I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Copyright and Fair Use

Dan asks:

I got a DVD from the library. I want to watch it on my laptop, which has a broken DVD drive. If I rip the DVD on the desktop, share the resulting AVI over the home wireless network, and watch the DVD on my laptop, and delete the files immediately after watching them have I broken any U.S. copyright laws? Does it matter if I don’t get around to watching the movie until after I return the DVD to the library?

You’ve violated the DMCA by ripping the DVD. The DMCA prohibits the circumvention of encryption schemes used for copy protection, and the ripper is circumventing CSS.

As for the library-returning thing… I’m sure it’s violating some provision of copyright law somewhere, but I’m not sure exactly how. It may not be relevant — you had to make a copy in order to retain the content after you returned the media to the library, and the act of making the copy is the violation.

Fair use typically allows copying for a few purposes, including backup. But when ownership of the original expires or is transferred, all copies must be destroyed or given to the new owner.