Ask LH: Is It Illegal To Rip Bluray Discs I Paid For?

Ask LH: Is It Illegal To Rip Bluray Discs I Paid For?

Hey Lifehacker, I would like to know what the law says about this situation: I bought a Blu-ray disc and now I want to make a digital copy of it so I can put it on my home media server. Is it illegal for me to download a copy of the movie, even if I have already bought it? Thanks, Ray Of Light

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Dear ROL,

Stupidly, yes. Under amendments made to the Australian Copyright Act in 2007, it is now legal for individuals to format shift analogue video (such as VHS movies) to a digital format for private and domestic use. However, the same permissions do not apply to DVDs or Blu-ray discs.

Here’s what the Australian Law Reform Commission has to say about DVD/Blu-ray format shifting as it relates to the Australian Copyright Act:

The​ format shifting exception for films only applies to copies made from films in​ analog form. It does not allow digital-to-digital copying. This means the exception does not​ apply to copies made for example, from DVDs and Blu-Ray discs and digital copies​ downloaded from the internet. One reason given for this limitation is that​ ‘unrestricted digital-to-digital copying could allow consumers to reproduce the​ full picture quality and features provided in commercially produced digital​ film content’.

In other words, buying a Blu-ray movie doesn’t entitle you to create a digital copy for personal use. This is considered a violation of the film’s copy protection even if you paid for the original. Presumably, the movie industry would prefer to make customers “double dip” via one of the various digital distributions models on offer, such as Quickflix, UltraViolet, Google Play and iTunes. (You can find out more about the legalities of format shifting here.)

With that said, you’d have to be extremely unlucky to fall foul of the law over such an inconsequential “crime” as this. To our knowledge, no Australian has ever been convicted for making copies of Blu-ray discs for their media server. It’s basically the 21st century equivalent of taping content off radio or TV — you’re not supposed to do it, but the potential repercussions are so low as to be practically non-existent. Take that for what it’s worth.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • thats one of the major issues with copyright, not being able to format shift, because the quality remains the same. If they had their way, you would need to pay for a copy for every device you want to watch it on, PC blu ray, blue ray in the lounge etc

    There aint no way they can catch you tho, if you rip the blue ray at home and convert to a digital file

  • Eh, it may not be legal, but I paid for it, so I do what I want with it. Not my problem if dinosaurs are running this country.

  • This level of copyright always annoys me, especially with the kids movies. They’re not careful with the discs, and I’m not going to buy a new copy of Frozen every 2 weeks. Streaming isn’t an option where I live, nor is downloading 10gb worth of movie, so I keep the original in a protective case in the cabinet and the kids get to watch a backup. When the disc inevitably gets scratched and stops playing, they have to wait a month before I make another backup.

    I bought the movie, why does copyright stop me from protecting my investment and using a backup copy? Its ridiculous.

    • I bought the movie, why does copyright stop me from protecting my investment and using a backup copy?

      Because you didn’t buy the movie.

      It’s a bit of a tricky point to understand but it’s the same thing as buying software.

      When you buy a DVD or Blu-Ray, you aren’t buying the movie. The company that produced the movie still owns it, not you. What you’re actually buying is a license to watch the movie (just like when you buy software, you’re actually buying a license to use that software). That license legally only allows you to watch the film usually in the privacy of your own home, it does not legally allow you to do anything else such as make copies of the film, broadcast it in a large public space, etc etc (you know those warning screens that come up at the start of a disc that you can’t skip but nobody reads? It’s all in there, just like it’s all there in the End User License Agreement if you buy software).

      Is it stupid? Yes, absolutely. But that’s how copyright works. We make exactly the same argument whenever someone likens downloading a movie to stealing it. It’s not stealing, it’s copyright infringement. Still illegal mind you, but they are NOT the same thing.

      • What is curious though, is in most cases with a software licence, you can reuse the licence if the disc is damaged. In some cases, software companies are happy to provide you access to the software for a nominal fee to download or a post a replacement disc. Although I have never asked, I have never tried it with a BluRay or DVD disc. So given that I have bought a licence to view their movie, when the medium becomes damaged, I still have a licence, yet I’ll need to purchase a replacement copy with another licence. In respect, I like the iTunes option for my music, where if I accidently delete it, I can redownload it.

