Is Ripping DVDs To Your iPod Legal? (And Here's How)Is Ripping DVDs To Your iPod Legal? (And Here's How)
Over the holidays, someone I know became the happy owner an 80-GB Apple iPod Classic. However, it quickly became apparent that, while music is easy to get onto the device, movies are a problem. Most DVDs are encrypted, and resist easy conversion. But if you've paid for the thing, why shouldn't you be able to rip videos to your very own iPod?
March 18, 2008
Over the holidays, someone I know became the happy owner an 80-GB Apple iPod Classic. However, it quickly became apparent that, while music is easy to get onto the device, movies are a problem. Most DVDs are encrypted, and resist easy conversion. But if you've paid for the thing, why shouldn't you be able to rip videos to your very own iPod?Problem is, this remains a gray legal area. On the audio-file front, the record companies have long claimed that people who rip their own CDs are stealing. The movie studios seem to have a more confused -- and confusing -- position. On the one hand, their MPAA trade organization is wont to sue the heck out of anyone who's seen as promoting DVD ripping. At the same time, MPAA chairman Dan Glickman makes periodic statements about his commitment to fair use and interoperability.
What does it all mean? Basically, that we're all pirates. (Probably if you invite friends over to watch a rented DVD, and they give you money for popcorn and soda, you're breaking the law for charging admission to a "performance.") Realistically, though, the MPAA is far more concerned with catching the big-time movie pirates who supply the thriving business of $5 DVDs of first-run movies. (On sale in any urban area near you.) OK, so ripping a DVD you paid for so that you can watch it on your iPod is wrong, very wrong, even if it's not wrong because what you're really doing is making a backup copy. And it's agreed -- more or less widely, depending on what authority you poll -- that this is legal. Still, DVD Decrypter, the program most widely used to rip DVDs, was shut down following legal action. This messy state of affairs makes even less sense amid the news that DVD vendors themselves are getting ready to release discs which come complete with electronic files on the self-same disc. Here's how it's explained in The New York Times: "Movie studios are fighting back by taking a page from the Internet playbook. Indeed, the centerpiece of the market rejuvenation effort is something 20th Century Fox calls 'digital copy.' Fox DVDs, starting last month, now come with an additional disc holding a digital file of the title. Consumers can download the file to a computer in about five minutes -- far less time than via the Internet -- and then watch the movie there or transfer it to their iPod." OK, let me get this straight: You'd be breaking the law if you ripped to a file a DVD, which itself contained that files on the disc. (Never mind that this makes no sense, cause you've already got the file. On the disk.) This is like when John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame was sued for infringing the copyright of a song which he himself wrote! (Incidentally, Fogerty won.) But enough with the politics of the situation (check with a lawyer if you're so inclined). You clicked on this post to get the cookbook formula. Actually, there are numerous sites and posts which have preceded me in attempting to explain this. However, I wanted to go through the process myself, because I've found that there's often a vast different between formulas you find posted, and the way things actually work. (Mostly, that's because writers usually leave out a few minor but critical steps.)
DVD Decrypter is a free movie ripper. Click picture to see DVD-to-iPod conversion gallery.)
Ripping a DVD to your iPod is a two-phase process: first, you decrypt the disc, then you down-convert the video file to fit onto your iPod. When I say "fit," I mean both in terms of getting a small file size that doesn't suck up a lot of space, and fitting the movie to the iPod's tiny screen. Let's get started. First, get a DVD decryption program. The best option is a free program called -- surprise-- DVD Decrypter. You might have to hunt around for it a bit, since the original site was shut down. The program is currently available at a U.K. mirror and at ImgBurn. I've posted a series of screen captures to walk you through the process. Step one is to launch DVD Decrypter, and point the program's "source" field to your DVD (usually in the "D" drive). It's important to determine which VTS file on the DVD contains the movie. (The other VTS files have those "bonus features," which no one watches.) Next, pick the right "mode" from the top menu. I found that I had to select "File Mode" from the mode drop-down menu, not "IFO mode," which is what most of the instructions on the Web tell you to do. To start the decryption process, simply click on the DVD icon at the bottom of the screen. Now for fitting the decrypted program to your iPod's screen. I tried out a bunch of programs. The trial version of Xilisoft didn't work well for me, so I didn't spend the $35 to get the unlocked program. If you have the wonderful Nero suite of music and video ripping, burning, and copying tools, you can use Nero Recode. It's fairly intuitive to use; since it's commercial software, there's a manual if you need help. It down-converted the 1.58-GB movie file it'd decrypted into a 639-MB iPod-ready video. Probably I could've compressed it further if I'd played around with the settings.
Videora down-converts your decrypted files to fit onto your iPod. (Click picture to see DVD-to-iPod conversion gallery.)
If you want to go the free-software route, get Videora. Its operation also is fairly intuitive. I'd suggest using the "power" mode. Set your video profile to "H.264 QVGA 768kbps Stereo/128kbps." The "Q" in QVGA stands for "quarter screen," which is the correct setting to down-convert to the tiny iPod display. When you're ready to let it rip, hit "Start Converting" in the lower-right-hand corner. The final step is to launch iTunes. Locate the folder into which you've placed the iPod-ready video file. Import it into iTunes, and then synch up your iPod. Now you're ready to watch your movie, assuming it's a movie ripped from a DVD you bought and paid for. (That way, at least you're on the cusp of legality.) But don't say I told you how. Like this blog? Subscribe to its RSS feed, here. For a mobile experience, follow my daily observations on Twitter. Check out my tech videos on this YouTube channel.
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