Expert Eye

Is ripping a DVD legal?

Is Ripping a DVD Legal? 

So you own a Movie on DVD and want to make a copy of it to put onto your Computer… Simple question, Is it legal for you to do so? Well surprisingly, the answer is technically, no.

is ripping dvd legal

Under current UK law it’s still officially illegal to ‘Rip’ a protected DVD or BluRay. In fact it’s still illegal to reproduce any copyrighted media at all.  Doing so would break the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Digital Rights Management (DRM) for DVD’s.

The DVD’s are ‘covered’ by the Technical Protection Measure (TPM) placed on the disk which is the legal barrier that makes it illegal to rip the media. Think of it as a red tape seal around the DVD, not to be broken.

This is where it all gets a little confusing. Copying media on the DVD is allowed. Nevertheless, removing/breaking the TPM on the disk is illegal. The catch is you can’t do one without the other therefore making the whole process illegal.

Government officials are aware of the ridiculous contradictions in the process and are looking at rectifying the various legislations involved. However for the time being the process is still in a ‘grey area’ and by law, is illegal.

Hence why you won’t find big brand software like Microsoft/Apple offering DVD ripping software or building it into a Media Player.

John Townsend, Associate Solicitor at DLA Piper UK LLP explained the legal premise:

“Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 it is an infringing act to reproduce literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work in any material form, including storing it in any medium by electronic means.  This includes “format shifting” – being the transfer of copyright protected works into different formats (for example ripping music from a CD to create an mp.3 file).”

So why can I Rip CD’s?

shutterstock_119970892CD’s and the music industry work a little different to the DVD/Movie industry. The bottom line is that CD’s don’t have the same TPM on the disks, meaning you have the ability to copy media for personal use even though it is still illegal.

The law into digital copying is set to be amended on the back of the much publicised Hargreaves Report into copyright and intellectual property.

Mr Townsend continued to add “The Hargreaves review recommended introducing a limited private-copying exception for format shifting covering namely, the making of copies of lawfully owned works on different media for personal (and also immediate family) use.”

“Despite the current government endorsing these recommendations they have still not been implemented in UK law and subject to the content bring sold with express permission to format shift such format shifting remains a breach of copyright.”

The laws for copying music still haven’t changed, however the red tape has simply been lifted a little.  The advent of MP3 players to the market meant most people with a CD collection had to rip the media anyway to put it on an iPod anyway. 

Why are DVD’s & BluRays a special case?

In three words- Movie Industry Power. The money and influence behind some of the larger movie studios is massive. Copyright legislation simply hasn’t evolved with the times and the Movie Studios in the USA have fought tooth and nail to keep it that way. In this case, money talks and for the moment Hollywood is winning.

Is it Illegal everywhere?shutterstock_154065596

No, it’s a bit of mixed bag but the UK and USA are certainly in a minority. Countries like Australia have a ‘personal use’ policy, meaning you can make a duplicate of a media file you own and have purchased legally e.g CD/DVD/BluRay.

Closer to home, a clause in the EU Copyright Directive allows its member states to opt into a “personal use” section, meaning individual countries can allow their citizens to make a copy of legally purchased digital media for their own use. Most of Europe, with the exception of the UK, has opted into this in various forms.

Should it be legal?

Everyone can see the current law is outdated, awkward and simply boycotted, but would lifting the restriction completely be the way to go? Or would doing this ultimately damage the movie industry?

An argument against lifting the law completely is the ramifications of allowing easy distribution of a product- What’s stopping you sharing your ripped films with the world?

The music Industry had to combat piracy by shipping millions into downloads and streaming services- The Video Industry will have to continue following suit with downloads and steaming to stay profitable.

Another interesting argument against the lift is:  If you buy a copy of something once in your lifetime (a DVD let’s say) should you be allowed a permanent copy of it forever? In the past if you scratched a CD or unwound a VHS-you needed to buy a new one. Why should it be any different in the digital age?

What’s the next step?

The law is currently been kicked around parliament in the UK and experts believe a ‘reasonable compromise’ will be made next year. The US is however another story and their influence on the industry is incredibly strong/imposing.

Some companies are attempting to combat piracy by adding free downloads to DVD boxes. The DVD’s will come with a code or voucher to add into iTunes/Amazon so the user can claim a free download of the movie- Thus negating the need to rip from the disk completely.

For the time being however the law stands and technically you’re in breach of various copyright laws if you do chose to rip a DVD. Your property or not.


As the law stands no copying of media whatsoever is currently permissible- So it’s interesting to find out what level of copyright infringement the public finds acceptable.

Do you think you are breaking the law by putting music on your iPod or tablet ? Do you copy media from DVD’s and CD’s…  and if so should it be legal?

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