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Is Your DVD Server Legal? Manufacturers Say Yes!

Developers of movie-ripping products insist their products are legal. Here's how the manufacturers justify their solutions.


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The issues surrounding DVD ripping are downright dumbfounding.

What’s legal and what isn’t? Who is potentially liable for copyright offenses – manufacturers, installers, end users?

Is it better to have a CSS (Content Scramble System) license from the DVD CCA (Copy Control Association), or does that just open you up to litigation as in the case of Kaleidescape?

If the DVD CCA can’t catch you, can you be prosecuted under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

Can manufacturers create DVD-ripping solutions, as long as they keep the copyright “wrapper” intact? What if their solutions prohibit transferring protected content off of their proprietary network? Does that help their cause?

Is “ripping” a DVD the same as “archiving” it?

Realizing the tremendous benefits of disk-less movie libraries, a slew of manufacturers and software providers are testing the legal waters when it comes to storing protecting DVDs on a hard drive.

How do Manufacturers Justify their DVD Servers?

We’ve collected FAQs from a variety of vendors. In their own words, here’s what they have to say about copyright and licensing.


Kaleidescape - Kaleidescape Servers

From the Kaleidescape online FAQ

Q: Did the DVD CCA approve this product?

A: The DVD CCA does not provide any certification, testing or approval service.

Q: Did you get a license from the MPAA to make copies of DVDs on hard disks?

A: A Kaleidescape customer has a fair-use right to make copies of DVDs and CDs that he or she owns onto the Kaleidescape System’s hard disks. No license is required provided the copies will only be used for that customer’s personal home video entertainment.

The Motion Picture Association of America (“MPAA”) does not issue licenses of any kind. The MPAA is a domestic trade association of the American film industry that serves as “the voice and advocate of the American motion picture, home video and television industries.”

The Kaleidescape System is manufactured and sold pursuant to licenses from a number of technology licensing bodies, including the DVD Copy Control Association, Inc., the DVD Format/Logo Licensing Corporation, Dolby, Macrovision, DVI Promoters, HDMI Licensing LLC, Digital Content Protection, LLC (HDCP), MPEG LA, LLC, Nissim Corporation, Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. (acting for three different patent pools), Toshiba Corporation (on behalf of the DVD Patent Licensing Group), and many others.

Q: Do I need to execute a separate Service and License Agreement for each of my homes?

A: No. It is sufficient to execute one Service and License Agreement no matter how many Kaleidescape Systems you buy.

Q: Does loading a DVD into the Kaleidescape Server bypass DVD copy protection?

A: No. Most commercial DVDs are protected by the Content Scramble System (“CSS”), a method used to encrypt the video and audio data. Manufacturers of legitimate DVD playback products must obtain a license from the DVD Copy Control Association (the “DVD CCA”) to remove CSS encryption. Kaleidescape has obtained such a license, and Kaleidescape scrupulously adheres to its required procedures and restrictions.

For example, when playing back DVD content, the System only allows the audio and video outputs permitted by the CSS License Agreement. The System’s analog video outputs are further protected by certain Macrovision technology, which was obtained pursuant to a separate license from Macrovision Corporation. The CSS License Agreement does not prohibit the copying of CSS-protected DVD data into memory or onto a hard disk.

However, in order to comply with the CSS License Agreement, any such copying must be done without exposing certain types of DVD data (keys or unscrambled audio/video data) on “user-accessible buses,” such as the PCI bus in a personal computer. The Kaleidescape System complies with this restriction by virtue of being a closed system comprised of proprietary hardware and software that Kaleidescape designed from the ground up with content security as a major design objective.

Q: How can you copy a Macrovision-protected DVD onto a hard disk?

A: Macrovision is a copy protection technology that applies to the analog video outputs of DVD players. Kaleidescape has a Macrovision license and our products have been tested and approved by Macrovision Corporation. That license and certification enable Kaleidescape to apply the Macrovision copy protection technology to a Movie Player’s analog video outputs. This has nothing to do with making a digital copy of the information on a DVD disc.

The Kaleidescape System complies with all applicable licensing requirements, including those of the DVD FLLC, the DVD CCA, and Macrovision. The specifics of how we comply with each license are proprietary and confidential, and not available to the public.


RealNetworks - RealDVD

From online RealDVD FAQ

Can I save my DVDs to my PC’s hard drive?
Yes. RealDVD lets you save a copy of your DVDs to your hard drive so you can access your movie collection quickly and easily - without the discs.

