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).

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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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