Is it Legal to Copy Blu-ray Discs to a Hard Drive?

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Q What are the realistic and/or legal options (if any) for transferring a collection of DVD and Blu-ray discs to a server or hard drive? Can this be done while maintaining full quality? Is iTunes an option? I have a Mac computer connected to my TV if that helps. —Kenny Youngers, via email

A To first address the legal aspect of your question, it’s considered copyright violation in the U.S. to copy DVDs and Blu-ray discs to a server or hard drive. (Oddly, the same restrictions don’t apply to audio CDs, which people can rip guilt-free.) To address the realistic aspect, plenty of people copy movie discs to computer hard drives, and there are loads of software options available on the web that will help you do just that.

Most software used for ripping DVDs and Blu-rays provide options to vary audio and video quality levels to save hard disk space (a Blu-ray rip complete with menus, titles, and extras could occupy up to 60 GB). There are also some that provide an iTunes-friendly output option so you can easily play ripped movies using that program on your Mac computer.

If you’re serious about the AV quality of your ripped movie library, and also want to sidestep any legal issues, you’ll want to instead use a solution like the ones offered by Kaleidescape. While the company’s business model has migrated to selling servers that download regular and 4K movies (which include full menus and extras, but also HDR and lossless Atmos soundtracks) from its online movie store, they also sell disc players that let you to make bit-perfect copies of your DVD and Blu-ray disc collection. The catch is that you’ll need to have the actual disc present in the machine during playback using one of the company’s pricey servers. That’s Kaleidescape’s way of ensuring you own the content so the Hollywood studios that once upon a time tried to sue the company out of existence remain happy.

SuicideSquid's picture

It isn't really odd at all that it's legal to rip CDs but not DVDs and blu-ray.

What's illegal isn't the copying itself. What is illegal is cracking the encryption or other copyright protection that's built into blu-rays and DVDs. Most CDs don't contain this sort of copyright protection - the music industry flirted briefly with it in the early 2000s, but it was an absolute disaster and quickly abandoned.

While it is technically illegal to crack the copyright protection on your personal DVD or blu-ray, if you're doing so for personal use only (such as copying a DVD you own to a hard drive system for personal convenience) such use is almost certainly protected under fair use provisions.

Billy's picture

I agree with the above, it is "Fair Use" to copy as a back up for something you have legally purchased. I own thousands of Blu Ray and DVDs and they are all on HDD along with cloned HDD in case one of them fails. I use free open source software (Kodi, AKA XBMC) that thrills and astounds my friends and family when ever they see it. Kaleidescape? Their business model is aimed at the well heal, the VERY well heeled. Besides the idea of having to have the disc in the player kind of defeats the whole purpose of the server, does it not? A "K" system for a collection my size would be tens of thousands of dollars, I have far less then a grand in mine. A used I5 office computer, 8 Gigs of RAM, and some cheap HDD, free easy to understand software, and I am done. Hollywood needs to grow up and give a little on this issue. I, and everyone I know, legally buys what we use. Besides, it is not like those people are starving or anything, so a little loss now and then is not the end of the world. Has all the copyguards kept people from file sharing? Ahhh, no. So just relax, and treat your loyal disc buying customers (WHO ARE LESS AND LESS IN THE STREAMING ERA) as assumed honest. If I am going to pay $20 or more for a disc, respect me enough to understand that I will, and should have the right, to copy it for my own personal use.

allyndrew's picture

I only have almost 400 Blu-rays I would love to transfer to a HArd drive and connect to my Theater Surround system. Man O man do I ever need help!

Billy's picture

You don't need help. Download MakeMKV (easy to use, and free for now), and Kodi. (I like the older versions better, say 16., I think it is easier to understand). Make sure you have an HDMI or data port (with HDMI adapter) on your computer. An I5 CPU or better should have HD built already into the chip, so no extra graphics card is needed unless you want 4K. Chances are, if you have an HDMI out on your computer, you are ready to go. The software is easy to understand, but there are many online tutorials if you need.

Fernando's picture

A few days ago, I googled and found a DVD to hard drive guide ( I have finished ripping about 100 DVDs following that tutorial. The video and audio quality are both good. But this solution isn't available for blu-rays. Thanks for your recommendation. I will try Kaleidescape later.