Importing movie ISOs on a personal computer?
May 22, 2007 2:59 PM   Subscribe

OK, so that's how to do it, but should I do it? Should I rip my DVD and/or CD collections to a media server and then import the computer - but not the original discs - to the US, if I were move there?

As mentioned in previous questions, I'm currently looking into the possibility of a move from the UK to the US for a few years for a job.

Anyway, prompted by the recent question about how to archive DVDs to a media server, I figured I'd ask: should I archive my DVDs to a media server?

Let me explain - I have a fairly large DVD collection (~300 discs), nearly all of which are UK (i.e. Region 2/PAL encoded). Due to limited shipping space, and the fact that they'd not be compatible with most US players, I figured I might rip the contents onto my server rather than take the physical discs with me.

My concern isn't about the hardware (I already own everything I'd need), more about the legality and the (admittedly extremely unlikely) possibility of US Customs inspecting my personal effects and wanting about this large collection of movies on one of my computer hard disk [arrays].

Technically, DMCA legislation makes it illegal in the US to rip DVDs, while in the UK it's a grey area. UK law does not have a specific exemption to copyright law to allow personal backups (which these would be - the original discs will end up in storage until I get back to the UK, I'll not sell them), while US law does.

Where would this leave me, legally, in importing movie rips into the US (probably mostly DVD5 ISOs and XviD compessed AVIs), considering I own the originals in a different country?

For bonus points, how about exactly the same question, but posed around my approx 650 disc CD collection... :-)
posted by Nice Guy Mike to Law & Government (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Ship it in a box, declare it as a computer, pay the appropriate tax on the value of the item (not sure if that's needed if you're shipping to yourself... but ask the post office), and you'll be fine. Just go ahead and do it, they don't turn on computers, and almost certainly won't go poking around your hard drive.

As for CDs, import them at a high quality setting either MP3 or AAC or FLAC (if you're hardcore). Then... ipod it up...
posted by cschneid at 3:49 PM on May 22, 2007

I have a friend who ordered a computer from the US (to Canada). He received it with a Customs notice that the box had been plugged in and the hard drive searched. I imagine that this is rare, and that Canada Customs isn't the only country who does such searches.

American law likes to apply to anyone, anywhere. If you break the DMCA in another country and then come to the US, you might well be charged under it. But, honestly, you should be asking a professional about the legal implications. Right or wrong, if you follow our advice you could end up in prison.
posted by solid-one-love at 4:03 PM on May 22, 2007

Shoot, I answered your old thread thinking it was a new thread, but it looks like its moot now anyway.

As for this thread, I have some nice advice: go get TrueCrypt and put the movies in an encrypted mountable filesystem. When unmounted the file -system is indistinguishable from random noise. I am able to play movies directly off the truecrypt drive even though its mounted over a (gigabit) network.
posted by Osmanthus at 4:05 PM on May 22, 2007

It is obvious you are trying to be 'a good guy' so you get points for that but otherwise I think you are WAY over thinking this.*

*Of course, it is not my arse on the line if you get busted but I think the chance of that happening is so small that you can comfortably ignore it.
posted by jmccw at 4:12 PM on May 22, 2007

Other people have addressed the factual realities and probabilities of your question, so I'll try to address just the legal issue. Of course, this is only an opinion and is not legal advice.

The relevant law, for both your film and music collections, can be found in 17 U.S.C. § 602. It's short and I recommend you read it in full, but in a nutshell, this provision bans importation of copyrighted work, with a few exceptions. The exception you would be interested in, subclause (a)(2), allows importation by a private person for personal use. This exception would probably not apply to you. The important part is subsection (b), which limits the exceptions in (a) to copies which were made lawfully under US copyright law.

As I (only a first-year law student, for what it's worth) read the statute, you would have violated the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions in making the copies, and that would mean that U.S. Customs would have the authority to prevent their importation under 17 U.S.C. § 602(b).
posted by Partial Law at 4:42 PM on May 22, 2007

The main reason they inspect at the border is looking for kiddie porn, not ripped movies.
posted by smackfu at 4:54 PM on May 22, 2007

Due to limited shipping space, and the fact that they'd not be compatible with most US players, I figured I might rip the contents onto my server rather than take the physical discs with me.

Irrespective of the moral/legal concerns, I really doubt it's worth the time and effort unless you want to be 5up3r l33t.

Space: 300 discs will fit neatly in two binders of dvd-sleeves. Just ditch the cases, or leave them with your folks.

Compatibility: Philips DVP642 players will play your R2 PAL discs just fine, and they cost about $50. They'll also play almost any video file a computer can burn.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:01 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you're moving here for a job, presumably you're going to be working... are you even going to have time to watch your 300 movies?

Why not get a netflix account (or some other rental type deal) and as the mood to see one of your old movies strikes you can just add it to your queue?

Easy. Legal. And damn sure more convenient.
posted by wfrgms at 6:25 PM on May 22, 2007

I agree with ROU_Xenophobe. Put the DVDs in binders, buy the Philips DVP 642 .

CDs I would rip to a computer, sync to an iPod so you have two digital copies just in case.
posted by cushie at 8:38 PM on May 22, 2007

Hey, as long as you aren't sharing the files on the internet (and as long as you are not into kiddy porn), what you do on your computer is pretty much your own business.
Nobody has either the resources nor desire to stop you from using video you have paid for in any way that you choose.

Region codes and copyright laws are in place to protect against people who are trying to make money off the content without paying the owner or prevent the owner from making money off something by giving it away for free.
You paid for your collection, use it the way that suits you best.
posted by itheearl at 9:34 PM on May 22, 2007

I brought over my music collection (ripped to FLAC) on a bare hard drive that I carried in hand luggage. My DVD collection was much smaller, and I stuck the discs in a sleeve binder and checked it.

I got more grief from Customs over the chocolate I brought over as a present: they're looking for drugs, kiddie porn, commercially pirated material (i.e. knockoffs) and dodgy foodstuffs.

DVP642s are nice and cheap (I have one) though a little dated; I'd be tempted to get a softmodded XBox with XBMC which will play the ripped CD collection over a network.

Very alternatively, and potentially less kosher in strict legal terms: online storage is really quite cheap these days.
posted by holgate at 10:39 PM on May 22, 2007

DVP642 is definitely outdated, and has ceased manufacturing. The new Philips hotness is the DVP5960/DVP5982. You get cleaner picture and better codec support than DVP642, upconverting (MPEG-2, not xvid), and USB. And none of the palette and audio lag bugs of the 642.
posted by meehawl at 6:46 AM on May 23, 2007

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