Copy protection doesn’t allow everything: how to archive movies and home videos properly

If you want to archive DVDs and Blu-rays on your hard drive, you quickly run the risk of doing something illegal. We show what you need to consider when building your own film archive.

Order must be, also in the film collection: It can be quite reasonable to save it on hard disk. But while this is not a big problem with your own recordings or feature films on DV or VHS tapes, you quickly come up against legal limits when archiving DVDs and Blu-rays.

Because simply copying the entire film collection to the hard disk is not permitted. "In Germany, there is a right to a private copy – i.e. individual copies of a work for use in a private environment," explains Jacob Metzler, a copyright lawyer from Berlin. But this arrangement has limits – and that is in case of an effective copy protection. "This is because it may not be circumvented, not even to make a private or backup copy."

Right to private copy no longer applies

Because the so-called CSS copy protection, however, is now used almost as standard, especially by the major film studios, the right to the private copy is correspondingly often omitted. The use of programs such as DVD Fab, AnyDVD or DVD Shrink, which undermine the copy protection of the discs for copying, is not permitted in this country. But there are also countries where the legal situation is different.

For discs without copy protection there are different possibilities for archiving on a hard drive. "Either you copy the DVD with the original data size into Windows Explorer," says Markus Mandau of the computer magazine "Chip". "Shrinker" program can be used to reduce the size of VOB files that contain the video content of the title."So even in the shrunken version all menus, bonus materials and language versions of the original disc are preserved. Only the image quality is reduced depending on the degree of compression.

Compressing saves space

Who compresses, saves space on the hard drive. There are several freeware programs for shrinking, for example MeGUI for experienced users or the easier to use XMedia Recode. If you have bought a comprehensive multimedia burning program, you can usually use it.

"The data on a two-layer DVD can be downsized with appropriate software so that it would fit on a DVD with one layer of data at a size of 4.3 gigabytes," Mandau says. Compressed in this way, a hard disk with a storage capacity of one terabyte could store more than 200 DVDs. Compression is not as necessary as with Blu-ray, however. "There the bill is clearly higher", explains the expert. "After all, many movies have a size of 20 to 40 gigabytes."

Digitizing VHS recordings

If you can do without the menu and specials and just want the film, you also have the option of extracting the main film as a single file. "This involves converting the video files on the disc into a much smaller MP4 or MKV file, for example, which can now also be played by many devices and multimedia hard drives," explains Mandau. "MKV files also have the advantage that you can take multiple audio tracks in it."

On many a shelf and in many a box there will still be film treasures on VHS or private recordings on digital video cassette (DV) that you would like to save and archive. "Depending on the format, you need the right playback device, such as a video recorder or camcorder," says Mandau. "This device is then connected to the computer either with an appropriate cable via a composite or S-video output."

Software is then required on the computer to record and store the data received. For this purpose there are freeware solutions like Virtual Dub. The software cuts the stream of images, digitizes it and stores it on the hard disk – as an MP4 file, for example. Digitizing videos takes time, however, because they have to be transferred in real time.

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