MPAA Sues Firm For Loading Legally Owned DVDs Onto iPods

from the come-again? dept

It really was just a few days ago that the entertainment industry folks were claiming that it was the consumer electronics industry that was trying to pervert "fair use," right? Somehow, it seems like it's the entertainment industry that's the one pushing the boundaries. Almost exactly a year ago, we had a post about a new service that would sell you a video iPod and DVDs... and would load the video from the DVDs onto the iPod (and then ship you both the iPod and the DVD). This should be perfectly legal. After all, the owner has legally purchased both the iPod and the DVD, and the company is simply making the process easier by transferring the video to the iPod as well -- and it's well established that you can make a personal backup of content you have legally purchased. However, knowing how the industry views fair use, Carlo titled his post "Sue Me, I Dare You" and noted in the text: "the clock's ticking on the first lawsuit." Well, it turns out the clock ticked a little longer than we expected, but it did happen eventually. The EFF is noting that the MPAA has sued a company for doing exactly this. They are, of course, claiming that ripping the DVDs is a DMCA violation, because the DVDs have copy protection, and circumventing that is against the DMCA -- even though physically copying content you own to another format is legal fair use.

As the EFF notes in the post, while the MPAA is focusing on this company that does the ripping for you, the meaning is clear: they do not believe that making a personal copy of a DVD is legal -- despite all of the historical precedent set with CDs and software. The only "difference" here is that the DVD has some weak copy protection, and therefore the DMCA applies. In other words, they're not saying that it's illegal to make a copy -- because it's not. They're saying it's illegal to get around the copy protection. And, of course, they're doing this because they want to force you to buy the same content over and over and over again. And, yet, they still claim that it's folks like us who are changing the meaning of "fair use."
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  1. identicon
    Cleverboy, 17 Nov 2006 @ 9:47pm

    Re: Fair Use and Copy Protection

    John Quigley wrote:
    These are fair use, now when I buy an iPod and a DVD that has fair use as a part of the purchase, what difference does it make if the guy I buy the iPod from does the copying or I do it when I get it home?

    Well, not only are the assertions in the article silly, but your comments (along with many of the yes-men in this thread) are silly. Of course these guys should be sued. They have NO RIGHT to create a derivative work and then sell it as a service. Point... if Disney releases CARS with an iPod movie on it, I think it would be fair to say that the company "Load 'n Go" could copy that onto yoru iPod for you as part of the sale, provided they deliver the DVD to you OPENED (in such a state that the copy could have been made from the included DVD).

    However, to say that the company has every right to take the DVD, translate it into another format, and sell you that format along with your iPod is rubbish. If an art store sold a poster, and made a small wallet-sized reproduction of the poster, and called it "fair use", they'd also be wrong.

    If decided to allow digital downloads of all the books it has for sale in PDF format so that you could read it the moment you bought it... and they did not clear this with the publishers THEY would also be wrong. Why? Because by doing this, the seller is in essence posing as the publisher, assuming an unrestricted right to create a reasonable facsimili of the product, and sell it to you at the same time. Nothing is ever really "free", its simply part of the price they can afford to ascribe to the service and still make a profit.

    Let me throw two more examples out there. Plantiff A says, "Company B has deprived us of profits from products we sell by violating our copyright." Defendant B then says, "No, this is within fair use for a customer to make a personal backup." Judge asks, "So, you're asking for us to allow the customer to exercise his/her fair use rights through you as a proxy?" Defendant B, "Um, sure, that's it." Judge, "Plantiff, how are you harmed?" Plantiff A says, "The product Defendant B is giving our customers, is actually something we already sell through other avenues. If we choose to include this product (format) for FREE, it should be our choice. If we sold a DVD in Widescreen format and separately in Fullscreen format... people who purchase the widescreen edition should NOT be able to get a 'fullscreen' facimilie as part of the defendants so called service." Judge turns to the Defendant. Defendant says, "Crap. We're up shit creak, aren't we your honor?" Judge, "Afriad so."

    Another example... if you coud "fair use" by proxy, BestBuy could sell "backups" for any DVD or CD you buy. So, you could get 2 copies of every movie you purchased. Of course, this would result in people giving the extra copy to a friend... just like someone who wanted their DVD movies on their iPod may pay for such a service, and be immediately able to sell the original DVDs if the 640x480 iPod versions are fine enough for them. With the upcoming iTV, such an alternative digital library is close to what many will be compiling anyway.

    To review:
    It's fair use for the person to do it. It's not fair use if the seller does it, because it is part of the sales process, and therefore representative of the altered form of the "product".

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