Is it unethical/illegal to burn Blockbuster dvds?

It’s my understanding that the legality of copying movies ambigious at best, but is it unethical to do so? Does it matter if you own the movies, or if you rent them?

I don’t have the technology necessary to burn videos, but if I did, I wouldn’t feel unethical about copying the ones I like enough to watch again, but not enough to rent again. IOW, if I really loved a movie, and wanted to watch it over and over, I’d either pony up the bucks to buy it or to re-rent it. But if I didn’t like it enough to put out more money on it, I don’t think I’d feel too bad about copying it. OTOH, this would potentially lead to a line of my being essentially dishonest with myself in order to justify burning a copy.

Oh, hell, I dunno. But I’ll be interested to see others’ responses.

Yes, of course. It’s both unethical and illegal. The FBI warning at the beginning of every DVD answers the illegal question and the fact that you’re keeping a copy of a movie you didn’t pay for is unethical.

It’s the same as it would be if you photocopied a book that you borrowed from a library, rather than buying yourself a copy. The only difference is that it can be easier to burn a copy of a DVD than it is to photocopy a whole book.

That’s what I came in to say.

Since when does the FBI have jurisdiction in Canada? Did you not see that the link went to a Canadian company?

IANAL, and the laws have tightened a bit lately in the US, but there is a difference between legality and ethics here. Copying a copyright item for resale or even free distribution to others is unquestionably illegal. But “fair use” advocates strongly argue that copying parts or all of a work for personal, non-commercial use, where you are not depriving the owner of revenue, is ethical. (Classroom use or quotes for reviews might fall in that category.) Indeed, I believe it is written into the law for some cases (books, magazines, etc.).

Google for Lawrence Lessig and/or go to, the Electronic Freedom Foundation, for a liberal take on this viewpoint.

Well, the laws are pretty damn similar in Canada- IANAL, but still it is *unethical * anywhere you go.

An interesting ethical vs legal question is if you own a copy, but burn one just for the purpose of lending to freinds. Selling the copy would be illegal AND unethical, burning one for your own back-up seems to be legal YMMV, IANAL and is certainly ethical, but burning one just to lend/give seems to be a grey area. Here, I’d say ethical but of doubtful legality. IANAL, YMMV.

Correction: that’s the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Here’s a direct link to one of their pages on a related topic:

Actually, I don’t think it’s that cut and dry. Copying a movie you own may not be illegal, despite what the MPAA tells you. Maybe a lawyer can clear this up, but I’m pretty sure it’s not illegal. As this link states:

Ethically speaking, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. In all likelihood, nobody is being hurt, or losing money. It seems pretty innocuous to me. Would you care to elaborate on why you think it should be illegal, or why it’s unethical.

Not all “copying” is the same. I can copy TV shows for my personal use, and CDs. Both are legal and ethical (IMO). I don’t believe you can compare books and movies across the board.

Yes, but Brickbacon is American. And, Canadian copyright matters are governed by the Copyright Act, which I believe is similar to the American copyright law when it comes to making such recordings.

I should be more clear. I know burning a copy of a movie you’ve rented is illegal, but I don’t think it’s unethical.

Sorry, I didn’t realize that link was a Canadian website. I didn’t mean to make jurisdiction an issue. I posted a link to CNET which discusses the American laws and the restrictions placed on copying digital media.

Isn’t it unethical to break the law?

Renting is cheaper than buying. Implicit in renting is the idea that you are accepting limited access in exchange for a lower price. If you circumvent this limited access by burning a copy for yourself to keep, you are violating the spirit (if not the letter) of the rental agreement, which is certainly unethical.

The short answer: No.

The long answer: Depends.

It depends on how you define personal ethics. If you maintain that laws must be followed no matter what, then, Q.E.D., breaking any law is unethical.

I think for most people, reason prevails over such philosophical and nonsensical logic.

(bolding mine)

I haven’t read a video/DVD rental contract lately, but I’d be willing to bet that “do not copy” is stated explicitly in the contract the renter has with the store.

I don’t get it. People copy movies so that they don’t have to shell out the money to buy them. How does that not equal a loss of money for someone?

Because the copier might not have bought it otherwise?

Oh, I agree. But even if the rental contact doesn’t explicitly state so, such limitations are implied. If it’s not in the contract it’s not *legally * binding, but it’s still *ethically * binding.

To be ethical in this transaction, you should be upfront with the owner about what you intend to do with the DVD. If you were to state in advance “I intend to make a copy of your DVD before I return to to your store. Do you still wish to rent it to me?” then your ethical duty would be satisfied.

(Of course the typical Blockbuster clerk doesn’t have the authority to grant such a request. But I assume we’re talking in the abstract here. You could mail your request to the Blockbuster corporate office instead of to the clerk.)