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When do You “Own” a NetFlix Movie?

I have two NetFlix movies sitting beside me that I won't get to watch until Monday or so. I'm tempted to rip them to my computer for later viewing (on Monday or Tuesday) and send them back today.

While physically in my possession, I believe I am allowed to media shift the movies under fair use. But at what point in the "I put them in my mailbox and the USPS returns them to NetFlix" process does temporary "ownership" of the movie switch from me to NetFlix? I would argue that ownership switches when NetFlix receives the item - I'm still responsible for lost movies up until that point, after all.

If I return a movie today and, because a weekend is coming up, watch and delete the ripped versions before NetFlix receives them, would that be within the bounds of the law? Or is physically possessing the movies necessary?

22 Responses to "When do You “Own” a NetFlix Movie?"

  1. This goes on the assumption that fair use trumps the DMCA. I've read some things that lead me to believe this is true, but obviously until it's been tested in court, we cannot say.

    Imagine someone buying 100 DVDs and creating a media server in his house to store the movies on a hard drive instead of in a massive DVD changer. A movie company could apparently sue him under the DMCA, but he could argue "fair use." Whichever side wins, there's your precedent.

  2. Well, lets say it's not Netflix but your local library. And rather then a DVD (which makes for all sorts of fun with the DMCA) you checked out a book.

    Now the book is due and you haven't finished it, in fact you haven't started it. Unable to renew the book as someone else has reserved the copy of "How to have fun in Phili for $1 a Day" you decide to photocopy the whole book so you can read it, and return it as well. There is little doubt that what you just did a) made a copy of the work thus invoking copyright law b) the work was published after 1978 (assumed, almost for sure the DVD was) c) your copying the whole work, not a small part d) it is personal e) clearly completes with the original work (you can return it for someone else to read)

    The copying of the book is HIGHLY unlikely to be fair use. So even without the whole DMCA mess I'd have to say transcoding the DVD for the INTENT to return the DVD early would be a violation of copyright.

  3. With regards to DVDs you own: from what I understand, yes, you are allowed to make a backup of your own DVD. However, legally you cannot defeat or override the copy protection scheme placed on the original DVD by the Copyright Owner.

    So, it is a catch-22. It is legal to own a backup, but illegal to create the backup if the DVD is copy protected.

  4. IMHO, the library argument is not relative because there is no intermediary phase in which the item is "in transport." You deliver the book back to the library, usually yourself. It doesn't take 2-4 days to get there.

    Suppose too that the question of returning isn't even in question. DMCA aside, under fair use, am I allowed to rip a NetFlix DVD and watch it on my computer while I still have the DVD in my possession (i.e. before I've returned it)? Perhaps I like watching in QuickTime Player more than in DVD Player or I want to play the movie file from an SD card on my Wii (or whatever).

  5. Transcoding for personal use is/was a protected form of copying under copyright law in the United States.

    See "was" 🙁

  6. If the DVD was unencrypted (to avoid the overwhelming illegality of breaking CSS), then space-shifting it (temporarily copying to your drive) would be ok until it showed up at NetFlix's door, I think.
    I was going to say, you might have to tighten that definition, though, and maybe say once it hits the USPS's hands, you've got to delete it---but you covered that with the "lost movie" liability. If you're liable, not the USPS, then you've got "ownership" responsibilities, and "ownership" rights.

  7. ...but you never own a Netflix movie, ever. You are renting the movie and you can rent it for an indefinite period but that doesn't change your actions.

    If you owned the movie then you could cancel your membership and keep any unreturned films but this is not the case. When you cancel a Netflix membership you owe them all films which are out on your account (or money for them).

  8. Who owns something being shipped at any given point in time is dictated by one of two ways. If the item is shipped FOB shipping point, you the buyer are responsible for the item once it leaves the warehouse (and presumably, for covering the shipping charges). FOB destination means it's not your responsibility (or, probably, your nickel) until it is delievered into your hands.

