How Can I Copy DVDs To My iPod?

Dear Lopy:

I’ve got one of those so-called video iPods. It’s fine that I can download television shows and movies from iTunes, but I’ve already got a huge DVD collection. I don’t really see the need to re-purchase programs that I already own. It seems like I should be able to transfer my DVD’s to my iPod. iTunes is great about copying my CD collection. How come it can’t do the same thing with my DVD collection?

Confused By iTunes

Dear Confused:

[ad#AdSense1] It is sort of strange that iTunes isn’t able to rip your DVDs in the same way that it rips CDs. However, I can assure you that it isn’t because Apple doesn’t want you converting your DVDs for use on your Ipod. It would be illegal for Apple to build DVD ripping into iTunes.

Actually, it’s not the ripping of DVDs that’s the problem, but the fact that most commercial DVDs are copy protected by a DRM scheme known as CSS (Copy Content Scramble System). Thanks to a law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) it’s illegal for Americans to use any method to circumvent copy protection on digital products. While Apple could include DVD ripping in iTunes, it probably wouldn’t produce the results that you’re looking for, since it wouldn’t be able to convert most of the videos you’d likely want to watch on your iPod.

There’s been a lot of confusion over this issue. Frequently you’ll read that it’s legal to copy DVDs as long as it’s for personal use only. That isn’t the case. The DMCA focuses on the circumvention of copy protection and does not take the intentions of the user into account. Any attempt to break the CSS copy protection is a violation of Federal law. It doesn’t matter that you legally purchased a DVD and now you’re trying to copy it to your iPod for personal use.

One of the problems is that the DMCA was passed in 1998, and the world has changed quite a bit since then. It’s fair to say that the politicians who passed the law never anticipated that consumers might have a legitimate need to convert DVDs to a more portable format. Far be it from politicians to have a deep understanding of the technology they seek to legislate.

So, what is the owner of a modern, video-enabled, portable media player to do?

Well, some device manufacturers assume that you’ll break the law. Prior to the Zune launch Microsoft’s J Allard talked with Engadget about the Zune’s file compatibility, and the need for the Zune to be compatible with the formats used by popular DVD ripping software. Allard apparently isn’t aware of the DMCA.

Apple, on the other hand, will be happy to sell you a variety of television shows (and a much smaller selection of motion pictures) in an iPod compatible format.

And then there’s software like PodMaxx, which will rip DVD’s, but won’t decrypt CSS. However, if you write to their customer support department about this issue you’ll get a message like this in response:

If you are getting a message that the DVD you are trying to backup is copy-protected, this occurs because the DVD is encrypted with CSS Copy Protection. CSS decryption is illegal in the US and cannot be distributed with our software.

DVD decryption software found on the Internet and developed by independent third parties such as are not distributed by or in any way associated with our company. We cannot warrant such and do not provide support for such third party ripping software. The plugin will allow you to copy copy-protected DVD’s.

In other words, “we can’t help you, but we’ve heard rumors that there’s someone out there might be able to” (nudge nudge, wink wink).

Mac users will probably want to take a look at HandBrake, an open source video conversion tool that seems to fly under the radar because it’s non-commercial. The program handles CSS decryption through an open source decryption library that’s used in the popular VLC Media Player. You will, of course, consult your attorney before using HandBrake.

At this point I’ve probably already revealed too much. I’ll just close by noting that the DMCA needs to be modified to allow for a range of consumer activities that are clearly fair use.

22 Responses to “How Can I Copy DVDs To My iPod?”

  1. Ickypoopy says:

    CSS stands for Content Scrambling System, not Copy 😉

  2. Kirk says:

    Dooh! Noted and fixed. Thanks for pointing that out.

  3. Of course, you should consider going north of the border.

    O Canada! We don’t have stupid fucked up laws.

  4. Kirk says:

    Kyle – we’ll see how the 2008 election goes first. Although, I should note that the DMCA was passed during the Clinton administration.

  5. Amber says:

    by any chance do you kbow of any websites to download something that alows you to copy copy-protected dvds?

