UK Finally 'Legalizes' CD & DVD Ripping… But You're Still Not Allowed To Circumvent DRM

from the so-that's-kind-of-meaningless dept

As TorrentFreak is noting, the UK is finally modernizing basic user rights concerning copyright (what they call “fair dealing”) to officially make it “legal” to make personal copies of legally acquired copies of digital content. In short, due to restrictive copyright law, it has always been technically infringement in the UK to rip a CD or DVD, but as of June that will change. This was one of the key suggestions in the Hargreaves report from three years ago, so it’s good to see it finally being put into action.

That said, this is hardly perfect. It appears that the fair dealing rules still won’t let you circumvent DRM in order to make those private copies. In the FAQ the UK government is distributing, we see the following:

As that notes, if the media includes DRM, you’re basically out of luck:

Media such as DVDs are often protected by anti-copying technology to guard against copyright piracy, and this is protected by law. Copyright owners will still be able to apply this protection. However, if copy protection is too restrictive, you may raise a complaint with the Secretary of State.

Right, so in order to rip a personal copy of a movie so you might, for example, watch it on your tablet, rather than in a DVD player, you first have to “raise a complaint with the Secretary of State” and hope they do something about it? That basically eliminates this new effort entirely. And that’s always been the problem with DRM and anti-circumvention rules. They basically give content middlemen the ability to put a veto on user rights, blocking them from doing things that are perfectly legal.

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Comments on “UK Finally 'Legalizes' CD & DVD Ripping… But You're Still Not Allowed To Circumvent DRM”

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54 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

DRM as anti-piracy?

Oh look, yet another case of DRM screwing only paying customers by blocking them from doing something that would otherwise be perfectly legal to do, imagine that.

DRM is not, and never has been, about piracy, as situations like this make perfectly clear it’s always been about control, making it so that even when someone buys something they never actually own it.

Rikuo (profile) says:

What’s the Secretary of State going to do? Even if he/she were a believer in copyright abolition (like me), what can they do? They can’t exactly ban DRM. They can’t say to a movie studio “Hey, Joe London here says the DRM on his DVD is too restrictive, give him a non-DRM’ed disc” (since that would entail a government demanding a transfer of private property from one party to another, sans a trial).
Even if the Secretary were to do something, what counts as “too restrictive”? I tried to watch a Blu-ray on my PC the other day, and I had to physically disconnect one of my monitors before it would play (having one monitor turned off wasn’t enough, I had to take the actual cable out). Would this count as too restrictive? I know taking a cable out is easy, but it’s still a piece of software demanding what I do with my hardware before it’ll play back a disc that I’ve bought.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“They can’t exactly ban DRM.”

In my view, the legal problem isn’t the existence of DRM. It’s the existence of laws that make it illegal to bypass DRM. Get rid of those laws, or at the very minimum make it so they apply only if you’re breaking the DRM in order to facilitate a crime, and the problem is solved.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, the problem really is the existence of DRM. Its only purpose is to take control of a device that you own away from you and put it in the hands of someone else, against your will and against your interests.

In any other context, that’s known as hacking, and it’s illegal. Why should it be any different for this specific context? (And before anyone embarrasses themselves by claiming that it’s not “against your will” because you bought the product of your own free will, even though it contains DRM, please look up the term “Leonine Contract” and understand its implications.)

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Re: I am the Law!

Before the DMCA, you could buy and distribute cracking tools. DRM was annoying but it didn’t have the force of law. The problem with DRM isn’t so much that it tries to enforce rights that don’t really exist. The problem with DRM is corresponding laws that effectively enforce those non-rights.

The DMCA and laws like it gives the force of law to wishful thinking of artistic megalomaniacs. That’s the real problem.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I am the Law!

Before the DMCA, you could buy and distribute cracking tools.

I am confused. How does the DMCA prevent UK residents from buying and distributing cracking tools? Sure, if they are trying to buy them from US companies or distribute them to US citizens, they might have problems with US law enforcement agencies trying to enforce their laws on foreign countries, but the DMCA should have no barring on UK citizens.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, the problem really is the existence of DRM. Its only purpose is to take control of a device that you own away from you and put it in the hands of someone else, against your will and against your interests.

