Can I copy rented DVD movies from places like Netflix & Blockbuster?

You may remember the story of 321 Studios – they were to the Hollywood Studios/MPAA what Napster was to the Music Industry/RIAA. Long story short: Hollywood had 321 Studios shut down for selling DVD copy software with Content Scrambling System (CSS) copy-protection ripping technology. Hollywood won on the basis that according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), DVD burning software and/or hardware products cannot be sold in the US if they contain technology that circumvents CSS. The 321 judgment did not, however, specify that individuals cannot or do not have the right to backup DVD content. Or to put another way, US software companies cannot sell software with CSS rippers, but individuals probably have the right to make backup copies of movies they own as provided by the Fair Use Provision of the Copyright Act of 1976. So individuals can buy DVD ripping software and copy their DVD movies, they just can’t buy CSS-ripping DVD burning software from US software companies. In the post-DVDXCopy world, most consumers buy fully-supported DVD copy software online and then separately download one of the many free public domain rippers available from countless offshore websites.

So, can you copy movies from Netflix & Blockbuster?

Yes, No & Maybe.

(1) From a technical standpoint: Yes, it is relatively easy to copy any DVD whether the movie is borrowed, rented or purchased. You can buy fully supported software such as DVD next Copy or 1 Click DVD Copy to quickly and easily copy any DVD movie. There are several DVD Copy Software review sites that rank, review and compare all the Best DVD burning software programs side-by-side.

(2) From a legal standpoint: Yes, Maybe and No.

2a – Yes: If you have purchased a pre-owned DVD from Blockbuster or Netflix, under the Fair Use provision of 1976, you most probably have the right to make a backup copy of your DVD. You own this DVD and can copy, convert and re-format the digital content for your own personal use.

2b – Maybe: – according to the newer Hollywood sponsored Digital Millennium Copyright Act, you may not be able to copy a DVD that you own if it contains CSS protection (which almost all commercial DVDs do).

In other words, Fair Use probably provides you with the right to copy your DVDs, but the DMCA says that you can’t. More importantly, there are many types of DVD copy software that can copy commercial DVD movies and there is no way a third party can track a backup DVD copy. Furthermore, no consumer has ever been prosecuted or pursued legally for making a backup copy of a DVD for personal use.

2c. – No: If you are renting and ripping DVDs, this is clearly not legal. Although it is technically very easy to copy rented DVD movies and virtually impossible to trace, it is clearly neither legal nor moral to do so.

One final note: There seems to be no middle ground between a fair digital content distribution business model and the consumer’s fair use rights. Copyright holders need to be protected, but it’s not fair that consumers have to pay multiple times for the same content. You should be able to pay for one movie ONE time and be able to watch it on all different formats and devices. We should NOT have to pay multiple times for DVD, HD DVD Blu-Ray, iPod, PSP, mobile phones, etc. etc. Until a fair business model is developed, there will always be DVD copy software programs out there like 1 Click DVD Copy and DVDneXtCopy that enable users to rip, convert, burn and copy their DVD movies.


Why Should I Pay for DVD Copy Software?

Every day thousands of consumers scour the Internet via Google, Yahoo and MSN to find information on the best DVD copy software. By the time consumers finish researching this topic, they are often more confused than they were at the start. This blog entry is intended to explore some issues that are not addressed in many of the forums or review sites and to provide some clarity on the choices currently available in the market…from free DVD copy freeware programs to fully supported retail programs.

In the late 1990’s, when DVD technology was first introduced into the market, commercial DVDs were (and are still today) shipped with a form of copy protection called “CSS”. The Content Scramble System (CSS) is a Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme used on almost all commercially produced DVD-Video discs. In order for computer users to make a backup copy of a CSS-protected DVD, they must first remove CSS protection (i.e. “rip”) the video content off the source DVD disc onto a computer hard drive, then the computer will process and likely compress this digital video content, and then burn the digital video back onto a blank DVDR disc in a DVD burner. The resulting DVD backup copy no longer has CSS copy-protection and can be played back on a computer or a set-top DVD player. This is an over-simplified version of a very complex set of processes, but for the average consumer it is a solid overview.

