Legal to "rip" CDs but not DVDs - why?

iTunes (and other tools, I’m most familiar with iTunes) makes it a trivial task to copy your CD to your computer’s hard drive, and enjoy the music either on the computer, or via your MP3/iPod player. As far as I can tell, this falls under “fair use”, nobody has any interest in attempting to prosecute that sort of use. Even the RIAA nominally only goes after people who are sharing music.

iTunes does not have a similar import capability for DVDs. I once saw a thread here shut down when someone asked how to do so, under the presumption that it’s illegal. Googling yields information that it can be done, but that it appears to be illegal.

Why? In other words, why are two essentially-equal actions considered so different under the law? Why isn’t watching your DVD via computer, with the original disc put away somewhere, exactly the same as listening to music from your own CDs?

CAVEATS: I’m not interested in anyone posting how to do such a DVD copy (board rules against discussion of illegal activities; if I wanna know, I’m sure I can find out on my own. If anyone posts such instructions I fully expect mods to lock / disappear the thread). And my presumption is that, as with the CD, it would be for the convenience of the person who legally owns the DVD.

(Mods: possibly this belongs in Great Debates, feel free to move if you think that’s where it should live).

DVD’s are encrypted. It’s illegal to decrypt them,

Well yeah, but the question was why they are encrypted in the first place. Why can you legally rip a music CD to your computer when you own the physical CD but you cannot rip a DVD to your computer legally when you own the physical DVD.

Legal answer: see post 7 and follow-up.

The issues aren’t as clear-cut as you’re trying to make them. It is illegal, under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, to circumvent copyright protection measures on digital media. Decrypting a DVD would seem to fall under this restriction. However, under the fair use doctrine, it’s generally OK for you to make a backup copy of digital media that you own. So, it may be legal to decrypt a DVD to make a backup but illegal for anyone to provide the software for doing so. When there are conflicts like this, the courts decide.

As to why DVDs are decrypted while CDs are not - the people who designed the DVD standard looked at the shortcomings of the CD standard and attempted to fix them. Encrypting the data was one of these fixes. Another was region coding. If they could add these features to the CD standard without requiring everyone to buy all new CD players, they would, even though these measures have been largely ineffective.

So that you can’t legally make a copy of them, of course.

The vast majority of the entities that produce DVDs don’t want their customers to be able to make copies. So they encrypted them to make it more difficult, technically, and they lobbied Congress to make it illegal to overcome the technical restrictions.

What you really seem to be asking is “why aren’t CDs encrypted?” The answer to that is that the CD spec did not specify it at the time because the designers either didn’t foresee the current technological environment, in which it is cheap and easy to duplicate optical media, or because they didn’t want to add the cost of encryption to the format. And you can’t change the CD spec retroactively without making all the old players not work, at which point it’s really a new format, anyway.

The cd isn’t encrypted the DVD is. My answer was simple and correct.

Technically, it’s not legal to rip CDs either; it’s just that no one bothers you about it unless you are sharing the files.

To nitpick, the OP asked why DVDs are encrypted while CDs are not:

The OP obviously understands there is a barrier (encryption) on DVDs that prevents easily and legally ripping them to a computer like a lot of people do with their CDs. Question was why are we allowed to rip CDs but not DVDs when it’s essentially the same thing - ripping media we own from a disc to our personal computers.

While you may “own” the physical media in which the music or video is distributed, you don’t “own” the music or the video. You are merely licensed to enjoy its use according to the license, and the law.

Cite? From everything I know, that’s incorrect.

Fucking SDMB pedants. :rolleyes:

Lets pretend the OP asked “why does the CD license allow your to copy the music while the DVD license does not” instead of trying to prove how smart we are by pointing out the nuance in the issue without answering the question.

Well, there you go.
On the back of my “Eels” CD, it says (in tiny print) “Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws”, so I guess that the “CD license” doesn’t permit copying.

I’m going to presume, based on the existence of the Fair Use doctrine and the Audio Home Recording Act, that the “unauthorized” and “applicable” parts of that disclaimer are pretty important. They print it on there that way to discourage people from doing something that they have the right to do and the lawyers have crafted a vague statement that is technically true but omits defining under what conditions it applies.

It’s legal to copy a CD for private personal use, period, and it’s legal to use it in some specific non-private uses as defined as Fair Use.

No, Reality Chuck’s explanation is closer to the actual reality (assuming you’re in the USA).

Fair use is a defense against an infringement suit; it does not restrain anyone from suing you. The copyright holder may legitimately disagree that a given use is fair, and they have the right to have the matter decided by a court. The court will look at all the factors and then decide your case.

It has nothing to do with fair use. The AHRA very specifically allows it. The RIAA has challenged it and lost. Read the Wiki article. It is in no way, shape or form, illegal to rip a CD that you own for your own private use.

I read the wiki artice (both), then I read the act itself (Ch.10 of the US copyright Act), then I read the case I think you’re referring to:
RECORDING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA v. DIAMOND MULTIMEDIA SYS., 180 F.3d 1072 (9th Cir. 1999). This is the case where the RIAA sues Diamond over their portable music (I-pod-like) product.

From the Act itself “No action may be brought under this title alleging infringement of copyright based on the manufacture, importation, or distribution of a digital audio recording device, a digital audio recording medium, an analog recording device, or an analog recording medium, or based on the noncommercial use by a consumer of such a device or medium for making digital musical recordings or analog musical recordings.

OK, now I see where you’re coming from. Hmm, They’d still be able to sue you though wouldn’t they? – just claim your actions were for commercial use. They’d probably lose, but, again, I think you’d have to defend yourself. Unless I am really missing something here, and I totally missed your point?

OK, I think I see how we’re looking at it from different angles, and that’s causing the confusion. I simply think it’s a better way to look at it by saying “it’s illegal to kill people, generally speaking, but there are some exceptions” and you’re saying “It is in no way illegal for you to kill someone in self-defence”.

We’re both kind of right, but I prefer my way of looking at it.

The thing is, though, that in just about any legal question involving the issue of torts, the argument “They’d still be able to sue you” is essentially meaningless, and completely unproductive.

Here in the great U.S. of A., you can file a lawsuit against someone for just about anything. Your ability to file such a suit says nothing at all about the merits of the case, nor about the laws that will determine the outcome.

Your case might be dismissed summarily as frivolous; it might proceed, but still end up losing on the merits; it might actually prove victorious. There are probably a bunch of other possibilities too.

But there is very little connection between your ability to commence a suit, on the one hand, and your chances of victory, on the other.

Yeah as I was typing it out I realized the complete meaningless of what I was saying, hence my following post to bring it back in line with my original thoughts.