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You’ve got a recordable DVD drive and you want to record something. A movie maybe? We look at some tools that may help you - and some laws that may not…


On this page...
:: three DVD backup and compression tools
DVD Shrink, 1ClickDVDCopy and CopyToDVD
DVD software :: a guide to other DVD backup tools
Yes, But Is It Legal? :: DVD copying and the law
What the Software Companies Say :: on legality
DVD Jargon :: formats, codes and acronyms

On another page...
Copy Protection - Who Needs It? :: opinion

There are many types of data that you might want to copy onto a DVD. Perhaps you want to take a backup of files from your hard disk? Or you may want to copy songs, video clips or a whole DVD movie.

Before you can do any of this you must obviously have a recordable DVD drive. This may either be fitted into your PC or it may be a freestanding device, connected to the PC by a USB cable. Either way, in all probability you will receive some basic DVD burning software with the drive itself. While this software will almost certainly be able to copy both data and movie files, there may be some circumstances in which it can’t do what you require. For example, it my not be able to compress large movies which are usually supplied on high capacity ‘dual layer’ DVDs to fit onto a lower capacity ‘single layer’ recordable DVD.

Here we look at some inexpensive and free tools which can help you make backups of your DVDs. Before you do so, however, be warned: making DVD backups, even for your own personal use, is a legal minefield. In some countries, it is legal to backup a DVD that you own; in many it is not. In some countries, backing up a DVD is legal but decrypting it (removing its copy protection) is not. Before going any further, see our commentary, lower down the page, Yes, But Is It Legal? and our separate opinion piece, Copy Protection - Who Needs It?

DVD Shrink 3.2
http://www.dvdshrink.org (official site)
http://www.dvdshrink.info (information site)
DVD movie copying, decryption and compression

DVD Shrink lets you selectively remove individual language soundtracks and other features before copying

DVD Shrink can either copy a complete DVD or it can ‘re-author’ the disk by copying only selected parts. The output is saved to your hard disk and can subsequently be burned to DVD using appropriate software. The speciality of DVD Shrink is its ability to make a dual layer movie fit onto a single layer DVD. It may be able to do this simply by stripping out the extra content - the documentaries, featurettes, trailers, extra audio tracks and commentaries. If that still doesn’t gain enough space, it can compress the movie file itself. DVD Shrink also includes decryption to allow you to bypass a source DVD’s copy protection.

The user interface of DVD Shrink is pretty straightforward. It displays the structure of the original DVD in the form of a tree showing the main movie and any extras as separate branches. It also shows each of the audio tracks - for example, the various foreign language tracks and audio formats such as DTS 5.1 - and you can select whether to omit any of these to save space. It starts by performing a brief analysis of the DVD then gives you the option of removing region coding if present so that it will play on any region DVD player. Finally it copies the movie into a directory on your hard disk. This may take only a matter of 20 or 30 minutes for a standard length (90 to 110 minute) movie.

If you happen to have the Nero burning software installed, DVD Shrink will conclude by giving you the option of burning the movie to a DVD, otherwise you will need to do that later using your DVD burning software. The help file supplied with the software is a bit terse so you may need to refer to the more comprehensive guides on www.dvdshrink.info. Overall, this is an easy to use and effective tool.

1Click DVD Copy 4.1
US $59
DVD movie copying, compression and burning

1Click DVD Copy has a very simple interface which makes it easy to select the most commonly needed options

1Click DVD Copy lets you copy an entire DVD or selected elements to a hard disk or burn them directly onto another DVD. You can choose whether or not to copy the extras, menus, subtitles and audio languages or omit them to save space. It includes a copy of CopyToDVD 3 SE which can burn music CDs and can backup data onto a CD. It supports both single and dual layer DVD media. In addition to removing extras to save space it can also (in common with DVD Shrink) optionally compress movies to make the contents of a dual layer DVD fit onto a single layer DVD.

