When Is DVD Ripping Illegal?

When Is DVD Ripping Illegal?

One of the most common ways people break the law without realizing it is by ripping copies of popular movies for friends. Even if you mean well by doing this, or do not realize that what you are doing is wrong, it is still highly illegal. Ripping is not always illegal, but it is only legal in limited instances. 

It's also worth noting that everything we're talking about here also applies to VHS tapes, so if you're using one of the best VHS to DVD converters then this information is all relevant to you too.

Title 17 of the United States Code says that it is illegal to reproduce a copyrighted work. If a DVD comes with a box or has a label on it indicating a copyright, then it is technically illegal to make any copies of it for any reason.

Many people wonder if it is legal to rip a copy of a DVD for personal use. It is illegal in a technical sense. However, most government agencies do not focus on what people do offline at home for their own personal use. The government's main concern is people who redistribute copies of copyrighted works.

DVD ripping: Personal use vs Redistribution

To better illustrate the likelihood of a criminal conviction, consider two different examples. First, consider a person who owns a rare DVD that he or she wants to keep safe. If that person travels overseas and wants to take a copy to watch on a computer during the flight, such an incident is unlikely to bring attention from authorities or a criminal conviction.

Now, consider a person who copies discs to either give or sell to friends. If one person alerts authorities, the offending person faces serious legal consequences. Ripping and redistributing copyrighted works can result in multiple charges for each distribution incident.

In both of these instances, a person is ripping a DVD of copyrighted content. It is illegal in either case. However, when distributing copyrighted content to other people, this is a far more severe offence. 

When a person creates his or her own DVDs that are not copies of copyrighted work, ripping is completely legal. Which rights are reserved are typically listed in the type of copyright. Very often, the original creator has to be cited. To sell these types of materials though, be sure to obtain the proper business licenses. Also, check to see if there are additional state or local laws.

DVD ripping of copyrighted works is still considered illegal in the United States, but several organizations continue working to make it legal for purchasers of a copyrighted DVD to rip copies for personal use only. 

Ripping a DVD for personal use

To rip a DVD for personal use, only use DVD ripper software from reputable sources. There are free downloadable programs online, but they often come with spyware and tracking software designed to harm your computer and compromise your security. For optimal results, buy one of the best DVD ripper software programs. Compare a list of features, make a personal priority list and use the reviews to make the smartest purchase. Never settle for security risks, and only use the best DVD ripper programs.

Ian has been a journalist for 20 years. He's written for magazines and websites on subjects such as video games, technology, PC hardware, popular (and unpopular) science, gardening and astronomy. In his spare time he has a pet tortoise and grows his own vegetables. He also has a passion for cameras and photography, and has written for TTR on these subjects.