Unless it damages your hardware or violates some other law (privacy, fraud, etc) they should be allowed to distribute whatever software they want, including DRM. And I should be allowed to run whatever software I want on my hardware, including software that removes DRM. DRM should be neither banned nor enforced by law, rather let the market sort it out.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

What it violates are my basic property rights. When rights come into conflict with one another, one has to be found more important than the other, and the other is limited by it. This is a basic principle of civilized society, often expressed as “your right to swing your fist ends where my face begins.”

Well, when my fundamental right to have my computer do what I tell it to comes into conflict with a software company’s right to distribute whatever they want to, by them attempting to distribute something that makes my computer disobey me and actively work against my interests, their right ends, right there.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Well, when my fundamental right to have my computer do what I tell it to comes into conflict with a software company’s right to distribute whatever they want to, by them attempting to distribute something that makes my computer disobey me and actively work against my interests, their right ends, right there.

But you also have the right to not install their software. To go back to the swinging and punching metaphor, isn’t installing software and then complaining that it violates your rights a bit like entering a boxing match and then objecting to getting punched? If you don’t like what the software does, then don’t use it. Why should the government dictate what someone is allowed to sell? This assumes that you know what you’re installing and that it isn’t done by any sneaky or fraudulent means.

outside of areas such as product safety, fraud, etc

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“No, the problem really is the existence of DRM. Its only purpose is to take control of a device that you own away from you and put it in the hands of someone else, against your will and against your interests.”

Most DRM merely prevents you from doing something, it does not “take control’ of anything, so your hacking comparison is not applicable in most cases.

Trying to ban DRM would be extremely problematic and no doubt result in unintended consequences and all sorts of abuse, as history demonstrates clearly. If instead the laws preventing the bypassing of DRM were repealed, DRM itself would become largely irrelevant, used only by companies blind to the will of their customers and not long for this world.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Trying to ban DRM would be extremely problematic

Not only that, banning DRM would be a violation of the property rights of the producer of the film, CD, etc.

Just as people should have the right to make personal copies for themselves, I should have the right to publish my work in any format I damn well please without the government telling me how I’m allowed to do it.

If I write a book and want to encrypt it so that only people I know who have the decryption key can read it, it’s my right to do that. If I want to put DRM on my DVDs, then that’s also my right. What I don’t have the right to do is demand the government criminalize any circumvention of that DRM even in pursuit of other statutorily guaranteed consumer rights.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Most DRM merely prevents you from doing something, it does not “take control’ of anything, so your hacking comparison is not applicable in most cases.

What I said is not “take control of,” but “take control … away from you.” It turns my computer against me by causing it to declare something that I deliberately chose to put on there to be invalid and refuse to run it.

Trying to ban DRM would be extremely problematic and no doubt result in unintended consequences and all sorts of abuse, as history demonstrates clearly.

What history demonstrates clearly is that allowing DRM is extremely problematic, resulting in unintended consequences and all sorts of abuse. The Sony Rootkit comes to mind immediately, as does Apple’s iOS “walled garden,” Sony’s removal of useful functionality from the PS3, and dozens of other examples. These are real things, not hypotheticals. What real examples of abuse of prohibitions on abusive software do you have, if history is so full of them?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“In any other context, that’s known as hacking, and it’s illegal.”

Umm, no. That’s not hacking nor, (and this is what I think you intended to say, since there’s nothing remotely illegal about hacking) cracking.

Although I oppose DRM, it seems wrong to me to say that companies should not be allowed to use it. It’s their product, and if they want to cripple it, that’s their decision.

My problem is that once it’s in my hands, I should be allowed to bypass the DRM should I so choose. It’s legal for me to reverse engineer the software, it’s legal for me to modify any software I legally have, it’s legal for me to modify my own machine in any way I see fit. Having a this one specific act (bypassing DRM) illegal is a clear infringement of my property rights, in my view.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Umm, no. That’s not hacking nor, (and this is what I think you intended to say, since there’s nothing remotely illegal about hacking) cracking.

No, I intended to say “hacking.” That particular battle was lost waaaaay back in the 1990s, and everyone today except Richard Stallman understands that.

Although I oppose DRM, it seems wrong to me to say that companies should not be allowed to use it. It’s their product, and if they want to cripple it, that’s their decision.

Which would be true, if it was true. But it’s not; it isn’t their product they’re crippling; it’s my computer. (See: the Sony rootkit, StarForce, SecuROM, iOS, etc.)

