Should Apple Enable DVD Ripping in iTunes?

iPhone vs. Big Media

iTunes can rip a CD and make the tracks rapidly available for you to listen to on your iPhone (or iPod) or stream around your house via other computers, or AppleTV/Airtunes and a variety of third party products.

ZDNet thinks they should do the same with DVDs. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. Why? While ripping CDs is legal in the US, ripping DVDs is not and Hollywood and Big Media would do their best to sue any product, iTunes included, into oblivion if put that feature in. In fact, that's what they're doing with Real's RealDVD right now. This is based on the claim that it violates the DMCA by breaking copy protection, though Real wraps copy protection of their own around the ripped movies).

Apple, of course, has $30 billion in the bank, which could fund one heckuva legal battle (and maybe even get the EFF on their side?) If anyone is in the position to help consumers retain fair use of their media, and increase the functionality and appeal of their own product at the same time, it's certainly Apple.

But would they spend their time and money litigating the right to rip content from old, legacy media when they're busily trying to get people to embrace digital downloads of the same content as the "next big thing"? Should they?

For consumers, it would be the same win as letting iTunes rip CDs even as music downloads were coming online. Apple maintains they run iTunes at low-profit levels simply to fuel hardware sales. The same model holds true for DVDs. Some consumers have huge collections of legacy DVDs and would love nothing more than easily, officially, load them up into iTunes and sync them over to their iPhone, iPod, set top box, computer, etc. alongside new digital downloads.

Of course, savvy consumers are already doing this with free, third party programs, and perhaps Apple is happy enough with the status quo. It's less expensive for them that way, and doesn't offend the same media companies Apple has deals with for iTunes rentals and downloads.

So the question is, are you happy with the status quo as well? Or is this a fight Apple should be fighting?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Should Apple Enable DVD Ripping in iTunes?


Of course it's a great idea, but you perfectly laid out the reasons why they won't right now: fight a long costly battle to do some thing that free 3rd party programs do just fine. I say stick with the status quo for now.

I don't think it is illegal to rip a DVD for rippings sake, it is only illegal because DVDs have copy protection on them. CDs don't usually have any kind of protection. They should enable DVD ripping without copy protection support and then let the consumer worry about bypassing the protection (AnyDVD). That should get them by the DMCA argument, right?

If CD's came out when DVD's did, they'd have copy protection, too.
It's a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Or wrong time.

Many may remember that ripping was available in Apples DVD player as recently as 10.3. With Tigers release, they disabled it.

What are some examples of the 3rd party software that you are talking about? I have a few DVDs that I would love to have on my iPhone, especially once the 32 gig iPhone (cross my fingers) comes out.

They should most definitely do it. They probably won't though. However, if they did it would definitely increase their sales for items like Apple TV or possibly other devices. They would recover any lost $$$ from a legal battle in no time. I have been contemplating the purchase of an Apple TV but haven't yet cause I only have just a handful of digital movies.

Apple is all about the ease of use of their products and making it clean and nice looking but not having DVD ripping in iTunes makes it hard to import movies or TV into iTunes. i'm the computer savvy one of the family so i have to show the rest of my family how to open a program, select the right "ripping profile", rip the dvd or tv show, save it to a folder, then import it to iTunes. this is such a hassle! (it wouldn't be SO bad if iTunes would just add folder monitoring!!!!) anyway, yes, iTunes should add DVD ripping. it just makes sense to me for them to add it to make the managing of ones digital library that much easier.

That would make life so much easier, especially importing video files to the iPod. Right now all the methods I have tried Dont work well/or at all

The rip model worked to drive iPod sales before the iTunes store opened for business. While I don't think that this would be a second coup for Apple it does make sense and it keeps this business model consistent.
I can't see the studios being for it. They're banking a conversion from DVD to Blu-Ray. Digital is problematic in their quest to get you to pay each time they change formats. However, if they let you rip DVD and all future devices you own are HD quality then it only serves as a gateway drug toadds converting to digital. In the end, they should be for it but are likely to hold the line u tim it's too late to capitalize.

I'd love to be able to rip DVD's through iTunes, but I don't think Apple should get into a legal battle about it.

Does anyone like anything about iTunes? It's horrific software. Yea it's be cool if it allowed ripping DVDs to the iPhone, but I'd be happy with 'some'. Cool support for contact management. Ringtone managme t removal of duplicates etc it's pathetic.

They should stick to making money .., why would they spend money in court or waste time (which is also money).. I would rather them spending innovating than fighting the endless fight with the mpaa

@Bjern - search on Handbrake and have fun.
Wasting money fighting a landmark case wouldn't be good for Apple, its shareholders and, by extension, us as Apple hardware users. The iTunes store believes they already have the solution - ignore the DVD in the first place! I agree that iTunes could be significantly improved - not least with the ability to synchronise multiple iTunes libraries on a LAN now that the music is all DRM free (so long as you have upgraded to Plus tracks).

I agree that something should be done. It makes NO sense (except to Apple) that I should have to spend $15.00 to download a movie I paid $9.99 to buy in the first place. Put controls on it. make it so that it can only be downloaded onto one phone. I mean, no one has ever accused Apple on NOT being greedy, but this is one they would have a hard time explaing away. I can copy and load all the CD's I own, but not all the movies?? When HULU comes out for the iphone, that will put a dent in the TV shows on itunes. All it will take will be a company (Netflix are you listening!!) that comes out with an app that lets you stream movies straight to the phone (like you can do to your home) and it will make all this moot.

Totally agreed on Handbrake. I rip stuff all the time with that. Free and very effective - just read the directions to get the best results for your iDevice.