Quick – what’s the legal difference between ripping a CD and ripping a DVD? Ripping a DVD is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and could get you sued. Unlike CDs, DVDs are protected by a digital lock. The mere act of breaking that lock – even for a legitimate purpose – is a violation of the DMCA.
Fortunately, the DMCA also has a built-in mechanism to deal with situations where it prevents people from doing legitimate things. And that’s why we need your help to make sure that DVD ripping is granted an exemption from the DMCA.
Every three years, the Copyright Office has to consider requests for exemptions to section 1201 of the DMCA that prevents breaking or circumventing digital locks. This year, Public Knowledge requested a broad exemption to Section 1201 that you can use. The exemption would allow anyone who lawfully owns a motion picture (that includes TV shows) on DVD to break the digital lock on that DVD in order to copy the motion picture to another device for noncommercial purposes. That would include devices that don’t even have DVD drives like your smartphone, or your iPad, or even your fancy laptop.
While this strikes us as an eminently reasonable request, here in DC that’s not always enough to make something happen. We need to convince the Copyright Office that people actually want and need this exemption. That’s where we need your help. Click here to tell the Copyright Office that you own motion pictures on DVD, you own devices with screens, and that you would like the ability to break the digital locks on those DVDs in order to move those motion pictures on to those devices.
In the past, the Copyright Office has granted exemptions for college professors who want to show portions of motion pictures to their classes, documentary filmmakers who want to use portions of a motion picture in their documentary, security testing of computer programs, and “jail breaking” mobile phones, among others. This year, with your help, that list can include everyone who wants to rip their own DVD.