My problem is that once it’s in my hands, I should be allowed to bypass the DRM should I so choose.

Your real problem is that once it’s loaded onto your system, it could be (and often is) already doing damage to your interests before you get around to reverse-engineering it.

Let’s put it nice and simple. I assume you agree that writing and distributing a virus or similar malware is illegal, and rightfully so, because of the harm it causes to its victims’ property. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) So aside from the fact that viruses infect your system by sleazy code that causes it to copy itself over networks and DRM infects your system by sleazy leonine contracts, what’s the difference between DRM and a virus?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hang on…. this is meant to be a UK law…yet it talks about the ‘Secretary of State’? There is no ‘Secretary of State’ in this country……

There are numerous Secretaries of State in the UK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secretary_of_State_%28United_Kingdom%29

However, the document on gov.uk no longer contains that section of the FAQ:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/375949/Guidance_for_consumers.pdf

Don’t know why.

s7 says:

copyright piracy

Also, who’s to judge whether the protection is too restrictive?

If Grandma can’t copy her Lonesome Dove DVDs’ to her iPad without the help of her 12/yo Grandson is that too restrictive?

If you have to resort to scouring the interwebs for software that has now been scrubbed from said interwebs because it was a tool for circumventing DRM, is that too restrictive?

GooberedUp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: wat

From the limited excerpts here, I read the “and this is protected by law” to mean that the rights of the publisher to use DRM is protected by law.

In the US, Apple can try to kill all the iPhone/iPad/iPod jailbreak efforts they want, but new JBs aren’t considered as DMCA circumvention acts, even though Apple fought vigorously to try to get that in. I think it’s the same here.

In other words, the copyright holder’s attempt to protect his content using DRM is protected by law. However, a media owner’s rights to make copies is also protected by law.

If the content owner makes the DRM so tough to circumvent that it’s impossible to make a copy, then at that point the government needs to be notified.

Arana says:

Re: Re: Re: wat

that means they cannot prohibit them for including DRM protection, PROTECTED BY LAW, but also protected by law is your rigth to have a personal copy so to me it just says, we cannot prohibit anyone from protecting their works, but we can make a law to allow you to copy it by any means, and if you CANT then fill a complaint

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

So let us just do the easy thing to benefit the public in these situations. Require that the content industry has to make available a digital copy on demand to people who purchased the material.
That way no one has to break the law, and it reenforces that the public actually has the right to format shift.

Plus it might cause the cartel leadership to have a stroke and be replaced by people who aren’t insane.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Won’t work. My one roommate bought a copy of Iron man.. 2 I think it was, that said ‘COmes with digital copy!’. Well.. after half a day of just trying to get the digital copy, another quarter trying to get it to work on his smartphone like he wanted the copy for to BEGIN with, I looked at him and finally said ‘So… I can get what you want in ten minutes on the internet’.

They’ll give you a ‘digital copy’ in their own proprietary format, requiring their own proprietary software to run, with proprietary restrictions on where you can play it, how you can play it, what devices you can put it on, and when it stops being yours because they decided its been long enough that you should have to pay them again.

If anything, it would just make them arrogantly smug about ‘giving people what they want’, and make them soapbox harder about how piracy is unfair because people don’t like being told what they want.

s7 says:

Re: Re:

Require that the content industry has to make available a digital copy on demand to people who purchased the material.

Is an Ultraviolet(tm) code good enough? Because you know that’s about the only digital copy they’d be willing to let you use.

If there just wasn’t any DRM on the DVD, people could just use regular burning software to do a disk to disk copy, or use any number of tools to compile the DVD files into an .mp4/.avi//.mpg to play elsewhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If there just wasn’t any DRM on the DVD, people could just use regular burning software to do a disk to disk copy

Unless the system uses tricks lime bad sectors, which I haven’t seen since floppy disk days, DRM cannot prevent a bitwise copy of a disk. This also means you can create a .iso file, which is just a bit image, and send it to someone else. If you are running Windows, you may have to get a proper burner program to do this.
That has always been one of the silly points about DRM, on DVDs, it does not prevent bitwise copying. Pirate DVDs were basically killed by the Internet, as the criminals involved could not compete with free.
Further you are not circumventing DRM to make such copies, the copying does not interpret the file contents, and the DRM is preserved on the copy.