Most retail versions of DVD copy software do not include CSS ripping technology. This means you can copy unprotected DVD discs, such as those you create with a camcorder, but these programs will not copy commercial DVDs without some type of third party “ripping” program. In 2001, a startup company named 321 Studios tried to develop and market software programs that included a DVD copy software program with a CSS ripper. The company justified selling its “DVD X Copy” products by claiming that consumers have the right to make backup copies (of movies they own or create) for personal use. The Hollywood studios sued the developers of DVDXCopy and the company was shut down. While it has been ruled in the USA that companies cannot develop, sell, market or support technology that violate a law called the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act), it is not necessarily illegal for consumers to make personal copies of copyrighted materials as provided under the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act of 1976. In other words, consumers can buy and copy DVD movies that they own, but companies in the United States cannot sell DVD copy software with CSS-ripping technology. Post DVDXCOPY, the market has addressed this issue by developing, marketing and supporting DVD burning software without CSS rippers. These software companies then provide indirect guidance to public domain rippers that seamlessly integrate into the DVD burning software program. In other words, you can buy a legal DVD copying software program, locate, download and make a one-time installation of one of the many 3rd party De-CSS programs, and you will then have a fully integrated, seamless DVD burning and ripping program that can copy ANY DVD movie. As with the technical process described above, the legal issues are interesting and complex, and will be addressed later in a subsequent blog entry.

The good news is that for commercial DVDs that only have CSS copy protection, consumers most likely do not need to pay for any additional software. Most Windows-based computer systems are bundled with some type of standard CD & DVD burning software. All you then need to do is find a free DVD ripper and you will be able to copy most of the older commercial DVD movie releases. The downside to “free” DVD copying is that this will be a several-to-many step process and there is no customer support so you will have to find online guides and forums to learn the process as well as help you to resolve DVD ripping and/or burning session failures.

The biggest problem with free DVD software solutions is that almost all new releases of DVD movies include CSS copy-protection, as well as potentially dozens of new “add-on” copy protection schemes designed to prevent copying of DVD movies. Additionally, newer protection schemes are developed by the Hollywood studios on a regular basis that are designed to make the DVD copying process as difficult as possible. DVD burning software programs that include or are used in conjunction with a free CSS ripper WILL NOT copy a DVD movie with these extra protections. Some of the more well known CSS add-on copy protection methods and technologies include:

• Illegal or Bad Sectors
• RipGuard
• SecuROM
• SafeDisc
• Sony ARccOS

In this way, each new release of DVD movie has become like a computer “virus” in that the DVD copy software needs to be updated in real-time, just like anti-virus software, in order for consumers to be able to copy the latest DVD releases. The best DVD burning software programs now include a “heuristic” notification feature that is very similar to anti-virus software in that they instantly notify users through the software program interface (in real time) that the programs should be updated via an instant download. The better the program support and frequency of updates, the higher the rate for DVD copying and burning success.

In conclusion, YES, you should consider buying a fully supported, frequently updated DVD copy software program. This is now the only way to guarantee that you can quickly, easily and seamlessly one-click copy all DVD movies, including the latest releases. There are literally dozens of DVD copy software products on the market. DVD X Copy used to be the best but is now obsolete. The best DVD burning programs on the market today are 1 Click DVD Copy (easiest) and DVD next Copy Pro (the best). These two developers sell the largest volume of CSS-integrated DVD copying products and therefore maintain the largest development teams and testing & support staffs, enabling them to sell products with the highest rate of burning success for the newest DVD movies. There are many other retail programs out there, but you will need to wait longer (sometimes MUCH longer) to be able to copy new movies. To learn more about retail DVD burning programs, check out the best DVD burning software.