The user interface is pretty minimal. It takes the form of an onscreen disc with an Options button and a Start button. When you click Options another disc-shaped window pops up in which you can select the source and target locations, which may be a DVD, CD or a directory on your hard disk. There are also some check boxes which can be clicked to remove extras, languages, DTS audio, subtitles and menus. Once you’ve picked the options, you just need to click Start to begin copying. This is all perfectly straightforward as long as the source movie is not encrypted. Otherwise, the only way to copy a DVD is by using a third-party decryption program.

Personally, I find the interface of 1Click DVD Copy a bit too minimal for comfort. It just provides a list of options to omit without giving any details. For example, it only gives me the option to remove all languages where DVD Shrink lets you select specific languages to remove with the amount of saved disk space shown against each language. To be fair, I have to say that selecting and deselecting options in DVD Shrink is definitely not a ‘one click’ procedure. It can be quite complicated. So, if ease of use is your priority, 1Click DVD Copy is a better choice.

CopyToDVD 3
US $39.99
DVD movie, data, video and audio CD copying and burning

CopyToDVD is a powerful CD and DVD burner that can copy video, audio and data

CopyToDVD can be used to copy and burn all kinds of data from your hard drive onto DVD or CD. For example, it can burn data files, audio tracks or DVD movie files which have previously been copied to your hard disk.

CopyToDVD provides ‘shell integration’ which means that it adds some items to the popup menu that appears when you right-click in the Windows Explorer. This provides a quick way of locating and selecting the files you want to backup and burn them immediately to a DVD or CD.

You can also create a data CD by dragging files one by one into a CopyToDVD window. The creates a data ‘project’. A colour-coded bar in the window indicates whether the project will fit onto a 74 minute recordable CD (650MB), an 80 minute CD (700MB) or a 4.7GB DVD. In a similar way you can create an audio CD by dragging and dropping .wav, .mp2, .mp3, .ema, .ogg or .ac3 audio files into an audio project. Real Media (.ra) audio files are not supported. The audio files in the project can then be burned onto a CD in a format which is playable in an ordinary CD player. In our experience, however, there can sometimes be a degradation in the sound quality of copied audio. VSO tells us that this specifically affects MP3 files recorded at 22KHz and the company is considering a fix for this problem. In any case, there are plenty of other perfectly good tools for creating audio CDs such as the free Windows Media Player and RealPlayer.

If you have previously copied a file to disk using a tool such as DVD Shrink or DVD Decrypter, these files can be recorded onto DVD media as long as they fit. CopyToDVD does not decrypt or compress video files.

VSO Software also has a separate product, Blindwrite ($29.99), which copies unencrypted movies from a DVD to your hard disk but does not decrypt encrypted movies. Blindwrite can also do direct copies of one audio CD onto another one; or of a DVD to another assuming the target medium is compatible with the source (i.e. single-layer or dual layer) and the movie is not encrypted. There is also a free utility to convert DivX movies to normal DVD playable movies which can be downloaded from the VSO web site.

Overall CopyToDVD is a useful general-purpose tool for copying data, audio and video files from your hard disk to a CD or DVD. However, it does not compress or decrypt video files or allow you selectively to omit features such as audio tracks and extras.


You may already have some tools which can copy certain types of video and audio files onto CD or DVD. The free RealPlayer (http://www.real.com), for example, can copy various formats of computer media such as RealMedia audio and video, Windows Media and MP3. It can also translate computer audio files into a format that can be played in an ordinary CD player. Microsoft’s Windows Media Player also lets you burn audio or data CDs. Audio CDs can be created from Windows Media (WMA), .wav and .mp3 files. You cannot burn movies from one DVD to another using RealPlayer or Media Player.

Don't forget that the free RealPlayer can burn audio CDs

If you wish to copy an encrypted DVD, you have a choice of several readily available tools such as the free DVD Decrypter (http://www.dvddecrypter.com). But before using a decryption tool, see our discussion, Yes, But Is It Legal?

