Fair Use or Felony? You decide

Last year, I saw “Prince Caspian” in the theater. A few months ago, I purchased a copy on DVD. Since I rarely have time to sit in front of a TV, I decided to rip it to my iPod. That way I could enjoy it whenever and wherever I wanted.

Unfortunately, that was not as easy as it seems; thanks to the protection that the publisher had thoughtfully put on the disk, my preferred ripping tool did not work.

I am left with three choices:

  1. Break the protection of the DVD. Designing a program to break protection is a felony under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). So is obtaining such a program, hosting the program, linking to the program or even telling people where to find the program.
  2. Download a digital copy of the DVD from any one of myriad online sources – which is a felony under the DMCA.
  3. Buy a digital copy from iTunes – which effectively means paying for something that I have already bought.

What would you do?

This illustrates how one-sided our copyright laws have become. Who is protecting my right to watch a movie I have bought and paid for? Why is there no exception for non-infringing domestic use? Why is there no exception for fifty-year-old movies (Think “Gone with the Wind” or “It’s a Wonderful Life“) that should have been placed in the public domain decades ago? Why is there no exception for downloading stuff you already own in another format?

The irony is that the real pirates – the knife-wielding gangs in the Far East and their ilk – can afford million-dollar DVD duplication machines, which simply copy the entire DVD – Protection, FBI anti-piracy warning and all.


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