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Data Storage Media The Courts

Can You Be Sued For Helping Clients Rip DVDs? 231

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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  • Why risk it. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @02:52PM (#24966751) Homepage

    I hand the client on my own time a un-labelled Cd with instructions to get anyDVD and the other software they need along with a basic guide. I tell them, you did not get this from me and will deny I have ever seen it or know about it.

    I inform them that the MPAA thinks they are crooks and actually hates them and that is why you have to do this silly cloak and dagger crap to rip a DVD for their new expensive Media server system for the home so they can actually have 21st century entertainment.

    they typically understand after the mess is explained to them. My sticker is they want to hire someone to do all the ripping for them.

  • DCMA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .werdnaredne.> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @02:59PM (#24966867) Homepage Journal

    I though assisting one in bypassing DRM to copy media was very direct and clear in the DCMA, which is why people are wary of including libdvdcss in Linux distros, even if it is used for playback and not copying.

  • by Lord_Frederick ( 642312 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @02:59PM (#24966869)

    The issue is that different people will give different answers for both 1 and 2.

  • Story Repackaged (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Thundermace ( 951553 ) <T_hunD*erM()#ace ... .y.R>a>ho(9o.C)m> on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:00PM (#24966887) Homepage

    Selling products that archive DVDs

    The MPAA is likely to argue that (1) selling anything that makes copies of movies if you have reason to know that the customer is going to use it to infringe is, itself, an act of contributory infringement and (2) while the "archiving" may not violate the DMCA's [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] prohibition on unauthorized decryption, any device that includes any unlicensed "decrypter" or "player" is a circumvention device prohibited by the DMCA.

    I think the gist of the story is broken down into those two questions and based on the response from von Lohmann, I would say is the profit worth the risk. I wont argue anything that allows you to backup the legally purchased DVD's you own (or is it lease...might have to re-read the license)is and should be 100% legal, however, if I am just an installer putting these devices in play, I would think long and hard when the customer who begins his "dvd-reselling" business points the finger back at you..

  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:06PM (#24966977)

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

    "Success" depends on objectives. As J. K. Rowling found out, "profit" doesn't follow from "winning." On the other hand, if the objective is to drain your opponent's bank account, then "success" is almost certain.

  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:10PM (#24967049) Journal

    And in both cases, a lot of this seems to depend on where you live.

    In North America, Canada seems safer, but there's also a push to hit us with new laws that would be even more draconian than those in the US.

    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?

  • by VeNoM0619 ( 1058216 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:14PM (#24967105)
    Survey says! I'm sorry, looks like "wrong" is not up there and that's your third strike. Now over to the Morrison team.

    This is why I don't believe in having "for the people by the people". In modern days, it should be, "by the people"... we have the technology... we can build it.

    Imagine a system where every law gets voted yes or no by anyone who wants to vote on it. No attachments of crap underneath. If it is too complex, even have a 3rd option "too complex/ambiguous" to force a rewrite of the law. Tie it into a continuously voted law (where every 6 months, voting begins again). That way, those who voted against (example) nuclear power, and learned how safe it became can now vote for nuclear power.
  • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:35PM (#24967367)

    According to whose ethics? The classic example being abortion -- some feel that abortion is not wrong, others feel abortion is wrong. And please no one start a debate about abortion -- it's a very polarizing subject (and irrelevant to the topic at hand). But that's why it's such a good example.

    Our system of government already proscribes a solution: take a vote. And take another one periodically to make sure it reflects what people want.

    Not everyone will be happy with the result, and they can work to educate others on their point of view, and if they manage to convince enough people to agree with them, when its time to take the next vote they'll win.

    For an issue that's really contentious, polarizing, and has approaching a 50/50 split, arbitrators should suggest compromises, and the people will vote on those. Nobody outright 'wins', but everybody gets at least something. And odds are we'll find a compromise that consistently wins, and it works on a philosophical level too.

    (Hell, this is how presidential elections should be run... when 51% vote one guy and 49% vote the other, there is no way it should be be winner take all, where 49% of the population can just stuff it.

  • Re:Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:37PM (#24967407) Homepage

    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?

    Well, that was a combination of running out of money and losing a lower court ruling.

    At present, there isn't definitive case law to identify if this is legal or not. Unfortunately, the pecker heads at the MPAA have deep enough pockets to buy whatever ruling they want until someone pushes this far enough through the courts. The whole point of TFA is that this is a gray area that hasn't been finally determined by the courts.


  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:41PM (#24967459) Homepage

    You don't own it.... you own a license to view what's on the disk. See how they get you there.

    I retain right of first sale on DVDs, CDs, and books.

    I own the disk, and while I'm limited in what I can do with its contents .... this "license to view what's one the disk" argument is fallacious. Don't buy into the unproven claims of the *AAs. This is more than just what they claim they've licensed you to do.