If you want to compress files even more than is possible using tools such as DVD Shrink and 1Click DVD Copy you can try converting them to formats such as DivX or Xvid. In theory, a DVD movie saved in DivX format can be shrunk small enough to fit onto a single CD. The mysteries of DivX software are beyond the scope of this article. If you want to explore further you might try SimpleDivX (http://www.simpledivx.org), Gordian Knot (http://gordianknot.sourceforge.net) or AutoGordian Knot (http://www.autogk.me.uk). Be warned, however: in our experience, even ‘simple-to-use’ DivX software can be mightily complicated. Moreover, DivX conversion of a movie may take several hours and is by no means guaranteed to produce flawless results at the end. For more information on DivX software and other DVD backup technologies, we suggest you visit the Doom9 site.

Yet More Software...

Here are some other applications which may be of use when copying, compressing or burning DVDs

Roxio Easy Media Creator
Backup DVDs and data files, compress DVD movies, copy audio and burn CDs and DVDs

Nero 6 Reloaded
Edit and author video, burn DVDs, edit and burn audio CDs, create photo slideshows and backup data

DVD copy, compress or split over multiple disks.

DVD Cloner II
DVD copy, compress or split over multiple disks

DVD Wizard Pro
Copy and compress DVD movies to DVD or CD (DivX format).

123 Copy DVD
DVD movie copy and compress, decryption using 3rd party plugins.


If you have a recordable DVD drive and some software to record DVDs, does this mean that you are on the High Seas towards piracy? The answer to that is, ‘well, maybe’. Or then again, ‘maybe not’.

There are, of course, plenty of legitimate uses for a DVD recorder. If you want to back up your personal data files or your home videos, then you are on safe ground: it’s legal. On the other hand, the position is equally clear-cut if you plan on copying Hollywood blockbuster movies and selling them on the Internet: that’s illegal!

But what if you want to make a personal backup of a DVD movie that you’ve bought for safe keeping? Or maybe you’d like to copy a DVD to your hard disk of your laptop? Then again, what if you’ve recorded a TV show onto your video or DVD player and you want to make a copy of it to give to a friend? The usual wishy-washy answer to these questions is that the legality may depend on the laws of your native country. But, come on, most of us know that in most countries duplicating copyrighted materials, for whatever reason, is likely to be frowned upon by the officers of the Law. And yet, most of probably wouldn’t consider it a very grave offence to make copies of a TV show or make a personal backup of a DVD which we legally own.

The fact of the matter is that the legal issues in many countries are not yet fully resolved. In the USA, for example, it is legal to make a backup of an audio CD but (possibly?) not of a video DVD. The crucial American legislation is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 which outlaws devices or services aimed at circumventing copyright protection technologies. This law appears to be somewhat fuzzy around the edges, however. In 2004, a San Francisco federal judge ruled that some DVD copying products from a company called 321 Studios were illegal on the grounds that they circumvented CSS (Content Scrambling System) encryption technology. The San Francisco ruling did not, however, state that DVD copying itself was illegal. 321 Studio responded by releasing a new DVD copying product without decryption. But very few commercially available DVD movies lack CSS encryption, so it is not surprising that this product failed to achieve the popularity of its predecessor. 321 Studio subsequently ceased operations.

A similarly named product called 123 Copy DVD is now available from http://www.123copydvd.com. This lacks built-in decryption but provides links to a 3rd party plugin which does decrypt. The company claims that its product is legal in the USA. However, when you click the link to download the plugin, a message warns “Some 3rd party plug-ins not legal in certain areas around the world.”

In some European countries, it is either legal or at least not definitely illegal to make personal backup copies of a DVD. In Germany it is illegal to distribute any software capable of evading copy protection. In Norway the legality of breaking the CSS algorithm was tested in 1999, when the algorithm was made public by Jon Johansen. Mr Johansen cracked the algorithm in order to create a program to play DVDs on computer running the Linux operating system. He then posted his program code, DeCSS, on the Internet. The movie industry took Johansen to Court - and lost! In January 2003, the court ruled that Norwegian citizens were free to make copies of DVDs which they had bought legally. The Motion Picture Association of America was far from overjoyed by this ruling. In a statement they said: “ The actions of serial hackers such as Mr. Johansen are damaging to honest consumers everywhere. While the ruling does not affect laws outside of Norway, we believe this decision encourages circumvention of copyright that threatens consumer choice and employment in the film and television industries.”

