From a "fair use" perspective, it should be possible to make a backup copy of your legally purchased DVD movies, assuming you're doing so for archival purposes and will not be distributing those copies, or the originals, to others outside of your immediate family. This is a bit spurious from a legal standpoint, we think, but there is a compelling reason to back up a few DVD movies, and it has nothing to do with archiving.
If you travel a lot for work, as we do, you may sometimes like to bring along DVD movies for those otherwise wasted hours on planes and in hotel rooms. However, we don't want to subject expensive DVD purchases to the rigors of travel. Paul had a particularly maddening experience on a cross-country flight in which a few of his DVDs were actually cracked thanks to an overzealous fellow passenger jamming his too-large bag into a too-small storage compartment directly on top of his bag.
You'd think that Windows 7 would come up with some sort of basic DVD backup utility, even if it were designed to only function on that tiny percentage of unprotected (that is, homemade) DVDs that are out there. But it's not there: Windows 7 does include ways to burn data DVDs and Blu-ray discs and create DVD movies, but it's surprisingly light when it comes to DVD movie backup. For this reason, you're going to have to look elsewhere.
We've come across several excellent DVD backup utilities. Chances are good that your PC came with one of them. The Nero suite (www.nero.com/) and Roxio Creator (www.roxio. com/) are popular PC bundles, and of course, you can purchase these huge and sometimes confusing digital media suites on your own if you're looking for that kind of thing.
That said, we prefer simpler, more elegant solutions. For example, SlySoft's CloneDVD (www.slysoft.com/en/clonedvd.html) is an excellent and inexpensive way to back up entire DVDs or just the parts of a DVD you want. That's literally all it does, and it does it well. CloneDVD is shown in Figure 13-48.
What all of these solutions lack, if it's not obvious, is a way to back up commercial, Hollywood-type DVDs. That's because these DVDs come with a form of copy protection that prevents such copying. In order to bypass this protection, you'll need something like SlySoft AnyDVD (or AnyDVD HD), www.slysoft .com/en/anydvd.html, which we both use and strongly recommend. AnyDVD removes the encryption from DVD movies, allowing you to back up Hollywood movies and other copy-protected DVDs. It removes the DVD region coding from DVD movies, so you movie buffs can enjoy DVD movies that are purchased outside of your locale. But AnyDVD isn't just about bypassing copy protection. In fact, other features make this a tool of interest to anyone who enjoys DVD movies regularly on a PC. It prevents the automatic launching of not-so-friendly "PC-friendly" software on video DVDs. It enables you to skip annoying trailers and other baloney that movie companies force on us, letting you jump directly to either the main movie or the DVD's title menu. And it does this automatically: pop in a disc and AnyDVD will do its thing under the covers. This is one of the best utilities we've ever purchased.
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