Ask LH: Will I Get Busted For Ripping Bali DVDs To My Macbook?

Dear Lifehacker, I have made many trips to Bali and now have over 100 cheap DVDs purchased from market stalls over there. I like to travel but carrying around 100 DVDs isn’t very efficient. I was thinking about moving them onto my MacBook but don’t want to get in trouble for breaking copyright. Am I allowed to transfer these DVDs to a MacBook or is this considered pirating? Thanks, Movie Addict

Image: iStock

Dear MA,

We hate to break it to you, but those DVDs were all pirated to begin with. There’s a reason why they’re so cheap and come in those plastic sleeves: they’re illegal copies made with DVD burners, probably in some Balinese guy’s garage.

Under Australian copyright law, you are not allowed to bring pirated copies of movies or TV shows into Australia. If you get caught, you could face legal prosecution and large fines. You can read up on the specific laws here.

For the sake of argument, lets pretend that the DVDs are official versions. Would you then be allowed to transfer to your Mac? Annoyingly, the answer is no.

Under the current legal framework you’re not supposed to “format shift” DVDs or Blu-rays to your laptop, even if you purchased them legally. (There are a handful of exceptions, such as when it’s for research, but by and large you’re stuck with the physical copies.)

This especially applies to any DVDs that have copyright protection or digital rights management (DRM) built-in. If the copyright holder puts in some kind of technological protection method (no matter how flimsy), then you’re forbidden from making a copy of that content. For more on format shifting laws, click here.

With all that said, we wouldn’t lose too much sleep over this. Police and border protection agencies generally have more important things to do then chase small-time DVD pirates. As long as you don’t flout it to the authorities, your ill-gotten stash should be pretty safe.


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