PaulT (profile) says:

IIRC (I was a small child at the time), when copyright concerns were discussed around video recording from TV, there was a silly compromise surrounding the legality of recording content from broadcast TV. It was agreed that it was legal to do so, but only if the content was only kept for a certain maximum time (3 or 6 months I think). This was soon abandoned since it was obviously unenforceable, and nobody cared nor followed the law.

Same here, I think. They probably want to say people have more rights, but can’t do so without admitting that DRM is practically unenforceable (and only affects paying customers, of course) so have arrived at a silly compromise that will change nobody’s actions in reality.

James says:

DMCA

Remember this is the UK, folks. The DMCA isn’t relevant here.

I’m not aware of any UK law that prohibits breaking DRM, so now that they have permitted personal use copying, I don’t see why there’s anything to stop you breaking DRM for lawful purposes (ie: format shifting) in the UK.

Please do correct me if I’m wrong.

Shmerl says:

Re: DMCA

It’s not as simple as it seems. DMCA-1201 sickness is historically secondary to the global WIPO sickness of the same nature. It was the driver of the global treaty though. I.e. creators of DMCA first designed the WIPO treaty, and backported that undeomocratically into US law as DMCA.

In Europe there is Directive 2001/29/EC which is even worse than DMCA-1201 in some aspects:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Directive#Technological_protection_measures
UK implemented that in 2003.

Duke (profile) says:

Re: DMCA

You’re looking for s296AZ Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. Specifically subsection (3).

However, the subsection is, imho, ambiguous – something I brought up with the IPO during their technical review of these exceptions, and something I need to chase up with them again given that the Government’s response isn’t clear either.

The law says:

The following persons have the same rights against B as a copyright owner has in respect of an infringement of copyright?

If that means “these people have” “the rights a copyright owner has when their copyright has been infringement” then those rights are the right to sue for damages, injunctions etc. and so they can sue you if you circumvent DRM – whether or not there is an underlying infringement.

But if it means “these people have” “the rights a copyright owner has” “when there is an infringement of copyright” then they can only sue you when there is an actual copyright infringement. So you can circumvent drm for personal use once this new exception comes into force.

Interestingly, it may be that the relevant EU law wouldn’t allow circumvention even when not infringing copyright, because a couple of key words were missed when the WIPO Copyright Treaty was turned into an EU Directive… funny that.

Anonymous Coward says:

so, just like in the USA, the customer is totally fucked just to keep a certain industry from changing IT’S ways, and wont be able to backup shit! what the hell is the point of saying ‘backup copies of legally bought disks can be made’ when they are ALL going to be full to the brim with DRM and CINAVIA? the UK government is just as useless and gutless as the USA’s! waste of friggin’ time!!

Shmerl says:

Re: Re:

An ironic part here is, that as much as these laws are dumb, they are as well unenforceable. It’s like government attempting to prohibit people from blinking. In order to enforce such laws governments will be required to create an extremely oppressive police state which monitors literally everything you do (like making a copy). However may be things are moving in that direction?

Aussie Geoff (profile) says:

What's DRM?

I don’t ever worry about DRM (Digital Restrictions Manipulation), I just use the products from Slysoft.com (http://slysoft.com/en/). They don’t care about all the DRM crap and every time some paranoid arsehole “invents” a new form of “screwing over the buyers/owners” Slysoft releases an update within a couple of days (usually this just involves an update to AnyDVD and AnyDVD HD – you only need one or the other, never both).

I can, and do, burn and/or rip copies of “protected” CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray disks without any problems. I get rid of all the irrelevant crap, warnings, threats, propaganda, multiple languages, regional coding etc so I have a clean copy and then make a backup copy of the clean copy. The original gets filed away in a cardboard box in the storage room, the clean copy goes into the original case and the copy gets played multiple times.

They are based in Antigua and consequently don’t care about the monopolists or govt regulations, they just follow Antiguan law.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While distros do come with ripping software (which is 100% legal), the major ones don’t come with the components needed to decrypt CSS (which is not legal in the US). Out of the box, you can rip DVDs that aren’t DRM’d (yes, they do actually exist), but not DRM’d DVDs. You have to download those modules separately, from separate repositories that aren’t hosted in the US.

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