So, a friend collects a healthy number of DVDs during his travels, and suddenly can’t seem to spin up a few from Taiwan or Japan, because of the region settings on his laptop. They’re all legitimate copies, all professionally made and sold through legal distributors. Nothing illicit or illegal about any of it — in fact, some were gifts for his wife, who likes a particular TV show, or to himself, as a movie he wants to keep.
But thanks again to region settings, he can’t play some of them, and they’re suddenly useless. All that money spent on first-run, professionally made DVDs of big-name high-budget movie releases, and they’re no better than a cardboard coaster.
So I saved the day by having one machine — the Inspiron, actually — that can read them, and Acidrip, which can convert them into avi files with mp3 audio. Is it illegal? I don’t know. And I really don’t care. These DVDs aren’t anything I want to watch. In fact, I only play them for the first 20 seconds and the last few seconds, just to make sure the entire episode or the entire movie was encoded. And then I pass them back to him and his wife.
I don’t believe that makes me a pirate, since all I’m doing is volunteering the hardware that can make a backup copy for him, and returning his own, licensed movies to him. I don’t distribute or upload or otherwise share the files, so it would be no different than if I borrowed him this laptop and let him do it himself.
To me it reveals another layer in the rank stupidity of region codes and vendor lock-in and proprietary licensing on media and entertainment. I asked it once, not long ago, and now I get to speak from experience in this scenario: If a valid licensee or owner of a movie finds that, through circumstances beyond his control, the product he purchased refuses (not fails, refuses) to work, should he be prosecuted for making a working copy for his own enjoyment, on a machine that somehow cooperates with the vendor’s requirements?
No? So should he be prosecuted for downloading a copy of the same material, through a sharing network? And for that matter, can you really expect him to buy more DVDs, if there’s a chance they’ll refuse to work at some point in the future? Not a chance.
It’s irrelevant to me really, since the DVDs aren’t mine and I don’t have the least interest in them beyond finishing the conversion and giving them back to the owner.
I can tell you this though: The lady of the house wanted to watch Sex and the City, and so in this situation, Acidrip might have saved their marriage.