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Data Storage Media The Courts

Can You Be Sued For Helping Clients Rip DVDs? 231

Posted by timothy
from the ooh-jah-you-betcha-probly dept.
DRMer writes "CE Pro has a series of stories that tries to untangle the legalities of DVD ripping in light of the recent RealDVD announcement from RealNetworks. In one of the stories, EFF Attorney Fred von Lohmann discusses the potential liability of those who resell or install DVD-ripping machines (the courts have yet to rule). Another article provides a rather amusing look at how manufacturers justify the legality of their products. Here's one example: 'We are just like Microsoft Vista that does not have a CSS [Content Scramble System] license.'"
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Can You Be Sued For Helping Clients Rip DVDs?

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  • Yes (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 11, 2008 @02:49PM (#24966671)

    It's called aiding and abetting and it's a crime.

  • by JohnHegarty (453016) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @02:49PM (#24966685) Homepage

    You can be sued for anything, the question is can you be successfully sued

  • It is not interesting if you can be sued (as mentioned by others, you always can be).

    There are two questions that should be answerd:
    1) is it right or wrong?
    2) is it legal or illegal?

    If 1 and 2 give different answers than the law should be updated.
    Lawsuits often don't answer any of the questions (which is actually a very bad thing).
    Of course answering question 1 is the tough one.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @02:57PM (#24966851) Homepage

    If those suing are the same as those who successfully lobbied for the law, then the answer is almost certainly yes.

  • In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @02:58PM (#24966865)
    Maybe we should sue Craftsman for making hammers and chainsaws, since those might be used as murder weapons. Or perhaps Raid for making bug spray, since it could conceivably be used to poison someone. Or architects for designing tall buildings since a suicidal person might jump off of them. How about manufacturers of ropes or chains, since those might be used to hang somebody?

    Why do we collectively accept this madness when it's copyright that we don't accept otherwise? There are legitimate reasons to rip a DVD, and there are also uses of a DVD ripper that violate copyright. A hammer can help to build a house to shelter a family, or it can be used by a criminal to bludgeon someone to death. In principle, I see no fundamental difference here.
  • MPAA/RIAA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:00PM (#24966891) Homepage Journal

    They keep telling us we're buying a license to listen/view the content they are selling to us.

    But then they try to lock it down to the actual media.

    If I pay for the content, let me rip it so I can use it on my own hardware, the way I see fit (MPAA/RIAA calm down, that doesn't include giving away nor selling copies to others). Also, why do I have to pay full price to get a replacement CD/DVD, my content license has already been paid.

  • Re:Of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by compro01 (777531) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:00PM (#24966897)

    With the current US system, you lose practically automatically as you're out a reasonably large amount of money in legal fees. Sure, you can counter-sue for your costs, but that could very well be several years down the road.

    This is why the RIAA's sue-them-all-and-sort-it-out-later campaign has enjoyed such success. the cost of the settlement is significantly less than the cost of fighting it in court, regardless of the validity of their claims.

  • Re:In other news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by corsec67 (627446) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:01PM (#24966907) Homepage Journal

    The hammer lobby in DC isn't big enough.

  • How to speed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:01PM (#24966909)

    1. Take note of the posted speed limit. On many major highways it is generally 55 or 65 MPH, but this varies from region to region. Better to check first.

    2. Press down on the accelerator of your vehicle until your speedometer indicates that you are traveling at a speed higher than the posted speed limit.

    3. Maintain a rate of travel above this speed by keeping the accelerator depressed and by not hitting your break pedal.

    Now I guess I can be sued if you ever get a speeding ticket.

     

  • Re:In other news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:06PM (#24966997)

    The hammer lobby in DC isn't big enough.

    Haha that's a good answer. But still. That only explains the source of this madness. It does not explain why we (collectively) would ever put up with it for one minute. The cynic in me thinks that the average American doesn't have a single thought in their head that the media didn't put there, and you can rest assured that such messages are bought and paid for. I really think that many years from now, this will be considered a Dark Age because it represents the near-death of critical thinking and independent inquiry and the importance of those two things cannot be overstated. Still, I don't see this situation as inevitable or immutable in any way.

  • by corsec67 (627446) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:09PM (#24967031) Homepage Journal

    (Note, I am very libertarian)

    I would disagree with you on that.

    Laws should only intervene when your actions directly harm another person. So, only a subset of "wrong" should be illegal.

    When talking about psychological harm "wrong" gets very muddy. Does protecting people under 18 from any sexual information help or hurt [amazon.com]?

    Is it wrong to be rude to someone? Should that be illegal?

  • by oGMo (379) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:09PM (#24967041)

    If 1 and 2 give different answers than the law should be updated.

    They will always give different answers. (legal, illegal) doesn't match (right, wrong).

    And, on a serious note, nor should they. The question of what is "right" or "wrong" differs between a lot of people. Things like the first amendment address the right to say things that others might consider wrong. Should the law be updated so people can't say "wrong" things? I didn't think so. This simple test may be pithy, but it's not sufficient.

  • by causality (777677) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:14PM (#24967109)

    If 1 and 2 give different answers than the law should be updated.

    They will always give different answers. (legal, illegal) doesn't match (right, wrong).

    And, on a serious note, nor should they. The question of what is "right" or "wrong" differs between a lot of people. Things like the first amendment address the right to say things that others might consider wrong. Should the law be updated so people can't say "wrong" things? I didn't think so. This simple test may be pithy, but it's not sufficient.