Can I save my DVDs to a portable hard drive?
Yes. You can save as many DVDs to a portable drive as space allows. In fact, saving your entire collection to a portable drive is a great option. Then you’ll have the flexibility of watching all your movies - on any PC running your authorized copy of RealDVD.

Will I need DVDs or a DVD drive to play my movies?
No. Once you save your movies to your PC or portable hard drive, there’s no need for DVDs or a DVD drive. Watch your movies straight from your computer. Or just connect a portable drive to your authorized PC and you’re good to go - anytime, anywhere.

Is it legal to save movies with RealDVD?
Yes, provided that you are the owner of the original DVD and you use your saved copy solely for your personal use.

Will I be able to share my movies with friends?
No. The DVDs you save with RealDVD will only play on your PC with the License Key you purchased.

From PR and various interviews with RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser:

How do you justify the legality of RealDVD?
If you look at the functionality of the product, we have put in significant barriers so people don’t just take this and put it on peer-to-peer networks. ... I think we’ve been really respectful of the legitimate interests of rights holders.
(New York Times)

What’s to prohibit consumers from copying disks they don’t own?
If you want to steal, we remind you what the rules are and we discourage you from doing it, but we’re not your nanny.
(New Zealand Herald)

What are some other implementations of DRM in the RealDVD product?
RealDVD saves an exact copy of the DVD image to a PC’s internal or portable hard drive. Saved DVDs are then encrypted and locked again to make sure they cannot be shared or stolen. DVDs saved on a portable hard drive can be played on up to 5 PCs per user with an authorized copy of RealDVD.
(RealDVD PR)


ReQuest - Intelligent Media Client (IMC)

From a dealer-confidential FAQ sheet

What is the IMC?
The IMC is a network media client for ReQuest F and IQ servers that connects to TVs and delivers a whole home entertainment solution with movies, music, photos, and online services. The IMC is designed as an intelligent media gateway to local and online media.

How does the system add and play DVDs from the server?
When a user selects “archive” the system will create a personal backup or archive of the DVD on the server. When users want to watch this video, the media is played through a fully compliant and licensed CSS player and preserves all CSS.

How do clients archive DVDs?
When a DVD is inserted into IMC users must select to either play the movie or archive it to the server.

Can I archive rented or borrowed DVDs?
No. The ReQuest server has a built-in physical verification system that will ask for physical DVDs at random times to verify ownership.

Can I copy the DVD archives or watch them on a computer?
No. The archives cannot be copied and will only play using the ReQuest IMC through the licensed CSS player.

From Q&A with ReQuest president Peter Cholnoky

How do you get movies onto your F and IQ servers?
Users insert their purchased DVDs into the IMC and are asked if they would like to play the movie or archive the movie to the ReQuest server. If they select Archive, then the IMC archives a personal backup copy of the DVD onto the ReQuest server. The full DVD is on the ReQuest server and can be viewed on any TV via the IMC through our licensed CSS player.

Can users add movies that are ripped to PCs and other networked devices?
No. Ripping movies removes CSS and we do not believe that ripping DVDs is legal.

Does Request have a CSS license from DVD CCA?
ReQuest uses a licensed and fully compliant CSS player and preserves all CSS. We are just like Microsoft Vista that does not have a CSS license; to play DVDs you must install and use a licensed player. Our licensed player is included in our IMC.

Can you rip DVDs straight to your hard drive servers?
We do not rip DVDs. The system will create a personal backup or archive of the DVD on the server. When users want to watch this video, the media is played through a fully compliant and licensed CSS player and preserves all CSS.

Signing an agreement with the DVD-CCA is not a license to import, rip, or archive a DVD to a hard disk. It is a license that grants the right to use the CSS encryption and decryption keys contained on a DVD for the purpose of playback or to master DVD media for distribution. The primary signers of the CCA agreement are DVD player manufacturers and other organizations who need to decode DVD content. In fact, it may be a total breach of the CCA license itself if any entity that signs it engages in DVD ripping.

The license to play the DVD grants the holder the right to access, request, decode, and decrypt the CSS encoded data on the DVD. Without this information, playback of the DVD is scrambled and unusable.

ReQuest has not signed the DVD-CCA agreement and therefore does not engage in any CSS decoding, ripping, or copy protection bypass during the archive process.

We do believe that the consumer is empowered with the right to create and maintain a personal archive of the media they have purchased. Using software created by ReQuest engineers, the DVD is transferred from the DVD media to the hard disk of our servers bit-for-bit with no decoding, compression, or other process.

