The State of Affairs of DVD Rippers

By Xah Lee. Date:

It has been on my mind for the past couple of years, to publish commentaries on movies along with clips of movie, but i never have spent the time to invest into the very hairy technical problems of ripping DVDs. (i.e. digging for DVD rippers, compile them and try to make them work, choosing and studying movie formats etc.) The other concern is the possible legal tangle of publishing film clips on my site, and the huge burden of site bandwidth.

Today, i enjoyed test ripping a DVD for the first time, using the program Handbrake. It is extremely easy, a no-brainer.

But then i thought about this program's legal status. Isn't it illegal? I mean, there was the famous DeCSS case around 1999, and around 2002 i think there's a very popular commercial software that duplicate DVDs and got sued and ended up wrapping shop by court injunction. And, i've always been curious, what's the DVD-playing status on Linuxes? I mean, when the DeCSS case was hot, Linuxes at the time cannot play DVDs. And as far as i know, today they have DVD players out of the box. Did they actually buy licenses from the big corps they hate?

What happened to DeCSS? What's the status of DVD rippers? What's the case of Linux's DVD players? I consulted Wikipedia as usual:

The commercial ripper that was popular around 2003 is called DVD X Copy. Here's a excerpt from regarding DVD X Copy:

DVD duplication software maker 321 Studios has been given seven days to stop selling its controversial DVD X Copy family of utilities, a US federal judge has ruled.

The ruling follows legal action brought against the developer by MGM Studios, Tristar Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Time Warner Entertainment, Disney, Universal City Studios and The Saul Zaentz Company last May. The movie companies alleged 321's product violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

US District Judge Susan Illston, delivering her verdict on Friday, agreed - and formally banned 321 form manufacturing, distributing or otherwise trafficking in the DVD X Copy series.

In very short summary: DeCSS is still illegal, however, it and similar software are widely available on the web. The big corporations have either slacked up or failed to fight local battles, as they are already too busy with the uncountable cases and issues of [ P2P networks ] [ ] etc. And, the legality of the DVD players in Linuxes could be challenged anytime.

PS Ah, i forgot, there's this DVD playing program i've been using sometimes since about 2002, called [ VLC ] [ ]. In fact, VLC has been my main DVD player on my Mac instead of the one from Apple since sometimes in 2006. It resolved a issue i had with Apple's DVD player since it ever begin in about 2001, and i deeply hate. That is, Apple DVD player prevents the user from making screenshots. This is something i often need to do. That is, to make screenshots of movies for commentary on my site. I'm not sure about risking lawsuit by publishing movie excerpts, however, I am confident or willing to fight the risk for making screenshots for fair use.

VLC allows one to do screenshots thru the Operating System's screenshot feature, and the software itself has the screenshot feature since around 2004 or 2005. The two major DVD players for Windows platform [ WinDVD ] [ ] and [ PowerDVD ] [ ] both have the ability to do screenshots since as early as 2001. (they are both commercial software) Only Apple's DVD Player is the one that actively prevented users from doing screenshots, to this day. And the hateful Mac fanatics always loudmouth their fandom of Apple in defense whenever i mention this issue.

VLC plays DVDs as well as many other movie file formats. I never thought of how it actually is able to play DVDs. Wikipedia comes to the rescue. The key lies in [ Libdvdcss ] [ ] .

libdvdcss is not to be confused with DeCSS. While DeCSS uses a cracked DVD player key to perform authentication, libdvdcss uses a generated list of possible player keys. If none of them works (for instance, when the DVD drive enforces region coding) a brute force algorithm is tried so the region code of a DVD is ignored. Unlike DeCSS, libdvdcss has never been legally challenged.