        • Was just about to say that. I buy software, and can use it on any computer I like, so long as its me thats using it and I’m using it on one system at a time. Same deal here, I’m watching the movie I’ve paid the licence for on just one TV in the privacy of my own home. I’m not watching it on two TVs, I’m not charging a buck to all my 30 mates to come over and watch it, I’m not downloading a higher resolution version of it and I’m certainly not giving a copy to every kid at school.

          To give you an example, we had a heavily scratched disc. To get a replacement disc from Disney, they wanted to charge $15 plus postage on a movie we bought on special for $16 and they wanted the original damaged disc sent to them first. Instead, I took the disc to the local video rental and sweet-talked the girl behind the counter into giving the disc a professional “clean” (by this I mean they cut a layer off the disc to remove the scratches) for $5, after which I went home and made a backup. This was the last time the kids handled original discs and downright robbery from the producer.

          • Not always true with software — many licences only allow you to use software on a single system, and not even to install on a single system. (Not saying that’s at all fair under all circumstances, just that the analogy isn’t exact.)

  • Double dip, or triple dip, or…
    Over the years, how many different versions of Star Wars could be purchased? Laserdisc, VHS, VHS original polished, VHS Special Edition, DVD Special Edition, BluRay. How many of the past copies do I need to have purchased to not feel guilty about downloading a 1080p Original Trilogy reconstruction?

  • Even Sony Vegas has a DVD/BR import feature, although it doesn’t handle all discs/formats and gets a little funny about some protections. If this isn’t a kind of subtle nod from Sony – that’s “Sony Pictures” Sony (Think Columbia/TriStar), who implemented ARccOS Protection but later withdrew it, then I don’t know what is. Bear in mind they were also one of the first companies to start selling CD burners and copying software back in the early mp3 days.

  • Until we no longer have politicians in the pockets of big media these sorts of stupid laws will continue to be on the books and they will be made worse.

  • I thought it was legal to copy your Movies and Music for backup and personal purposes only. You can’t share that copy or give it to anyone else. Has that changed recently?

    • No, it hasn’t changed, you’ve been misinformed.

      The Copyright Amendment Act 2006 (Cth) updated Australian Copyright law, and (amongst other things), made “time shifting” (ie. using a VCR to tape from the TV, or a DVR to tape from the TV – as long as you only watch that tape once) legal, made copying your CD’s to mp3s legal (but it’s still not cool to share your music with your friends), and made devices that break encryption illegal (thanks USA FTA).

      It did not make it legal to copy videos or DVD’s for personal use.
      (It was originally supposed to, but the government took it out so they could get the bill passed by our elected members (ie: past the lobby groups)).


      As LH said, it’s a stupid law. Just like recording from the TV using your VCR was illegal between 1968 and 2006. Because it’s a stupid law, it’s not an enforced law.

  • Most Movies on Blu-Ray and DVD seem to come with the Ultraviolet code now so you get the movie and the digital version.

    • yeah if you want a digital version with a timed expiry date that’s great! other Ultraviolet is a terrible implementation.

      • I thought the code expired if not used, I was unaware the movie expired. In that case why even bother.

        • Once code is redeemed it doesn’t expire from your account. The codes do expire if not redeemed… Which negates the point of it… Why would I bother when I can’t register the 3 films I grabbed on special a few years after their release?

          Apparently there is a service available – but probably US only /o\ – where you can chuck your physical media into the PC, verify ownership, pay a fee (apparently small?) and add it to your Ultraviolet account provided the publisher has an ultraviolet license arrangement.

  • So what of I outputed a bluray to rgb analogue signal via a bluray player with that capability than format shifted that analogue signal back to digital say mkv, would that be legal?

  • So, if the media companies make me a criminal for watching the movie on multiple devices, then I may as well not pay for it and torrent a superior version (without rubbish/trailers to trawl through before I can watch the movie)

  • So, if I bought a DVD and watch it with my friends it’s also illegal because they’re not paying the copyright of the producer.

    “But you do not, and cannot, have any legal ownership over copies of the informational portion of the work, once you have allowed even one copy of that out into the public. There is no basis in natural law for it, and, more importantly, there is no way you can enforce such a legal right without prior restraint or a duty for people to prove themselves innocent, either of which is a gross violation of natural law.” – Kyle Bennett

  • The​ format shifting exception for films only applies to copies made from films in​ analog form. It does not allow digital-to-digital copying.

    So does this mean you could do something pretty silly though, i.e. is it legal to format shift from digital-to-analogue?

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