    To me this is much simpler than what you're presenting. To me the First Amendment is a recognition that trying to determine what speech is right and wrong is, in itself, far more wrong (dangerous) than anything that anyone could say. Wherever possible the law should work this way since you are correct, morality and legality are two entirely separate issues. Handling things this way wherever possible recognizes not only that they are separate issues, but also that it is not the province of the State to declare what is moral.

  • Re:In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by corsec67 (627446) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:17PM (#24967157) Homepage Journal

    I agree with you about the media thing. The "infinity+" copyrights are a horrible abomination on the public.

    The other thing is that the US isn't a democracy, especially at the federal level, so it really doesn't matter what "the people" want. Just look at the War on Drugs.

  • Tedious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kidcharles (908072) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:19PM (#24967181)
    There is an inherent stupidity to much of what goes on in the new frontier of digital media. Tivos don't allow 30 second skipping to mollify the networks, but I can install MythTV and skip as much or as little as I want. Ipods are built to be crippled with DRM and the inability to move files from one player to the other, but anyone can go out and legally purchase an MP3 player from a different manufacturer that allows you to move files onto it or off of it without restriction. Anyone with minimal savvy can use the publicly-available DeCSS code to rip as many DVDs as they want onto their home media server and have been able to do that for years, but now the Copyright Patrol has its panties in a bunch over boxes that are dedicated to this function. The discourse is fundamentally stupid.
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lysergic.acid (845423) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:21PM (#24967207) Homepage

    how is it illegal to take something you purchased, and rightfully own, and convert it to a format that better suits your purposes. if i want to rip all my DVDs and CDs onto my hard drive, that is my prerogative. as long as i'm not distributing them illegally, it falls completely within fair use.

    just like, if i have a child who is blind, and i want to take all the books i've bought her and record myself reading them aloud so that she may listen to the books when i'm not around, that is not a crime--not yet, at least.

  • by mcgrew (92797) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:24PM (#24967227) Homepage Journal

    I would say that in this case, #1 is subjective, #2 is not. The law is written down, if a judge has ruled that the law is legal then it's legal. For instance, the SCOTUS has said that when it comes to copyright, "limited" means whatever congress says it means, despite all logic and reason.

    A movie studio would disagree with me on whether there is harm; I would say "no", he would say "yes" (althogh the MPAA said through its spokesthing that "the VCR is to the movies industry as Jack the Ripper was to women"; obviously Mr. Valenti was a shortsighted fool for saying that).

    Legal != "right" and illegal != "wrong". Adultery causes great harm; nothing in my life ever came close to hurting me as much as my ex-wife's adultery. You will never convince me it isn't wrong. Yet adultery is perfectly legal, and the only bearing it has on a divorce is it is grounds for divorce. yet if I have a joint in my pocket it harms no one, yet having a joint in my pocket is illegal.

  • CSS license (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bloater (12932) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:25PM (#24967237) Homepage Journal

    They could get a CSS licence from somebody else other than the DVD-CCA. The DVD-CCA has no special authority to license the use of a CSS descrambler than any content producer.

    Since CSS isn't a trade secret anymore (it is PD knowledge now) nobody is prohibited from implementing it on trade secret grounds.

    Since CSS was never patented, nobody is prohibited from implementing it on patent grounds.

    Since each CSS implementation is an independent work rather than derived, nobody is prohibited from implementing it on copyright grounds.

    I'll give them a licence for free. Here you go. I hereby license you all, each and every one.

  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mweather (1089505) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:31PM (#24967315)

    Helping people to install software to perform what is considered to be fair use ... that has yet to be determined.

    I'm fairly certain the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA have been tested in court, specifically in relation to backing up DVDs. Remember 321 Studios?

  • by Rude Turnip (49495) <valuation@gmail. c o m> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:31PM (#24967325)

    Basically mob rule. Nothing will ever get done (esp. your nuclear power example) if the crowds are just going to change their minds that often and change their votes. And you thought bureaucracy was bad now...

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:35PM (#24967363) Homepage

    No?

    Unfair laws make criminals of everyone.

  • by cdrudge (68377) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:38PM (#24967427) Homepage

    Personally, if person X wants to pay person Y $1.50 to copy his (bought and paid for) "Little Mermaid" DVD so that the kids don't ruin the original, why shouldn't he be able to?

    Obviously because Company D(isney) doesn't get any of that $1.50. Company D would rather you purchase additional copies of "Little Mermaid" at full MSRP.

  • by spazdor (902907) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:48PM (#24967579)

    Then that customer has broken the law and you haven't. It's no different from the bank-robbery getaway car and the auto dealer, or the counterfeiter and the printing-press manufacturer.

  • Re:Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Yetihehe (971185) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @04:05PM (#24967799)

    Unfair laws make criminals of everyone.

    If they make criminals of EVERYONE, then they ARE fair.

  • Re:Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by speedtux (1307149) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @04:37PM (#24968317)

    It's the circumvention that's prohibited, not the copying itself. So, if you can get at the data without circumvention, fair use provisions should still apply.

  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by celtic_hackr (579828) on Friday September 12, 2008 @03:16AM (#24974869) Journal

    However, you're all not actually paying close enough attention to the question.

    The question is, "Can you be sued for helping to perform action X?". The answer to that question is an unequivocal "Yes!". In America you can be sued for anything. Whether you can win in court is dependent largely on whether you can afford to stay in for enough rounds to have baseless claims thrown out. Occasionally, really badly executed lawsuits are thrown out in the beginning. But since any copyright infringement lawsuit is likely to come from deep pocket corporations, those lawsuits will be full of rational sounding legal FUD.

    So, yes, you can be sued for helping someone rip DVDs, whether there is a legal standing to support that suit is another question.

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