  6. Chris says:

    it’s really stupid that we can’t copy DVDs that we bought, and were ruined, i mean, it’s not fair. they should have some kind of device in the ‘rented’ DVDs and the ones that you buy have the same thing but they scan it with some kind of laser or something to disable it, since you just bought it, it’s yours now, but what if it gets ruined, what are gonna do?- copy it. but you can’t do that in reality, cuz we have stupid laws like the one we’re talking about. i hope they think about putting some kind of device in those DVDs, and disabling it when you buy it, because that’s the way I see it should be

  7. Danny Yergan says:

    even though it stinks that u cant copy dvd’s atleast you can copy videos

  8. zac says:

    how do you take videos from limewire to itunes???????????

  9. Mike says:

    Amber… copyrighted copying is illegal… so do NOT download DVD Shrink as this rips DVDs that are copyrighted and is free and do NOT then use PQ DVD to convert said DVD files to a Ipod or Iphone compatable format. ^.~

    And zac … downloading from Limewire is illegal, so do NOT look for videos in an mp4 format since that is what iTunes reads. ^.~

    on a side note, as of the past couple months Fox made a deal with Apple and now most new Fox DVD’s include Digital Copies compatible for iTunes.

    Family Guy: Blue Harvest I know for sure, but cant find an lists of others that would have it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Well I did download booya and it did work until I want to put that video onto my ipod then it says theres a prob with podmaxxx. Tell me is myDVD transfer program better than podmaxx? I am almost thinking about taking podmaxx back. Although it probably would be fine burning to another dvd it just won’t work with my changing over to my VIDEO IPOD which was the only reason I got that program! Help would be most appreciative.

  11. Jack says:

    I want to copy the simpsons movie to my ipod touch and i cant because it is all scrambles

    Help me!!!

    All rights reserved fox lol!

  12. Naldo says:

    I already have used DVD Decrypter and then Handbrake to put a video in the required format to put it in my iTunes. It is currently in my movies folder in my iTunes folder. How can I transfer the movie from the folder to the actual program?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Cusoft produces a copy programme that rips most DVDs. I have not had a problem so far. purchased in 2007 for approx. US $35.00

  14. Anonymous says:

    having problems with copying a music video which i dloaded onto my ipod. it does not recognize the format. can anyone recommend a converted for this. Cusoft only converts DVDs. Thanks.

  15. anonymous says:

    Jack you need to download Handbrake
    Heres the link:

    Good luck

  16. Amanda says:

    FAuck! It isn’t worth it.. from the time u install the ripper copy DVD software and try 2 do all the converting crap. Woudn’t it actually be less time consuming and cheaper 2 just buy the seasons or movies on ITUNES? They don’t exactly rip people off with outragous prices. ITUNES charges less 4 tv shows bc they arn’t paying for storage, packaging etc. I spent 3 hours trying to figure it out and just decided 2 pay up.

  17. Nita says:

    excuse my ignorance but i dont know what’s the problem. when i play DVD’s on my laptop it saves them automatically to windows media player in its own file on the hard drive.

    when i bought the ipod i plugged it in and when i transfered all the music it transfered the movies i had watch previously on the laptop as well… ….

    i’m no technology wiz but i dont get the problem… also i havent tried to tranfer any other movies either… :-/

  18. Anonymous says:

    What is a ree converter that i should NOT use to convert my DVDs to mp4 for playing on my ipod? *wink, wink*

  19. Charles says:

    what if you want to rip a dvd that you bought in another country (say france for instance)

  20. waylon lane says:

    want to rip a DVD to your ipod? simple. Buy a DVD recorder and record any TV show or Movie from cable or satellite (100% legal) OR convert old VHS tapes to DVD with the recorder you buy (100% legal) THEN use DVD software to create a file onto your hard drive from the DVD you recorded with your DVD recorder, then down load it into itunes. Personally I use real player to load videos into my ipod directly. I use a software program called Tinysaur (couldn’t be easier) to create real player files from the DVDs that I make using my DVD recorder and then use real player to dowload those movies into my ipod. Flawless-seriously,

  21. Mike BBB says:

    hey question, i understand all the questions and answers so far, but i was wondering if someone could help as to answer:

    How to ripp a copy protected TV Show DVD, like Avatar season 1 =), using DVD Decryptor. then convert that file or so with Videora ipod converter?

    that would be awesome! thanks for anyone who can help.

  22. Grace says:

    Hanbrake doesn’t work for me – is there another program mac users can download?