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

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.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • omg…
    was this a real question?
    he should of saved the money and just downloaded them.

  • The laws are confusing, but basically, you can format shift media, you just cant bypass DRM to do so.

    Ripping from any legit DVD or blu ray is going to involved bypassing DRM so thats what effectively makes it a no-no. For music, because there’s no DRM on CD’s it’s OK to format shift them to mp3’s.

    In theory there is no difference to ripping a CD to mp3 and ripping a movie to avi, its just the Copyright laws that manage to get control via the DRM rules.

    I wonder what the rules are if its not YOU bypassing DRM though…

      • Probably not. The Telecommunications Act here is what lets you format shift, its the Copyright Act that makes it illegal to breach DRM, so I expect this is Australia only.

        Which is why I wonder what happens if someone else breaks the DRM. If you own a movie and download a torrent, its just a way of format shifting, so if that rip is done in another country, its up to them to protect THEIR laws. Isnt it? How are we to know whats legal and illegal where it happened, and with torrents, where it actually happened.

        Its never been tested, and would be an incredibly ballsy defence to try, but I am curious which of the two laws would come out in front.

        • Pretty sure owning a DVD of the movie won’t get you out of trouble for downloading a torrent of said movie. You are still breaching copyright.

  • Also consider that the dodgy movies you’re ripping have already been compressed, probably to fit on a cheaper single layer disc. The original DVD they were ripped from was also compressed.

    Your digital copy is going to be third generation, so you may want to do some test rips with a higher bitrate than you would for a store-bought DVD, lest you spend hours creating a collection of very fuzzy movies.

  • “Encrypt” your collection by adding them to password protected zip file (or something tougher than that) if you’re really worried

      • “Truecrypt lives on.”

        Actually, no. Development stopped over 2 years ago and from their SourceForge page:
        ‘WARNING: Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues’.

        Try VeraCrypt?

  • Is it against the law? Yes
    Are you gonna get caught? Nope, not unless you directly tell customs “Hey i ripped some bali dvd’s onto my macbook”

    Customs does not check devices for pirated content,

    Unless of course you visit North Korea.

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