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DVD-R media was one of the first recordable DVD formats that allowed consumers to back up their lawfully owned movies, music, and any other content to which they own the rights. It was an exciting development that seemed to finally fulfill the principles of DVD, bringing audio-visual clarity to everyone. Of course, DVD-R media are also great for backing up voluminous amounts of data for work and personal use, but it was the tantalizing prospects of making one's own movies that most excited the market.

Several articles in this series have dealt with the benefits of the DVD format for manufacturers. But with all the talk about regional coding, fair use, and DVD recordable media, we have yet to cover any any copying software at all - just what consumers what! This twenty-fifth article in our long-running series will look into just that, surveying a few of the more reputable titles in this once popular but now practically illegal genre.

Software that copies copy-protected DVDs are known as rippers. DVD rippers generally copy DVDs onto computer hard drives, and are often used to transfer DVD video onto other formats used by different media players and devices. Some DVD rippers are even able to remove regional coding and copy-protection mechanisms.

Unfortunately, such software is generally unavailable in many countries due to lawsuits brought by the industry. The reasoning is that by providing the means to circumvent built-in anti-copying measures, these software in effect aid and abet intellectual property crimes. Ironically, such protections themselves may be illegal, but because of their deep pockets, the media companies are able to see a case all the way, whereas the defendants do not have the financial resources to retain the necessary lawyers for the years it would take for a credible defense. It seems almost certain that fair use traditions would ultimately prevail for the defendants, but none have had the wherewithal to withstand the legal challenges brought by the industry titans. The whole matter is unresolved because while making copies of one’s own movies is in fact legal under the United States Fair Use Act, distributing the software that allows one to make such copies is in fact illegal under the United States Digital Millenium Copyright Act!

Thus it is left up to the consumer to somehow obtain a copy to exercise his or her legal right to a backup. And DVD Decrypter is one of the more famous examples, creating not only disc images of the video structure of a disc but also able to strip away regional coding and copy-protection mechanisms (which abilities render them illegal in many countries) like Macrovision, Content Scrambling System (CSS), and User Operation Prohibition (UOP). AnyDVD works similarly to DVD Decrypter, but with full support for the HD DVD format (now discontinued) as well as that of Blu-ray Disc. Thus it also removes Sony ArccOS, Macrovision RipGuard, and other anti-copying schemes, going so far as to repair the intentional mastering errors used as a part of some of these schemes. It is not a ripper in itself, and needs one like CloneDVD with which to work. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned legal threats by the deep-pocketed entertainment industry, most rippers are no longer in development and thus may not defeat the latest copy-protection schemes on the market today.