Why it's STILL illegal to rip your DVDs despite UK law changes

The Phantom Menace of TPM

Why it s STILL illegal to rip your DVDs despite UK law changes

The UK Government's decision to allow us to make copies of the films, TV, books and music that we buy could have massive repercussions, but will we now reach the nirvana of being able to easily transfer our DVDs and Blu-rays onto our computers, phones and tablets?

The simple answer is no.

Although the government will make it legal for us to make copies for personal use of our media - it will not make it legal for people to break the DRM - or more accurately TPM (Technical Protection Measures) that currently makes it difficult to 'rip' your DVDs.

That's because a digital file without a TPM in place would be extremely easy to make multiple copies of and share with other people - something that the music world has been battling against for years.

"The supply and use of equipment to circumvent technological measures is…illegal in UK and European law in recognition of the damage it can cause," explains the government report.

CD side of life

So putting a CD in your computer and making digital copies (ripping) is legal because there is no TPM restricting this, but ripping a DVD, eBook or Blu-ray with TPM for personal use would still be illegal, not because you aren't allowed a copy of the content you have bought, but because it is illegal for you to remove the TPM without permission.

The government seems aware that this is a major issue, pointing out that TPM already prevents, for example, making accessible copies for the disabled, but adds - somewhat cryptically; "of the permitted acts considered in this document, private copying is the exception: the UK has a choice as to whether to provide a means of access."

So it's up to the government if it will allow you to remove the TPM on the film that you bought on DVD, but its legislation will soon say that it's your right to make copies of that content.

You could, as the document suggests, make a complaint to the Secretary of State (SoS) that you own that content and the copyright holder is restricting you from making a copy for personal use, but don't hold your breath for ruling in your favour.

"It is important to note that the SoS cannot simply authorise a user to circumvent TPMs; it would not be lawful under the Copyright Directive," adds the Government statement.

"Possible outcomes of a SoS intervention would include a direction to the user to purchase an existing digital copy that was usable for the purpose required, or that a rights holder provide the user with a particular excerpt from a work."

Not fair

The first half of that statement is the salient one, you may well find that any complaint brings a response of a link to the relevant page on iTunes where you can spend more of your money to buy a digital copy of something you already own on DVD.

And who thinks that's fair? The rights holders of course.

What that means for consumers is that it is a free pass for rights holders to charge what they want for digital copies, meaning the farcical situation where you can buy a DVD for significantly less than a digital version will continue.

Because music is not behind a TPM, cheap CDs mean that there is market pressure that keeps prices of music tracks and whole albums relatively low. If you cannot copy your DVD easily that pressure is not there for film and television programmes.

The government has essentially made something legal which most people would have been surprised was illegal at all, and missed the opportunity to provide a significantly fairer framework for modern day digital content which is by and large protected by DRM.