I got an email today from SlySoft, the makers of the DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray “backup” software called AnyDVD HD, stating that they are changing their business model. Starting Jan 1, 2009 they are moving to a yearly subscription fee for software updates. Â No information is available yet as to how much the subscription renewal fee will be, however they did say that current owners of the software will continue to get free updates. Â The new policy only applies to customers who purchase after the end of this year, and they are offering a 20% off incentive to purchase now and get a lifetime of updates. Â Here’s what the email (and their website) says:
As of January 1st, 2009, Slysoft will change its update policy from free lifetime updates to an annual subscription fee. All license purchases made before January 1st, 2009 will not be affected by this change; as promised, all licenses purchased before 2009 will still be honoured under Slysoft’s free lifetime update policy.
SlySoft announces this step in advance in order to provide its customers with the choice between the old and new licensing model. Buyers who act quickly can get an additional discount with the current ongoing special promotion.
UntilÂ Wednesday, December 31 2008Â Slysoft offers aÂ 20% discountÂ on all software products–except upgrades. If you are entertaining the thought of purchasing one of Slysoft’s products, now is the right time to act!
Slysoft is located on the island ofÂ Antigua in the West Indies where they enjoy the freedom from the laws of the United States and other countries that are tough on the circumvention of technological copyright measures, in particular theÂ DMCAÂ in the United States. In case you’re unaware,Â DMCAÂ criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known asÂ Digital Rights ManagementÂ or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works and it also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. (sources: Wikipedia, U.S. Copyright Office)Â
The issue comes in “breaking the lock.” The DMCA makes it illegal to BREAK the lock, whether or not the copywritten work was actually infringed upon. Â ThisÂ separatesÂ the act into two legal issues, one is of breaking the lock, and the other of copyright infringement.
It’s unclear to me as to if purchasing and owning the AnyDVD software in the USA is illegal. My understanding is that it’s not criminal to purchase or own it, but it is criminal to sell or distribute the software. And of course it is a criminal act to use the software to circumvent an access control. So you’re basically screwed there. There is a slim possibility that it’s illegal for me to link to the software site, although unlikely since you would be required to purchase the software once you get there. Â I’m not linking directly to the software download but just to a page describing the software.
The bottom line
So… it isÂ debatable as to whether or not it is legal or illegal in the US to make copies of DVDs or BDs for the honest purpose of retaining a backup. Of course the disclaimer is that I’m noÂ attorneyÂ and you should never take legal advice off a blog site. By the letter of the law it appears to be a criminal act. There is an exemptions clause that makes it lawful to make copies under certain provisions, such as a computer repair person trying salvage someone’s hard drive. That would be similar to hiring a locksmith to break into your house when you lock the keys in. Those exemptions are the areas to explore and the hope is that new youngÂ attorneysÂ will petition for additional exemptions for personal backups. Â Currently there are no obvious exemptions that allow you to copy a Blu-ray disc to backup and protect your investment. However the trend has been that exemptions get made when the lock is preventing a normal use of the material. The current exception #6 was created because of a flaw in a Sony copy protection scheme on some CDs.
For me, having a DVD collection worth 10’s of thousands of dollars AND having a 3-year old in the same house, I’m certainly in the market to do some ‘legal’ backups to protect my investment. Of course, I do not endorse copying and distributing pirated materials, but I do feel that it’s reasonable to backup for personal use and to protect the media from being destroyed by sticky fingers. But unfortunately my personal opinion (or yours) doesn’t make it legal.
Backing up is a subject that I would love to cover in more detail, but am a little gunshy about it. Â At one point I had the idea of making a video to show HOW to do it, but then a smart friend of mine reminded me that to do that would be to show myself on video breaking the law – which wouldn’t be very smart. It could also be categorized as the “dissemination of technology” which would directly break the DMCA. So it’s better to do what everyone else does and discuss it in a ‘theoretical’ sense – and leave the shameless law breaking to the offshore companies.