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Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Why is it OK to copy music but not movies in the US?

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Music ripping software is promoted but the movies are copy protected and software to break the copy protection is illegal. Both are copyrighted...what is the difference?

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Music ripping software is promoted but the movies are copy protected and software to break the copy protection is illegal. Both are copyrighted...what is the difference?


It's because of cassette tapes.


People cultivated a culture of copying their records to tape to listen to in the car. When they did that, more than often they were backing up something they owned, without the desire to share it with anyone most of the time.


They couldn't quite do the same with movies because the only reason you'd copy that VHS would be to give it to someone else. And the generational loss when copying video was very noticeable.


Now we have a mindset that people like to backup their CDs to mp3s for convenience, just like before with the records to tapes, so that is what is generally referenced to when talking about audio ripping. Because it's easier to organise a playlist in iTunes than to hunt down tracks in CDs.


It is also easier to backup DVDs and Blu-rays than to deal with physical discs, but here the issue is that without generational loss, people rent movies from Redbox and rip them. So that $25 Blu-ray costs them a dollar.


I think most of the musicians in the past would not have become rich if they had come along today, when most artists' revenue comes from concerts. I don't know a single teenager who buys CDs. Or music, for that matter. In the 70's, we'd go to friends' houses and listen to records. Now kids take their iPads and listen to their Youtube playlists.

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Yes Sam, plausible explanation. Whenever I see the term ripping...I think of 'ripping off!'


I got a cheap lease car and it wont even play CD's. Honda told me CD players are history unless you special order them. He said everyone plays music with their phone nowadays. I'm still in the stone age...no smart phone, no Bluetooth. I got to convert all my CD's to a thumb drive to play in the car. But my crappy radio does not give any info on what I am playing.


I used to copy old vids, but I figure I'm old and if now is not a goodtime to see the best quality I can see in DVD's then when is?? The only time a lower grade copy interests me is if I can't get the original and I can only get a copy from the library.

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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Foggy memory from before, but used to deal with DVD copy protection and ripping issues... There is the "fair use" of digital music content, where it is legal to take music that you have purchased and copy it for personal use, like making an MP3 copy for a portable player, or to make a "mix tape". Actually this might be a bit of legally gray zone - because digital music doesn't have any copy protection or encryption, there is no "lock on the door" and therefore making copies is not explicitly condoned in that there are no measures to make it difficult. Just like if you leave a $20 bill on the ground, you can't accuse someone of stealing it since you are practically inviting them to take it. With DVDs, however, most all commercial content is protected with copy protection to make copying difficult. It is relatively easy for DVD ripping software to bypass it, but the very act of seeking out a method to circumvent the copy protection technically makes the ripping of DVDs illegal according to DMCA, even if it is just to make a digital copy in your own home for your own private use.

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Its surly a technology thing - rights holders would nearly always prefer that copying doesn't happen.


In terms of music CD's didn't have copy protection because at the time the designers probably assumed that it wasn't needed. CD's came out in 1982 and held about 640MB of data. At the time a home computer user might be rocking a ZX Spectrum with 16 or maybe 48Kb of storage. In the 80's it was inconceivable that home computers would be able to copy a CD. Fairlight samplers costing more then peoples houses had the ability to store 2 seconds of audio.


Yes CD's could be copied onto compact cassette but at quite a big quality loss and loosing the ability to skip tracks - so thats self limiting. Sure you'd make a cassette for the car or your friend's but you'd still by a CD or LP for listening at home on your nice hi-fi. In the 90's when CD burners became a thing and harddisks got bigger - it was possible to make a perfect copy of CD and later good MP3's were probably a surprise to the industry and it wouldn't have occurred to them in the 80s to try and encrypt.


Movies were harder to copy in the 80's you had quite a big generation loss going from VHS to VHS - and also VHS did have macrovision copy protection but it was easy to bypass.


By the time DVD's and later BluRays were a thing - it was known that it was going to be possible to make digital copies using domestic computers. Hence the inclusion of copy protection which has become more sophisticated.


I think copyright is an interesting thing to look at these days - especially with the amount of people repurposing and mashing up copyright material while putting it up on youtube. Only a fraction of this is considered "fair use"- but more recently rights holders (both video and audio) have started to understand that sometimes a more nuanced approach to copyright enforcement is better. Pulling all unapproved uses of copyright might be seen as bad by the fans (e.g Metallica vs Napster) and also allowing some instances of copyright theft improves your relationship with fandom.




Shorty after the announcement of Peter Capaldi this video was put on youtube:


It uses footage from both Doctor Who and The Thick of It. Its on the boarderline of fair use and doesn't properly credit the source, so the rights holders probably could have got it pulled. Particularly because the content really isn't on brand for Doctor Who. However this video is part of the conversation people were having when Capaldi was announced and this video was widely shared and possibly helped hype the news of the casting. So its was probably more beneficial to not attempt to block it. They had every right to block it but decided not to.


On the other hand Nicki Minaj pulled the fart remix of one of her videos pretty quick.


On line their is this real grey area when it comes to mash ups, fan fiction, fan films etc... all these things technically could be considered copyright theft. But its great that the exist and important for the fandom of a franchise and helps keep it a healthy two way conversation.


So in short everything expressed in a physical form automatically attracts copyright, the rights holder controls who can exploit the copyright and enforce how a work is shared and reused - but some copyright holders will allow some unlicensed illegal uses of the copyright work in some cases, if its not hurting them and they want too....


Fun lets now have a chorus of:

(also technically copyright theft)

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