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Compared to most people, our household probably has a lot of store-bought DVDs.
Since we did our "TV disconnect", we tend to buy TV series on DVD and watch them without the hassle of advertising and at times which suit us -- rather than times which best suit the broadcaster.
This works really well.
Now, instead of evenings been wasted in front of a TV set whilst waiting for the ads to finish and being trapped into watching crappy "trash TV" while waiting for the good stuff to start -- we actually get to have a life.
Of course there are downsides to having a big pile of DVDs in the room -- they take up a lot of space and finding the disk you want to watch can be an issue.
So why not rip all these disks onto a few 2TB drives?
This not only allows all the store-bought disks to be safely stored away but also (as I've mentioned in previous columns), gets rid of all the threats that appear on almost every disk - in the presumption that you only bought the DVD in order to pirate it.
Now we have the movie and music industries pursuing their "rights" under the "three strikes" or SkyNet legislation here in NZ, allegedly with some success.
If you get pinged three times for downloading movies/music then you can be disconnected and face some pretty stiff fines.
So who's going to be first to put this to the test -- I have to say I'm pretty sorely tempted to do so myself.
I guess I could spend a lot of time and effort, ripping our DVD collection onto a few big-TB drives for access via our TV set which, conveniently, will happily read a set of ripped .VOB files on any drive connected through the USB port.
Unfortunately, the time involved in doing this is going to be quite significant so it's not really a desirable option.
But what if I was to track down online versions of titles I already have and download them from the Net -- straight onto those big-TB drives?
I wonder what would happen when the movie industry issued its "warnings"?
I wonder what would happen when, after my third warning, they had me disconnected from the internet?
I wonder what would happen when they took me to a tribunal and I presented the presiding head of the tribunal with the wad of receipts from places like MightyApe -- clearly showing that all the titles I downloaded had actually been legally purchased months before?
Do you think that I would not only get the movie industry's charges thrown out of the tribunal but also have a very strong case for suing them for my own losses -- due to, as a direct result of their actions, the loss of internet connectivity, the damage to my reputation and the time/effort involved to defend myself against their charges?
What this boils down to is... what am I buying when I buy a DVD?
Am I buying a "license to watch" that content in my own home?
If so, then the format used when I watch that content is irrelevant -- and therefore whether I rip the DVD to a hard drive myself -- or simply download a pre-ripped copy should make no difference -- hence the movie companies ought have no case against me.
This is a very important issue. If I already own a legal store-bought DVD containing a movie or music, I should legally be allowed to download as many copies of that stuff I've already bought and paid for, without penalty.
If I am not allowed to format-shift my media then the law needs changing.
If the industries want to clamp down on piracy then they ought to go after those who make the uploads available online -- not those who download them because, they can't tell who already has paid for the right to possess a specific recording and who hasn't.
With the advent of TV sets that can play all manner of different video formats via a USB or ethernet connection, it is important that the law takes into account that people already need to be able to store and use their "legally sourced" media in a range of formats. It also needs to reflect the fact that, if someone is not actually buying title to a movie when purchasing a DVD, they are in fact purchasing a license and therefore, as a license-holder, have a right to reformat it as they see fit.
And, since some people don't want to waste the time or lack the skills to do their own ripping from DVD to a hard drive, those people ought to be legally entitled to download a ripped copy of any title for which they have already purchased license by way of owning the DVD.
I'm sure the movie and music industries will bitch and moan about such a prospect - but then again, that's probably why they're so hated by their customers -- because they refuse to offer a "fair deal".
If you treat your customers like criminals and force them to buy the same material many times over -- just because you can, then don't be surprised when they give up buying and start stealing instead.
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