I am just lucky that I am able to get Super User to come up. – SgtOJ Mar 21 '11 at 3:10
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    I sympathize with you wanting to copy your stuff -- I'm in Canada, and I like to have backup copies of my music and movies as well, especially to let my young children handle the copies instead of the originals. I believe copy protection went out in the Commodore 64 era back in the 1980s, and the RIAA is simply barking up the wrong tree as they seem to be limiting everyone's freedoms instead of focusing on a solution. – Randolf Richardson Mar 21 '11 at 3:16

Yes, under the DMCA it is illegal if you had to break the copy protection in order to do so. The Wikipedia article on the DMCA describes it this way. The bit that applies to copies is in bold.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. In addition, the DMCA heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet.

There are exemptions to the DMCA which are listed in the linked article. As far as I can tell, it doesn't include making copies for private use.

The DMCA is a U.S. law and applies only in the United States and its territories. It's based on provisions of the World Intellectual Property Organization treaties. Many other countries have laws that implement these treaties, although in different ways.

I'm not a lawyer. You should consult one in your country to obtain qualified advice.

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It depends on which country you're in. If you're not in any country at all (e.g., you're on international land, which I believe can be found at most aeroports/airports), then there may be other requirements you have to be aware of.

Since laws do change unpredictably, the best thing to do is to consult a qualified lawyer who has experience with "intellectual property" in your country (or countries) to get an interpretation of the law that will be useful to you.

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Simple answer is if you are breaking the copyright protection then yes it is illegal. It is one of those things though where if you are only ripping them for your personal use and not distribution then you are not going to get in trouble for it. So, yes it is technically illegal, but you will be fine in your scenario.

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