Ripping DVDs to your computer or an external hard drive comes with a clear set of benefits.
You’ll have a backup in case the physical discs become scratched, easy, centralized access to your favorite flicks, the list goes on.
Plus, dealing with discs these days is a pain. They take up space, they skip, and we’ll go out on a limb here — they’re not exactly a beautiful object that adds value in the way that records or hard copies of books do.
But, the legalities of digitizing your collection can be a bit murky. Try googling the title of this article, and you’ll see exactly what we mean.
While you’re most likely going to be fine ripping DVDs here and there, there are some key things you should know about the law.
Ripping copy-protected DVDs is illegal… technically
Laws are kind of all over the place when it comes to ripping DVDs for personal use. See, it’s perfectly legal to rip DVDs that are not copies of copyrighted work. But chances are, most of the movies you’re planning on digitizing have several layers of copyright protections.
In the U.S., it is still illegal to rip DVDs of copyrighted work for personal use, though there are several groups working to change this law.
Title 17 of the U.S. State Code explicitly states that it is illegal to reproduce a copyrighted work. So, just about anything that comes with a label indicating copyright, which includes basically any movie you can think of.
Most DVDs and Blu-Rays come with encryption attached and breaking that encryption is illegal. If you happen to come across an unencrypted DVD, ripping it for personal use is A-OK.
Where it gets confusing is, CDs have laxer rules regarding ripping for personal use. You can, for example, easily upload your old discs to iTunes and digitize your library with minimal effort — and zero legal repercussions.
Title 17 states that making a copy of an original work without the creator’s consent, is considered copyright infringement. The law doesn’t make any exceptions for personal use — or creating digital backups.
But, it also doesn’t say that you can’t copy the content on your own devices. Confusing, right?
The bottom line here is, you’re likely not going to be fined or jailed for ripping your DVDs for personal use.
Redistribution is where you’ll run into trouble
The thing about ripping DVDs is, you’re probably not going to get caught.
Government agencies have too much on their plate to care that you’ve digitized your director’s cut “Lord of the Rings” DVDs.
The issue really comes into play if you start redistributing content. So long as your goal isn’t setting up a bootleg DVD stand outside or adding your full movie library to a download site like BitTorrent, you should be in the clear.
How to rip DVDs and Blu-Rays
Ripping DVDs to an Apple device presents a problem. In the case of Apple, which is a U.S. company, they need to maintain relationships with movie studios. Unfortunately, that means you can’t copy DVDs to your iTunes account like you can with your CDs.
Again, while it’s technically illegal to rip DVDs for personal use, people rarely face consequences. We want to remind you to stay on the right side of the law. Watch this radical PSA for a refresher:
To rip DVDs for your personal use, you’ll want to make sure you use a reputable third-party software. You’ll need an intermediary program to successfully digitize your DVDs. There are several DVD ripping programs out there, but many of them come equipped with spyware and tracking that can put you and your devices at risk.
Free software is often unregulated, though there are some decent options available, usually in the form of a free version of a paid software.
We recommend the following options: