MPAA to Customers: If You Are Lucky You Can Pay Again For Movies You Already Own

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Click here to tell the Copyright Office that you want to be able to legally rip your DVDs.

Today we got the MPAA’s response (pdf) to our request to make DVD ripping legal.  The MPAA said the fact that you cannot legally transfer a movie you own to a device you own (say, your iPad) is a “mere inconvenience.”  For those of you who paid for a movie on DVD and want to be able to watch it on other devices, the MPAA has a simple answer: pay us again.

Let us put those comments in context.  Ripping a CD does not violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  Ripping a DVD does violate the DMCA.  The difference? Unlike CDs, DVDs are protected by digital locks (also known as DRM). The very act of breaking that lock, even if for a legitimate purpose, violates the DMCA.


Fortunately, every three years the Copyright Office is required to identify instances where the DMCA prevents otherwise lawful activities and create an exemption.  This year, Public Knowledge requested an exemption that would allow people to copy movies they own on DVD onto other devices.  On Friday, the MPAA submitted its comments to our request.

In the comments, the MPAA said that it was “a mere inconvenience” that people who paid for a movie on DVD cannot transfer that movie to another device.  Furthermore, the MPAA insisted that no DMCA exemption was necessary because people who want to watch their movies on the go have other options.  What options?  Pay them more money, of course.

The MPAA had two specific suggestions.  First, consumers could re-purchase access to a subscription service such as Netflix of Hulu.  They did not dwell on the fact that 1) this would require you to pay again to access a movie you already own; 2) these services require a high speed internet connection in order to work; 3) There is a reasonable chance that the movie you own is not available on any of those services at any given time; and 4) MPAA member studios regularly pull videos that were once available on those services off of those same services.

The MPAA’s second suggestion was even less helpful.  In their comments, they pointed to Warner Brothers’ DVD2Blu program.  This program allows people to use their existing DVDs as a coupon towards the purchase of a handful of Warner Blu-Ray disks.  They did not dwell on the fact that 1) this program is limited to Warner Brothers films; 2) the program is limited to 25 exchanges per household; 3) while some Blu-Ray discs include digital copies that can be moved to other devices, it is unclear how many of the disks in the DVD2Blu program include that option; 4) only 100 movies are included in the entire program; and 5) each exchange costs at least $4.95 plus shipping (which, for the record, is about as much as it would cost to buy the digital file from Amazon.).

Needless to say, neither of these options are likely to work for the hundreds of people who have already told the Copyright Office to grant this exemption.

This leaves us with two options. One is to let consumers make use of the copy of a movie they already own in whatever way is most convenient for them.  The other is to wait for an opportunity to pay additional money for a service that offers less functionality than the copy they already have.

Help the Copyright Office make the right choice.  Click here to tell them that you should be able to make copies of DVDs you already own for your own use.

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