In this two part series, we’ll be discussing why it’s important to convert your media (like CDs and DVDs) to digital files (like .mp3 and .mp4) for all your various needs, including future-proofing – and how to do it.
Here are some terms we’ll be using throughout this article, with their definitions:
- Content – Media of some kind. Can be Music, Movies, TV shows, or books.
- Physical Media – The way content is obtained on tangible item. An example would be a store-bought DVD or music CD.
- Digital Media – Content that’s a file once your computer, smartphone, tablet, or other device. No disc is needed to use this content.
- Ripping – Converting content from physical media into a digital format. This requires computer processing power, and often some time.
Part 1 : Why to Convert Your Physical Media to Digital
These days, people are consuming their content on a variety of devices – Desktop PC, Laptop, TV, smartphone, and tablet. Although the push from companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google is “Buy or rent content (movies and media) from our store to play on your devices!”, the problem is that paying for media you already own in a different format is a bad idea. Although it may be convenient and easy to re-buy the content, paying multiple times for something you already own is ethically wrong and should be illegal. For instance, if you were around when the Beatles released the White Album, you probably bought it on vinyl. Then, when cassettes became popular due to their portability, did you buy the White Album again? Of course not. You copied it to tape. In our time, when you bought the Counting Crows’ album August and Every After on CD, then later purchased an iPod or other MP3 player, did you buy August and Everything After again? I hope not. You should have “ripped” it – copied it to the computer for preservation and to be used at your discretion, including putting it on your iPod or MP3 player. You bought the album, you can use it any way you’d like as part of “fair use”.
Record industry executives would have you believe that engaging in such a practice is piracy. However, it’s not, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, generally considered as the industry’s watchdog, who says on their FAQ page:
“4. What’s been recognized as fair use?
Although the legal basis is not completely settled, many lawyers believe that the following (and many other uses) are also fair uses:
- Space-shifting or format-shifting – that is, taking content you own in one format and putting it into another format, for personal, non-commercial use. For instance, “ripping” an audio CD (that is, making an MP3-format version of an audio CD that you already own) is considered fair use by many lawyers, based on the 1984 Betamax decision and the 1999 Rio MP3 player decision (RIAA v. Diamond Multimedia, 180 F. 3d 1072, 1079, 9th Circ. 1999.)” (Italics ours.)
Converting your physical media to digital is not illegal, and prevents you from paying for the same products more than once.
If you haven’t already begun to copy your physical media (CDs and DVDs, or other media) to digital based formats, now’s the time. Although the process can seem daunting and time consuming, it ensures that your content is safely preserved in case of damage to the physical media, and helps you future-proof your usage of that content. For example, if you had a VHS tape that wore out due to being watched too frequently, being left in the sun, or was eaten by your VHS machine, you’d be forced to re-purchase it. But if your physical media is converted to digital, you have nothing to worry about, knowing that it’s safe.
To help reduce the dauntingness of this task, the best thing to do is get started right away. The sooner you start, the more quickly you’ll be done. And although it is time consuming, you can engage in other tasks (like sleeping, or working, or anything really) while the process happens. To give you an idea of time frames, CDs usually take between 5 and 10 minutes per disc, while DVDs can take between 2 and 4 hours, and Blu-Ray discs can somewhat take longer, depending on the age of the computer and the quality settings. To make the process go more quickly, I recommend one DVD/Blu-Ray Disc per night, and one per day. Set up the disc to rip before you go to sleep, and when you wake up, put in another one to start the process. Continue until all discs are done. For CDs, I recommend doing one every time you pass the computer, as you go through the day. Walking past the computer to go to the bathroom? Put in a disc. On the way back from the bathroom? Put in a disc. The process goes quickly when you follow these rules.
Once My Media is Converted – Then What?
What can you do with these digital files once they’re done? Anything. Put them on your iPad or Smartphone. Play them on your TV connected box, like Roku or Boxee Box. Watch them on your laptop while on vacation. Put them on a flash drive and bring them to a friend’s house. It’s your media. Do with it what you’d like, just make sure to also back it up to another source. You don’t want to have to do all that work again in the future.