DVD to iPad?
May 31, 2010 11:09 AM   Subscribe

DVD ripping newbie wants to know: how easy and legal is it to rip DVDs so they can be watched on an iPad?

I am thinking of buying an iPad for my wife. Her job requires her to watch a lot of DVDs, and movie-watching on a tablet seems like a perfect application for a busy woman like her. But the iPad has no DVD slot, so I’d only purchase an iPad if she could rip DVDs onto her Mac and then run them off iTunes. She would not be sharing the ripped DVD files.

I have two questions about this: 1. How effective are commercially available DVD-ripping programs? Do they work on all American DVDs? Blu-ray DVDs? Studio screeners? Is there a noticeable loss of quality in the ripped file? 2. How legal is this? Please avoid any discussion of the morality of copyright law or DRM; to answer this question, please imagine you are Steve Jobs, the guy who wrote the terms of use for iTunes, or the spokesman for the MPAA. My wife’s job requires that kind of scrupulous adherence to copyright regulations and DRM measures. That's why we have no experience ripping DVDs.

Thanks. I'm having trouble finding answers on Google because of the proliferation of shady-looking sites offering DVD ripping software.
posted by hhc5 to Technology (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have no experience but I can tell you that Handbrake is the best software for your encoding/video conversion needs. Apparently it does DVDs too, is free, and available for every OS.

Maybe give this a try with one of the DVDs you have. If you have an iPod or iPhone lying around, try encoding to that format. If that works, iPad should work too.
posted by wolfr at 11:16 AM on May 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

I do this with some regularity, so here are some answers:

1. Ripping DVDs is possible with freely available software (I use handbrake). This works most of the time, but not all of the time, and I have had quality issues, but it works. I haven't tried the commercial software.

2. Ripping DVDs you own for personal use is technically illegal (there is no fair use, personal use, or format shifting exception to the DMCA anti-circumvention law) but IMHO morally fine if it is solely for personal use on another device. IAAL. IANYL.

3. Macs don't read or recognize (or rip) Blu-Ray. There are programs that will rip Blu-Ray with an external drive, but I don't believe that any current mac has a Blu-Ray drive.
posted by The Bellman at 11:17 AM on May 31, 2010

Oh and if you use Handbrake to rip for your iPad, use the AppleTV pre-set. It works fine.
posted by The Bellman at 11:18 AM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

In addition to Handbrake, which will rip the DVD for use on many different platforms (including the iPad) you will need a DVD decrypter. This is where you will run afoul of groups such as the MPAA. I've used Handbrake on Windows for my iPod, and it works great.

DVD decryption programs are plentiful and, for the most part, free. I'm a Windows guy so I have no recommendation for Mac, but I'm sure a Google search will return quite a few results. I would steer clear of commercial software, only because you can find solutions that work just as well for free.
posted by doh ray mii at 11:20 AM on May 31, 2010

You don't say where you are, which is important when discussing law. Going by your history, I'm going to guess you're still in the United States.

My wife's job requires that kind of scrupulous adherence to copyright regulations and DRM measures.

Then you're out of luck.

You might want to buy her a portable DVD player instead of the iPad.
posted by ODiV at 11:27 AM on May 31, 2010 [3 favorites]

doh ray mil: At least on the mac, handbrake takes care of ripping without requiring a separate decrypter (usually), which must means it must be doing DeCSS, which means, as ODiV pointed out, it's technically in violation of the DMCA if you live in the US.
posted by The Bellman at 11:35 AM on May 31, 2010

1. Yes, it is possible. I also use Handbrake. What hasn't been mentioned is that handbrake, by itself, does not break the encryption/drm on commercial DVDs. That means that, by itself, it is perfectly legal (AFAIK, IANAL), to rip any of the unencrypted DVDs that handbrake is capable of reading for your personal use. It also means Handbrake is pretty much useless, since almost all commercial DVDs use CSS encryption/drm. I don't remember if Handbrake can rip blueray, as I don't have a blueray drive, but my understanding is that most DVD ripping software can't read blueray unless it specifically says it can.

2. To allow Handbrake to unlock and rip CSS-encoded DVDs, you need a separate program. DVD43 is one such program that is often used in conjunction with Handbrake to read protected DVDs. My understanding, (and again, I am not a lawyer or legal expert, this is not legal advice) is the same as The Bellman's, that using software to overcome the encryption lock on a DVD is illegal in the USA no matter what you intend to do with the data. No exceptions. US Copyright law allows "fair use" of the data on the DVD, but no such rule applies to the digital encryption. In other words, "fair use" would allow you to copy/re-encode/convert the video data for your personal use if you could access it, but you can't legally access it.