As you may gather, this is an area that is fraught with legal pitfalls. We would therefore suggest that you assume that, if in doubt as to whether or not the law permits you to copy, decrypt or backup a DVD, you should presume that it does not. It is legal in most countries to use a DVD burning application which lacks decryption capabilities. Many of these legal applications claim that they allow you to copy DVD movies “for your own personal use”. However, there are almost no DVD movies which are not encrypted. Which makes you wonder how people manage to use these legal DVD burning applications without the use of some additional software of less certain legality….?


We trawled around the web sites of some of the companies who make DVD backup software to see what they have to say on its legality. This is what we found…

“In some countries bypass protection is illegal that’s why we didn’t include this feature. You can try to find on internet some tools to make this possible such dvddecryptor, dvd43, dvdidle but keep in mind it is illegal and we have no responsibility over the legal troubles you can have.”

“In some countries it's still considered illegal to copy a DVD, just as it once was to copy a music CD. Unlike audio CD's, fair use laws don't allow for copies to be made of DVDs because they are encrypted. The laws surrounding the encryption of DVD movies is currently being challenged in U.S. courts. We don't encourage or condone the use of 1Click DVD Copy to make illegal copies of DVD's.”

“It's against the law to make illegal copies of copyrighted material! You are on your own in regard to any legal issues.”

“You must check your local laws before making a backup copy. Different countries have different laws pertaining to this. We are in no way responsible for your use of DVD Wizard pro. By ordering DVD Wizard Pro you agree not to break any law pertaining to DVD copying.”

“Q: Is your software legal?
  A: Our Software is legal as sold in the United States.”

“Please Respect Artist Copyrights!!!
This update allows you to make copies of movies you own for backup purposes. It is against the law to make or distribute copyrighted material for purposes other than your personal use. Please respect all copyright holders.”
http://www.booyakasha.biz (who make a decryption plugin for 123 Copy DVD)

DVD Jargon

Confused by the acronyms, and technical terms? Use our simple guide to cut through the jargon barrier

Codec Coder Decoder - software needed to support different video and audio formats

CSS Content Scrambling System . To a web designer, CSS means ‘Cascading Style Sheets’ but in the DVD business it’s the name of the encryption method used to prevent copying of DVD movies.

DivX  This is a version of Microsoft's MPEG-4 codec. An illicit version of MPEG-4 was released with the name DivX ;-) The legal version is now called DivX (without the smiley).

DVD5 is a single layer DVD. It can store a theoretical 4.7Gb (but actually somewhat less)

DVD9 is a dual layer DVD. Two thin recording layers are embedded into the disc to store a theoretical 8.5Gb (but actually somewhat less).

DVD+R This is a recordable single-layer write-once DVD format. Check which disk formats your DVD player or recorder supports before buying DVD media.

DVD-R This is a recordable single-layer write-once DVD format. More widely supported than DVD+R. Once again, check which formats your DVD drive supports.

DVD-RW This is a re-writable DVD format.

DVD+RW Another re-writable DVD format. Once again, check which format your DVD recorder supports before buying DVD media.

MPEG Moving Picture Expert Group - the people who set the standards for digital movie formats.

MPEG-4 This is the name of the latest version of the MPEG format. Highly compressed for more efficient disk usage and transfer across the Internet.

Region Coding - encoding put onto DVDs to make them playable only in specific countries. e.g. 1 = USA and Canada, 2 = Europe, Japan, South Africa, 3 = Thailand, Indonesia, 4 = Australia, New Zealand, South America, 5 = India, Africa, Russia, 6 = China, 0 = Region Free

XviD open source version of MPEG-4/DivX.


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