The DVD X Copy saga is at an end. February 27, 2004 was the deadline for 321 Studios to stop selling copies of any version of the software containing code for ripping CSS-protected DVDs. The software will continue to be marketed without ripping capability, which means only being able to backup DVDs lacking CSS protection. The judgment impacts more than just the DVD X Copy customer base, however, creating a platform for the MPAA to target consumers of all DVD ripping solutions. It also represents the biggest missed opportunity for the Motion Picture Association to date.
Why is this bad for consumers?
First, and foremost, we should be able to make backup copies of DVDs. The judge reasons analog backups are good enough, but we all know that’s not true. Why not tell us we can only watch recorded programming on black and white screens? I remember the first time I saw a DVD movie playing on a screen-I was blown away by the improvement over VHS (I have the same astounded look on my face seeing DVD compared to HDTV). Now, in order to make backups of movies I purchase, I’m supposed to downgrade to a lower quality medium? Apparently the judge doesn’t watch movies at home.
Picture quality of acceptable backups isn’t the only issue. What about all the people who downloaded free software for ripping DVDs? Will the MPAA start attempting to go after those individuals in a fashion similar to the RIAA attacks on file sharing?
Burden of proof is a little more complicated since most people who rip DVDs aren’t sharing them out to the Internet, but the RIAA hasn’t exactly produced much proof in any of the cases it settles. A blanket legal attack on every IP address associated with every download of a DVD ripping solution isn’t impossible. After all, most of the solutions do include technology to circumvent copy protection schemes, making each software solution a potential violator of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
What is especially stupid about the judgment against 321 Studios is the MPAA eliminating a potential revenue stream. The MPAA could have negotiated a solution where 321 Studios paid them a royalty on every copy sold, putting more money in the pockets of the industry, while allowing consumers to do something they will figure out how to do, with or without DVD X Copy. I’d pay a few extra dollars for DVD backup software, knowing I was using a licensed solution.
Instead, the MPAA is reacting out of unfounded fear. DVD X Copy makes backing up DVD easy, so of course, everyone who uses it plans on going into the movie duplication business. We are all guilty in the eyes of the entertainment industry. Never mind the fact we want to make copies so our kids don’t destroy the original. Never mind that we don’t want to carry the original in our suitcase on the plane. Never mind we occasionally do dumb things like leaving the DVD out its case sitting near a window sill where direct sunlight wrecks the disk. This isn’t just about 321 Studios or DVD X Copy, insert your favorite DVD ripping solution in this rant-they might be next.