After the iPod gained the ability to play videos, services sprung up that would rip your DVDs and reencode them for viewing on your iPod. Useful, but illegal in the US. The Motion Picture Association of America has decided to sue one of those DVD ripping and reeconding services. Earlier this month, Load ‘N Go Video was sued by Paramount Pictures in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. The suit accuses Load ‘N Go Video of copyright infringement and violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Based in Boston, Load N’ Go was founded in 2005 to help consumers get video content on to their portable media players. Load N’ Go also sells iPods and DVDs, and will rip DVDs for its customers and load them on to their iPods. The customer then gets the iPod with the movies loaded on it and a copy of the DVD that she legally purchased.
The DMCA makes it illegal to circumvent copy protection, even for fair use purposes, so Load N’ Go’s prospects do not look good. The implications of this case are even more troubling. Not only could the MPAA sue any other companies performing similar services, but they clearly believe that they can sue you for ripping DVDs and moving the content to your iPod or other digital media player.
It’s perfect for the movie studios. As we’ve pointed out before, they get to sell you the same content multiple times for multiple devices. Say you purchased a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when it came out on DVD. If you want a version to watch on your iPod, you have no legal way of getting one other than spending $9.99 for an iPod-friendly copy at the iTunes Store. It’s a great scheme for the movie studios, but really bad news for consumers.
We have repeatedly been critical of the DMCA here at Ars. It’s a badly written law that has the effect of providing legal protection to dated business models while thwarting Americans’ ability to exercise their fair use rights. Making copies of just about any other media for personal use—even if you switch media formats—is perfectly legal under fair use. But even a weak wrappper of DRM, such as the CSS system used by DVDs, is sufficient to make this activity illegal
Earlier this week, the RIAA tried to convince us that it is a big fan of fair use. However, the recording and motion picture industries’ support for tighter DRM restrictions including a broadcast flag for TV and radio shows their true intentions: locking down content as tightly as possible and requiring us to pay dearly to use it.