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The search for "DVD Media 16X" that is conducted on the search engines every day suggests continued interest in producing one's own discs. DVDs are now ubiquitous, and anyone who’s used a DVD is likely to have dabbled in DVD backup. But how many of us understand the legal underpinnings of making our own copies? This nineteenth article in a series of thirty will delve into the intellectual property doctrine of Fair Use. As we will be discussing certain aspects of the law, it would behoove us to issue a disclaimer right now before proceeding further: what follows is being presented strictly for informational purposes only, and is not meant as a substitute of any kind for professional legal advice. All statements subsequent to this disclaimer shall constitute opinion only, and should not be relied upon in any other way.

Fair Use is the part of American copyright law which provides for the limited use of copyrighted material without any permission from the copyright holders. A typical everyday example is that of the quote used by scholarship or published opinion. The concept of Fair Use allows for the legal but non-licensed incorporation of copyrighted material in one’s own work – as long as it satisfactorily addresses four considerations firmly established by law: whether the purpose or character of the use is commercial in nature or for educational or other nonprofit purposes; what the nature of the copyrighted work itself is; how much copyrighted material is involved with respect to the copyrighted material as a whole; what effect use has or could have upon the potential market or the actual value of the copyrighted material.

When it comes to making backups of DVD movies you own (on "DVD media 16x" for example!), the law is clear that that such an act constitutes fair use. However, that has not stopped Hollywood from insisting on protection mechanisms which prevent consumers from exercising their legal options. Indeed, with the passage of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, it has become a little more uncertain where the law stands with respect to new technologies like DVD, which have anti-copying schemes built-in. Thus while the theory that consumers have a right to backing up their purchases seems to still stand, the real means to actually do so have been declared illegal in the United States and many other countries. But because the cases which have gone to trial thus far have never gone all the way to the American Supreme Court, the jury is still out – pun very much intended – on whether it truly is permissible to create archival copies of one’s own discs for oneself.