    Now, this all takes into account the assumption that you actually own any of the movies that Netflix sends you, which you don't. Netflix is a movie rental site, much like Blockbuster or Hollywood video, which I don't think means you have the right to copy any of their movies at any time. So in reality, the answer to the question in this post's title is "never."

  9. You never own a NetFlix movie any more than you own an apartment. In both cases you are liable for damages (not maintenance usually), being responsible for damages does not imply ownership.

    However, I believe when I rent a movie I am paying to watch the movie not the DVD and therefore I think I should have the right to do whatever is necessary to watch it in the way I please (for personal viewing of course). The DVD is a symbol for the movie, and if you are not in possession of it then I don't think you have the right to watch the movie.

  10. What a dummy. Netflix is a rental service that specifically features keeping a rental indefinitely in exchange for paying an ongoing, fixed monthly fee. To try and get around that is a rather ordinary, minor sort of greediness. You are paying for the rental, just keep it longer!

  11. Nathaniel although morally just, I don't think the laws currently support your interpretation. How you enjoy the work is not of interest to copyright law. Your approach reminds me of those disposable DVDs that were supposed to change the entertainment world back in 2003.

    Good food for thought. Here in Canada the copyright laws leans towards focusing on stopping/punishing unauthorized distribution as opposed to worrying about consumption. In fact, you are free to make copies for personal consumption -- though I tend not to unless it is supported by the copyright owner.

  12. Interesting Lloyd, I wasn't aware of the Canadian law.

    So, what if I have a DVD, I drive up to Canada, make a copy for my personal consumption, and then drive back to the US?


  13. I agree that the difference lies between owning and renting. As you are renting the DVD's from Netflix, you are subject not only to Federal copyright law but also to the terms of service established by Netflix since Netflix is the actual owner (you are, however, in possession). What does Netflix say? From their terms of use:

    Intellectual Property: Copyright -- All content included on the Netflix Web site and delivered to subscribers as part of the service, including DVDs ... shall not be reproduced or used without express written permission from Netflix, Inc.

    In light of this, it isn't a matter of when does the DVD leave your possession but did you receive permission to copy it from Netflix.

    In sum, there is an absolute prohibition to copying at any point in time.

  14. Is there any way they can catch you if you burn a quick copy of the dvd then send it back? If not then what have you got to lose?

  15. I recently was about to Rip a movie I got from Netflix....Can they some how know that I ripped it. I am using the "Any DVD" software.

  16. [quote comment="42310"]I recently was about to Rip a movie I got from Netflix....Can they some how know that I ripped it. I am using the "Any DVD" software.[/quote]

    Oh, you definitely do not want to do that. Ripping a DVD will leave imprints on the disc that could cause the movie not to play properly, and it will also show up in Netflix's DVD scanners. If they catch you doing this, they could suspend your account and possibly hit you with hefty fines.

  17. That is complete BS. There is no way for Netflix to physically detect whether you have "burned" or copied a DVD. The only way Netflix will even suspect such activity is if you are sending the movies backs too quickly: IE Netflix receives the movie they sent you in the same 24 hour time period. Happy ripping!

  18. [quote comment="43118"]That is complete BS.[/quote]

    Uhm, he was being sarcastic.

  19. From one Joseph to another: You're a putz. 😛

    Also, if I could, I *would* send movies back in the same 24 hour as I received them. That would let me fully maximize the value for the money I'm sending them every month. Unfortunately, that's not very practical.

  20. I believe it would be extremely difficult for Netflix to "prove" that you made a copy of a movie simply because you sent it back "too quickly". Depending on the circumstance, it is not unreasonable for a person to watch each movie they receive on the day they receive it. Besides, unless Netflix gets pressure from a studio or the RIAA I do not belive they would care. They are still getting their membership fee.

  21. I copy them all the time, I have a library of over 300 titles. Get bent, I love it!

  22. "Fair use" is a term that applies ONLY to educational uses for non-profit institutions and does not apply to individuals using a movie in their home. Legally, one cannot copy a rented movie under any circumstance.