  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @03:51PM (#24967617) Homepage Journal

    For the purpose of interoperability it is legal to circumvent technical measures. Getting it to work with your backup program is an interoperability situation.

  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mweather ( 1089505 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @04:31PM (#24968227)
    It hasn't been tested nationally, but lower courts have decided. Not everything needs to go to the Supreme Court to be decided, that just adds finality to the decision.
  • by I'm not really here ( 1304615 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @04:38PM (#24968325)
    Except Person Y is simply providing a service. No copies are distributed. Person X just had Person Y push the button that made the copy. In fact, Person X gave their copy to Person Y (fair use), Person Y made a backup (fair use), and Person Y then gave back both copies (fair use). That Person X paid Person Y to do this is irrelevant, as no copies were distributed and Company D had no rights saying that they could be involved in theses various fair use actions. If anything, you could say that Person X sold the original to person Y for oh, say, $0. Person Y sold the original and the copy (fair use to make the copy, and when using first sale, all copies must be destroyed or must be sent with the original) for $1.50... fair market transaction, and all legit and legal. I don't see the issue here.
  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @04:44PM (#24968413)

    That's what they want you to believe, but I don't think there's actually any legal basis to it. I need a license if I want rights I don't already get from the act of purchase -- like distribution of copies, hence the meaningful-ness of the GPL -- but "view the content" isn't a right reserved to the copyright holder. I don't need or want a license, hence there is no leverage to impose constraints on my use.

    This is the fundamental problem IMO with any EULA. The publisher wants the best of both worlds -- the no-effort boiler-plate transactions that take place at retail sale, along with the control of a contractually negotiated arrangement. Thing is, that's not supposed to be legal -- at best it's a contract of adhesion.

    And don't kid yourself -- the publishers know full well they wouldn't get the sales volume they do if the purchaser didn't think of it just like any retail transaction. I'd argue they're using the form of a retail transaction to lead consumers into believing they're buying the disc, then later trying to claim "oh, that wasn't the arrangement at all; all you got was a license."

  • Re:Yes (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 11, 2008 @04:50PM (#24968529)

    "Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted â" and you create a nation of law-breakers â" and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be
    much easier to deal with." Ayn Rand('Atlas Shrugged' 1957)

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @05:05PM (#24968717) Homepage Journal

    You have to keep in mind the very radical terms of DMCA. That law is unlike anything else that people have experience with, and you can't just apply common sense to it, or think about the issues in terms of what copyright is for. Anyone who talks about issues like "copyright infringement" in this context, is not in the right frame of mind. Copyright infringement is a totally unrelated concept to DMCA.

    The key part of DMCA is that no one is allowed to access the content without authorization from the copyright holder. Do you have authorization? (Can you prove you do?)

    We generally ass/u/me that we have authorization to play our DVDs, provided that we are using equipment for which the manufacturer got a DVDCSS license. But look at your DVD and the booklet and the case: the conditions under which you are authorized to play it, are not actually stated anywhere.

    If you play a DVD and then for whatever reason, and in service of whatever agenda, the copyright holder decides to sue you for violating DMCA, then they just need to answer one question: Do you authorize what the defendant did?

    If the copyright holder says Yes, then the judge should say, "I find in favor of the defendant."

    If the copyright holder says No, then the judge should say, "I find in favor of the plaintiff."

    The same goes for a manufacturer. If a copyright holder decides that people are not authorized to play their DVDs on your equipment, then the primary purpose of your equipment is to play DVDs without authorization.

    There is no code of conduct you can follow, or rules spelled out, or anything you can do to make sure what you're doing is legal. There aren't even vague rules of thumb, parallel to the Fair Use criteria like you have in copyright-infringement related discussions. Every DVD user, every DVD player manufacturer, and every DVD-related toolmaker (which accesses the content of CSS-scrambled DVDs) is at their arbitrary mercy. All they have to do, is say you are not authorized, and then unless you have some sort of evidence that they did authorize you (do you (does anyone?) have this evidence, for any of the DVDs that you own?), then you have clearly violated DMCA.

    This holds even if you get a DVDCSS license, and strictly adhere to its terms. But, if you do that, then they have no incentive to come after you (and they would undermine all the reasons that anyone bothers to get DVDCSS licenses), so you will get away with it. That's the safest way to go.

    If this all seems unfair to you, then I advocate you vote against everyone in the 2008 elections who doesn't say they will sponsor or vote for legislation that repeals DMCA. Remember: a president, a third of the senate, and the whole house. This law could be gone in a few months, if only people would vote on it. Yes, some will say it's naive to think people would vote on actual issues, but we do have the ability, should we ever choose to exercise it.

  • by Mikeytsi ( 186271 ) on Thursday September 11, 2008 @07:30PM (#24971021) Journal []

    Basically, if you're in compliance with the CCA requirements, there isn't anything they can do about it.

    The CCA is now trying to change the license to prevent copying, but every storage system on the planet is going to file complaints and litigation if that happens.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson