I have quite a few DVD's in my collection that my wife has little interest in watching (usually because they are a bit violent or intense - like my 24, Donnie Brasco, Highlander, etc). I also have a video iPod , and I decided that I wanted to have the option of watching my videos on long flights, in addition to the audiobooks I listen to.
One option, of course, is to buy video content through iTunes - and I've certainly done that a few times. However, I already own copies of these movies so why should I have to pay twice just to see them on my little iPod screen?
There are several problems that prevent me from just copying these videos to my iPod:
- iTunes is not capable of ripping DVD's the way it rips CD's
- most commercial DVD's are encrypted with CSS (Content Scrambling System) so my (also legally purchased) copy of Nero 7 Ultra Edition will not rip them
- the copy protection laws under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) make it illegal to circumvent CSS
Let the research begin!
How fair is Fair Use?
I understand that the DMCA exists to protect content producers / owners, and I agree that stealing videos or music is unethical. However, under "Fair Use," consumers are allowed to make a backup copy of a CD or DVD and can store the original and watch the backup. This is no different from copying the DVD to your iPod, putting the original away and watching the backup that's stored on your iPod.
The problem is that the DMCA makes it illegal to circumvent the CSS encryption used on the DVD's, so you cannot make unencrypted copies of the content. This effectively prohibits you from watching your licensed video on one of the video devices you own, and seems a little ludicrous to me.
Nonetheless, the motion picture industry is taking a hard line to try to prevent consumers from watching their CSS-protected DVD's anywhere else. Only changes in legislation will make this any better, so if you're in the US and you don't like this Draconian approach, contact your representative in Congress and let them know how you feel about this.
What are the options?
The only means allowable under the DMCA is, apparently, to take your DVD's with you and watch them on a laptop or DVD player.
What about transferring your DVD to the iPod? If it's CSS-encrypted, your legal option is to purchase the content in iTunes (assuming it's available there).
I'll also share that, in doing some research via Google, I found that there are some free device drivers (try searching for DVD43, for example) that (on Windows XP at least) claim to allow you to use your DVD ripping software on commercial DVD's. From there, it should be a simple matter of using your ripping software to convert the video to MP4 format on your hard drive, adding the movie to iTunes, and synching it to your iPod. By the way - I also noticed that Nero Recode (a module included as part of Nero 7 Ultra Edition) has a preset for output to iPod compatible video.
If this approach works (remember, never rip anything you haven't paid for and don't share them with anyone else!) you will be able to use your iPod to watch your own DVD collection on the road.