When the customer selects a DVD to play, we present that archive disc image to a fully licensed, CSS compliant, DVD player software for playback. That software performs the authentication, handshaking, and decrypting resulting in perfect DVD playback with an identical experience to the original DVD media. This is identical to how users watch DVDs in Microsoft Vista PCs.

How do you verify that the user owns the content?
The ReQuest server has a built-in physical verification system that may ask for physical DVDs at random times to verify ownership.

The physical verification system is implemented to try and help prevent illegal archiving of un-owned media and is not designed to impact user experience. Users will have the option to verify at a convenient time, or to “Ask me later.”


Fusion Research - Fusion Media Servers

From Fusion’s online FAQ

Do I need to install third party decryption software purchased over the Internet to load DVDs into the Fusion video system?
Simply stated, No. Fusion Research has written advanced software that makes an archival copy of the complete movie, bit for bit, from the DVD medium. The movie remains in its original encrypted form throughout the entire network and is only decrypted by a licensed commercial codec for playback. We believe that this respects the copyright holder because at no time in the playback process is the unencrypted movie actually exposed.

The vendors who are promoting the use of third party software to defeat the encryption are actually exposing the end user to greater violations of copyright and are contributing to the copyright holder’s fears of this class of equipment.


Xperinet (now defunct) - MIRV Servers

From Xperinet’s Online FAQ

Can I use MIRV to store encrypted, copyrighted DVD content?
A decision handed down by a Federal court in 2001 has called into question the legality making backup copies of a copyrighted DVD under a law called the DMCA (The Digital Millennium Copyright Act). Prior copyright law has always upheld the rights of individuals to make backup copies of content for their own use. The court’s interpretation of DMCA was that any defeating of the encryption software that resides on a DVD for the purpose of copying it to another media, even if the intent and use of the copy is for backup purposes, is not lawful. Several cases are presently before higher courts that are expected to either reverse or modify this ruling.

MIRV systems are presently not capable of uploading encrypted DVDs. When and if the legal environment changes, owners of MIRV systems are able to download open-source code software (a DVD decryption utility) from the web that enables the MIRV system to be used for storing commercial DVD content. MIRV systems have a utility that permits customers to integrate a decryption utility This utility is primarily used by corporate customers who have proprietary encryption algorithms, but can also be used by the customer for integrating a decryption utility that works for commercial DVDs. Instructions for installation of decryption software are provided in the MIRV installation guide. Users are free to download DVD decryption utility software at such time as they feel the legal environment in their jurisdiction permits such activity. Nothing in this FAQ provided by Xperinet should be considered legal advice.


Escient - Vision

From CE Pro’s interview with Chris Commons, Escient vice president, product planning and development.

When Vision was first announced last year, you could not copy DVDs to the server from its built-in disk drive. Now you can. What changed?
[Initially] we were telling everyone that there were legal issues surrounding the importing of movies. We’ve resolved those issues so you can import movies on the front-panel DVD drive.

Exactly how did Escient “resolve” those issues?
We’re maintaining all of the encryption that’s on the movie so when we’re moving a movie from a disc to the internal hard drive, it’s copying bit for bit with all of the encryption intact. We’re adding our own second level of even more stringent encryption to protect it [DVD content] when it’s on the Vision storage system.


Axonix - MediaMax

From the Online Axonix FAQ

*While the MediaMax is shipped with licensed decryption software that is used to play back optical SD DVD, and Blu-ray discs it may not be able to load or play some or all DVDs. Axonix does not ship, offer or induce the use of any unlicensed decrypting software on the MediaMax. To learn more about the issue surrounding copy protected movie discs click here (shown below).

What about copyright laws? Is there information on how to obey copyright laws?
Click here to read the article “Fair Use? How to Back Up DVD Movies”
Click to read the article “Fair Use Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers)”.
For additional information contact your Axonix Project Manager by clicking here


Fuze Media - Fuze One

From interview with Fuze’s Bob Silver

Initially, Fuze expected users to find and download their own DVD copying software. Now you’ve made it easier for them. Why the change?
We felt there were adequate solutions for getting DVDs onto the system, so we left it alone for DRM purposes.

But people want a brain-dead way of doing it. We decided we could make it easier with our new DVD Importer [application].

The way we’re dealing with the legality is that our product by itself will not rip a DVD if you try to put a content-protected disk in.

The customer needs to go online and buy copy of AnyDVD from SlySoft. It resides in the background of the computer and decrypts any type of encrypted DVD that you put in the computer. Our software sees the DVD as an unencrypted DVD and imports it without any type of encryption.

We’re not unencrypting DVDs; AnyDVD is. We’re clean.



  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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