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.