Practical Technology

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One Small Step against DRM


One advantage of the Apple TV is that if your DVDs are stored on a server you can watch any or all of them without ever bothering to put a DVD in your player again. The trick was, of course, how to get your DVD into your computer in the first place. Well, actually, that’s not much of a trick. Programs like the open-source HandBrake and Nero 7 Nero 7 make it possible to rip DVDs and covert them into Apple TV friendly MP4 files. The real problem for many people is: “How do you do it legally?”

It’s always been a gray area of the law. The DVD vendors and their DRM (Digital Rights Management) buddies, like the DVD Copy Control Association don’t you want to be able to back-up, never mind copy to a file server, the movie or TV shows you’ve bought. From their viewpoint, you don’t buy a DVD so much as you rent the DVD’s content.

As the dozens of DVD ripping programs on sale everywhere, like Roxio Copy & Convert 3 and Magic DVD Ripper, show these restrictions are more honored in the breech than in the observance. Still, there was always the chance that the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) might try smacking users around the way the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has in the past.

That seems less likely then ever though now that in late March a San Jose, Calif. court has ruled that video server maker Kaleidescape has every right to make products that allow users to copy their DVDs.

Of course, the DVD Copy Control Association is expected to appeal this, and they’re also arguing that, in any case this was a specific case dealing with Kaleidescape breeching a contract, but as the Kaleidescape CEO told Julie Jacobson of CEPro, “The DVD CCA’s most recent filings make it clear that this is a copyright case.”Mr. Coats [the DVD CCA’s attorney] either has not read his client’s filings or he is in a state of denial about the issue. The DVD CCA’s position depends on fair use rights under the copyright law not applying to DVDs.”

The judge danced around the copyright issue in his decision for Kaleidescape, but still it seems to me to be one small step in legalizing what’s already a simple fact: Apple TV, media extender and media server users are already ripping their DVDs onto their computers. The MPAA and friends can try to stop this and the rise of IPTV, but they’ll have just as much success as telling the sun to stop rising.

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