RAQs: Recently Asked Questions

Topic: Ripping DVDs using DVDSmith - 5/27/2020
I've recently come across a situation where people are ripping DVDs they own to a di...
Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2020 Permalink

MEMBER QUESTION

I've recently come across a situation where people are ripping DVDs they own to a digitized format in Roku. I'm providing the link at the end of this question. My concern is how is this possible? Primarily intended for personal use but I can see where this could expand out to a slippery slope where it is then more individuals get copies, etc. I'd would like the lawyer to weigh in on this: https://www.dvdsmith.com/rip-dvd/stream-dvd-movie-to-tv-with-roku-3.html

WNYLRC ATTORNEY'S RESPONSE

“Slippery slope,” indeed.  The member has identified a battleground in the “1201 wars.”

“1201” is a Section of the Copyright Act.[1]  It bars working around the anti-duplication protections built into certain types of copyrighted works (software, digital entertainment).  It also bars “trafficking” in the technology that can perform those work-arounds.  DVDSmith appears to sell this technology.

For those of you who don’t want to follow the link in the question, I checked out the DVDSmith,[2] and here is their “About” description:

DVDSmith Inc. (www.dvdsmith.com) is a multimedia software company that develops and markets DVD copy, DVD ripper programs for both Windows and Mac platforms. DVDSmith products will circumvent the copy-protection schemes used on commercial DVDs and enable you to make copies of store-bought DVDs.”

I puttered around the site a bit, not just taking their word for what they are.  And while I didn’t delve too deep,[3] as the member points out, the particular product linked to the question does boast the ability to enable streaming of non-supported formats to HDTV via the Roku 3.  It claims to do so by enabling the conversion of those files from other formats, a process that can require getting around (“circumventing”) access control technology.[4]

Is such conversion and duplication always wrong?  No.  While 1201 can bar the type of copyright “circumvention”[5] described by DVDSmith, and can also bar anti-circumvention tech,

1201 also creates permanent and temporary[6] exemptions to one or more of the statute’s prohibitions, including exemptions for educators and libraries

Here is the text of the permanent exemption for libraries:

(d) Exemption for nonprofit libraries, archives, and educational institutions.

(1) A nonprofit library, archives, or educational institution which gains access to a commercially exploited copyrighted work solely in order to make a good faith determination of whether to acquire a copy of that work for the sole purpose of engaging in conduct permitted under this title shall not be in violation of subsection (a)(1)(A). A copy of a work to which access has been gained under this paragraph—

(A) may not be retained longer than necessary to make such good faith determination; and

(B) may not be used for any other purpose.

(2) The exemption made available under paragraph (1) shall only apply with respect to a work when an identical copy of that work is not reasonably available in another form.

Is your head starting to hurt?  You’re not alone.

This combination of strong prohibitions and well-defined exceptions creates the “1201 contradiction,” where some circumventions of copyright controls are expressly allowed—but selling to enable them may be illegal. 

There is a ton of thorough analysis out there on “1201,” and this “contradiction.”  It comes from a range of perspectives: the entertainment and software industries (whose general position is that the rules aren’t strict enough), the innovation, information, and academic sectors (whose general position is that the rules are too strict) and government (whose general approach is to try and please everybody, and as usual, makes nobody happy).  

To sample the variety of 1201 analysis, try reviewing the materials at:

https://www.copyright.gov/1201/

…and then reading the materials at:

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/10/new-exemptions-dmca-section-1201-are-welcome-dont-go-far-enough

Once you recover from the whiplash of these diverging priorities and opinions, you’ll realize anew that just like the Marvel Universe, the Copyright Universe has numerous alternate realities.

To answer the member’s question: what is my take on this?

The member is right to feel cautious about the products offered by DVDSmith, since under 1201, the capability described could violate the law.  But there ARE exceptions to what 1201 bars, and libraries should be ready to exercise them, advocate for them, and make sure they are meeting their needs.

My deepest feeling is that like Section 108, the basics of Section 1201 should be taught in library school, and each librarian ready to advocate for the position they feel serves the public.

Thanks for a great question!

 



[2] How about a question about copyright protections for the mountain vistas of the Adirondacks, or a trademark on the culture of Martha’s Vineyard? 

[3] It had the same vibe as a site for dubious herbal remedies.

[4] Hello, FBI. No, I did not download the software and do a test run with my “13th Warrior” DVD.

[5] As defined in the statute, to “circumvent” generally refers to acts such as avoiding, bypassing, removing, deactivating, or impairing tech that prevents copying. See 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(3)(A), (b)(2)(A).

Tags: Copyright, Digitization and Copyright, Ripping/burning, Section 1201

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