If you are outside the USA, then your guess is as good as mine.
posted by Vorteks at 11:35 AM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Handbreak and VLC
posted by thewalledcity at 11:49 AM on May 31, 2010

Yes, I'm in the US. I recall now that "format-shifting under the DCMA" is what I should have researched. So this means we're out of luck.

I understand why a product as sleek as an iPad wouldn't have a DVD drive, but the DVD slots on our Macs are so sleek, I had hoped for something similar with the iPad. I also feel a little pushed around by Apple in this respect. I guess this makes Steve Jobs the Henry Ford of the 21st Century: any color, as long as it's black; any media, as long as they're purely digital (and not flash).
posted by hhc5 at 12:00 PM on May 31, 2010

Though I must state that I have no formal legal training, I think that changing the format of a legally owned movie for one's own personal use and not for profit etc etc will, even if not strictly legal, not be something you'll ever be prosecuted for. Purely and simply because it will be difficult to see where the DVD studio or manufacturer has lost out by you not viewing it in the format you bought it, and furthermore it would cost more to prosecute than the DVD studio or manufacturer could realistically expect to be awarded in damages and finally... it'd simply generate a lot of negative press for the firms involved and reinforce the perceived idea that piracy is somehow justified... if you see where I'm coming from?
posted by Biru at 1:06 PM on May 31, 2010

Wait, I have a better way of wording that last sentence. "It would reinforce the idea that the MPAA are dicks."
posted by Biru at 1:08 PM on May 31, 2010

hhc5, I know more than a handful of content creators, WGA and DGA members, and studio execs who rip (or, mostly, have their assistants rip) DVDs so that they can be more easily watched on portable devices. All of them are hearty copyright proponents. While technically ripping DVDs is illegal, I don't think doing this would raise even the ire of either Pisano or Kori Bernards.
posted by incessant at 2:06 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Besides the whole illegal thing... the process of ripping DVDs takes a fair amount of time. I don't know about your computer, but mine is about 4 years old... and it takes me much more time to rip a DVD than to just sit down and watch it. ODiV is right. A portable DVD player is probably the best route.
posted by kaudio at 2:24 PM on May 31, 2010

If your wife's job requires her to watch a lot of DVDs and you get a DVD player for that, you can probably write it off on your taxes.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:41 PM on May 31, 2010

If you are truly trying to live by the letter of the DMCA and not use DeCSS even inadvertently, then you must use the built-in DVD Player app on your computer. The moment you are using VLC to watch a DVD, you are running afoul of the DMCA by using DeCSS within VLC.
posted by tomierna at 3:03 PM on May 31, 2010

If you don't mind paying for software, RipIt (http://thelittleappfactory.com/ripit/) works very well for getting the DVD contents on to your hard drive. Handbrake can take over from there.
posted by strange chain at 4:26 PM on May 31, 2010

Are you a multi-computer household? One option if this is mostly for at home use is having some sort of media player situation where there is a machine that is legally allowed to play DVDs in the house and then a way for her to play those via the iPad. In fact I think, and I'm outside of my element here so you'll have to ask someone more knowledgeable, that there are even ways to do this over a network, the way you can watch your Slingbox [or streaming netflix movies] from other places as long as you have the log in and can get internet access. Here is one example for the iPad.

So, don't give up yet if you want to find a creative solution to this. But yeah ripping DVDs breaks the [stupid] law and this was in place long before Apple made the iPad.
posted by jessamyn at 4:29 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

You could, as an alternative solution, buy her the iPad and use the AirVideo app to stream movies from your/her computer or PC to the iPad. Movies that are DRM-protected won't play to the iPad through AirVideo, so she won't be breaking DRM merely by using the app, and it does conversion on the fly so you don't have to wait for the entire video to convert before starting to watch it on your iPad.
posted by misha at 4:31 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

On preview, what Jessamyn said!
posted by misha at 4:32 PM on May 31, 2010

Oddly enough, an this is purely a thought exercise, you might actually be better off (from a hypertechnical legal standpoint) torrenting a copy of the movie after you buy the DVD. Why? Well, the guy who ripped the DVD and put up the torrent has violated the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, which have no exception for fair use, format shifting etc. But by downloading it YOU haven't -- you have just made a copy.

Of course, making that copy is also a violation of the Copyright Act -- but it isn't a circumvention; you haven't circumvented anything. Copying is a violation of the plain-vanilla copyright act (Section 106) which does have a fair use exception that may apply to format shifting (and does apply to time shifting). If your connection is fast and the movie is fairly mainstream, torrenting a copy is likely to be a lot faster than ripping as well.

I don't necessarily recommend you do this, but it is an interesting little technical legal oddity.
posted by The Bellman at 4:33 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

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