Do You Know How To Copy A DVD?

By: Robert Barnard

Many people “burn" copies of their CD’s - Compact Discs - making copies of music, e-books, data files and just about everything else. But what about DVD’s? Do you know how to copy a DVD and is it legal?

Let’s look at the legal issues first, and then we’ll examine how you go about copying a DVD -- a movie, for example, to a writable disc. Many of us are used to copying files to a CD - using “drag and drop" technology, which involves dragging some files across your computer screen and releasing them to the drive where the CD rests. But copying a DVD involves quite a bit more and there are legal problems to consider.

Before we even get started on exactly how to copy a DVD, you need to become familiar with two important terms - encryption and copyright law. LEGAL DISCLAIMER TIME: Now, I am not an attorney and do not play one in real life so make sure you consult one in your area of residence before doing anything on your own with this information. From what I understand it’s perfectly legal to burn a copy of a DVD - if it’s for your private use in your own home as a backup copy. For example - say you have an extensive collection of DVD movies, but you are worried about your DVD’s getting scratched from using them so much - so you may want to make copies of all these DVD’s and keep them in a safe place in case some of them get scratched. That’s fine.

But if your DVD is encrypted (as most movies are) - most software that allows you to make copies won’t get around the encryption. (There are multiple sources that offer this type of software now, but it’s up to you to find them.) Bottom line - if it’s encrypted, you’re not supposed to be able to copy it. Why? Because copyright law says you need to pay a royalty to the person or studio or whoever made the DVD - otherwise you’re guilty of copyright infringement. If you copy only those videos for your own use, you’re probably ok, but start burning them and selling them on eBay you’ll be in trouble with the Hollywood studio system and the government in a hurry.

In the interest of protecting … well, their interests, Hollywood studios came up with a little encryption system known as CSS or Content Scrambling System. This encryption doesn’t have anything to do with free speech issues - it’s all about money! The Hollywood studios figure that if they put all their cash into making the movie, the least you can do is pay them a royalty. It’s amazing how many people aren’t willing to do that, which is why the software was developed that allows you to go around the encryption. Otherwise your DVD copies just would not work.

Now, of course the Hollywood studios and a very few others have the so-called “keys" to this system - after all, they designed it! But the rest of the non-paying public has to depend on those free, independent spirits out there to come up with a way around that encryption, as indeed they did.

Circumventing this encryption is generally known in the biz as “ripping" a DVD (and of course copying the files to your computer hard drive) - see, you’re already well on your way to becoming a computer geek - “geek talk" and all. If you rip the DVD to the hard drive of your computer, you can tell if the size will fit on a regular DVD. If not, you’ll need to make one of the choices available to you - such as compressing the data, removing or splitting part of it so it takes up less space.

When choosing a software package that will allow you to rip DVD‘s you’ll need to choose one that fits your needs. By that I mean there are packages out there that will allow you to do it all - rip, compress, remove or split data, in addition to utilities that will let you play with the settings on your DVD and affect the quality of your final copy. If you’re not a computer geek, you may not need all those extra features - the quality between a typical DVD and one that’s been ripped is usually very slight to the average user. If you plan on going in the geek direction, you may want a higher quality end product - in other words, if you’re picky, choose a program with more features that gives you more control.

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