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Copying Video to a Handheld
We discuss the in and outs, pros and cons, and thorny legal issues.

James A. Martin
PC World
Friday, April 21, 2006 12:10 AM

You paid your twenty bucks for theCharlie and the Chocolate FactoryDVD. Now you'd like to copy the movie onto your Apple iPod, Sony PlayStation Portable, PDA, or notebook for an upcoming trip. Can you do it?

Technically? Yes. Legally? Not so fast. If you copy those Oompa-Loompas from the DVD onto your handheld, you're violating copyright law.

Passed by Congress in 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it illegal to circumvent or bypass any digital rights management protection. The vast majority of commercial DVDs are protected by Content-Scrambling System encryption, which is a form of DRM. However, some commercial DVDs contain content that is no longer protected by copyright, such as the movieIt's a Wonderful Life.

Making any digital copy of any CSS-protected content--even if it's for your own use--can be interpreted as a violation of the DMCA, explains Fred von Lohmann, senior intellectual property attorney for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. Von Lohmann and I exchanged e-mails recently on the legalities of copying DVDs onto handheld devices.

A number of programs have become available in recent months that allow you to copy content from commercial DVDs onto video iPods and other handheld devices. Though using these programs to copy CSS-encrypted DVDs may violate the DMCA, von Lohmann explains, he's not aware of any individual being sued for doing so.

Many copyright experts believe that personal, noncommercial copying of content not protected by DRM, including most audio CDs (though some are now protected), would be considered fair use if challenged in court, von Lohmann added.

In summary: You copy yourCharlieDVD, you break the law. But what if you recordedCharlieon TiVo, then burned the movie onto a DVD? Could you then legally copy the movie from your TiVo-made DVD onto a handheld device?

"I would argue that what you are doing is a fair use, as I don't see it as fundamentally undermining the incentives of the motion picture or television industries," von Lohmann writes. "Moreover, it's effectively the same as the old VHS tape, which could be removed and taken to another VCR for playback."

The courts ruled years ago that recording TV programs onto tape for personal use was considered fair use and not copyright infringement. The TiVo-DVD-to-handheld-device workaround is simply a 21st-century variation on that situation, von Lohmann notes.

For more about copyrights, read " For more about copyrights, read "Hollywood vs. Your PC: Round 2 ."

I tried using one of the new DVD-copying products, Pocket DVD Wizard 2006, to convert TiVo-burned movies on DVD to files for a video iPod. The program was easy to use, and the video quality was fine. Pocket DVD Wizard 2006 also lets you convert DVD video files into formats compatible with PlayStation Portables, Palm OS and Windows Mobile PDAs, and some portable media players. You can download a I tried using one of the new DVD-copying products, Pocket DVD Wizard 2006, to convert TiVo-burned movies on DVD to files for a video iPod. The program was easy to use, and the video quality was fine. Pocket DVD Wizard 2006 also lets you convert DVD video files into formats compatible with PlayStation Portables, Palm OS and Windows Mobile PDAs, and some portable media players. You can download afree trial version fromPC World; it's $30 to keep.

Another option coming up: TiVoToGo, software that lets you transfer TiVo recordings onto PCs, will include a new feature for transferring recordings onto video iPods and PlayStation Portables. The enhancement was announced last fall for availability in first-quarter 2006. At this writing, however, the company had not yet released the new feature set.

Also, as of this writing, rumors were swirling online that Apple is going to announce a new, larger-screen video iPod. Perhaps to coincide with the new device, Apple is reportedly planning to offer full-length movie downloads from its iTunes online media store. Apple hasn't commented on the rumors.

Mobile Computing News, Reviews, #00026 Tips

Sony recently outlined Sony recently outlinednew software and hardware features to be added to its PlayStation Portable this year. Among those features: The ability to download podcasts, plus software support for add-on camera and Global Positioning Service hardware. Later this year, support for Voice over IP is planned.

There's been a lot of buzz lately about Microsoft's Origami platform for handheld, compact, "ultramobile PC" devices.

IDG News Service's Martyn Williams got some IDG News Service's Martyn Williams got somehands-on time with an early Origami device, Samsung's Q1. His verdict: The device is light at just under 28 ounces, but it collects fingerprints easily and its WVGA screen resolution means you'll do a lot of scrolling.

Panasonic's semirugged Panasonic's semiruggedToughbook-W4 ( current pricing: $1951 to $2327 ) is ideal for users who tend to bang up their notebooks, saysPC Worldreviewer Kalpana Ettenson. The portable is lightweight at just 2.8 pounds; its 12.1-inch screen is bright and easy to read,; and it has a 6-hour battery life. Its performance is so-so, however, and the small keyboard is challenging to use.

Is there a particularly cool mobile computing product or service I've missed? Got a spare story idea in your back pocket? Tell me about it . However, I regret that I'm unable to respond to tech-support questions, due to the volume of e-mail I receive.

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