Blu-ray Encryption—Why Most People Pirate Movies

I get a fair amount of e-mail from readers asking how a person could do "questionable" things due to limitations imposed by DRM. Whether it's how to strip DRM from ebooks, how to connect to Usenet or how to decrypt video, I do my best to point folks in the right direction with lots of warnings and disclaimers. The most frustrating DRM by far has been with Blu-ray discs.

Unless I've missed an announcement, there still isn't a "proper" way for Linux users to watch Blu-ray movies on their computers. It's hard enough with Windows or Macintosh, but when it comes to Linux, it seems that turning to the dark side is the only option. In the spirit of freedom, let me point you in the direction of "how", and leave it up to you to decide whether it's a road you want to travel.

When ripping a movie from Blu-ray, I know of only one program that can do the job. MakeMKV is a cross-platform utility that will extract the full, uncompressed movie from most Blu-ray discs. Unfortunately, you have to download the source code and compile it. You need both the binaries and the source download files, and then follow the included directions for compiling the software. Yes, it's a bit complex.

Once you compile MakeMKV, you should be able to use it to extract the Blu-ray disc to your computer. Be warned, the file is enormous, and you'll most likely want to compress it a bit. The tool for that thankfully is much easier to install. Handbrake has been the de facto standard video encoding app for a long time, and when paired with MakeMKV, it makes creating playable video files close to painless. I won't go through the step-by-step process, but if the legally questionable act of ripping a Blu-ray disc is something you're comfortable doing, http://www.makemkv.com and http://www.handbrake.fr are the two software packages you'll want to explore.

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Shawn Powers is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal. You might find him chatting on the IRC channel, or Twitter

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Anonymous's picture

having to rip a bluray movie in order to play it is a time consuming hazzle (aside from also leaving an invitation to illegally redistribute). some of that could be avoided by the movie industry releasing softwareplayers as (I seem to think) they used to bundle on movie discs.
vlc on some linux distros (ubuntu) will play movies from bluray dics directly similar to dvds. fedora is not one of them but libbluray has been updated a few times lately. perhaps one day.

yes, bluray movies are big. in the order of 30gb vs 5gb for dvd movies. but they are already compressed with the best available (aac+avc not counting upcoming hevc) so compressing them further comes at the expense of reduced quality. dvd movies on the other hand are not already compressed with the best available (ac3+mpeg2) and can be compressed further without apparent loss. also, compressing a bluray movie takes a long time (fx 12 hrs for 1080p->720p vs 2 hrs for ac3+mpeg2->aac+avc for a dvd movie)

ffmpeg is an alternative to handbrake (which doesnt come prepackaged for fedora) and is easy to use for compressions without special requirements. its native aac encoder is being debugged for artifacts/regressions - trac.ffmpeg.org/ticket/2686 but compresses better than its other options - faac and fdk_aac - (and is not that bad as of fx ffmpeg 1.2.2 I think).

whats complex about building makemkv if anything is getting the dependencies. otherwise it is just a download and expand of 2 files and run of 2 scripts.

copying is illegal but whats harmful (and also unethical) is illegal redistribution - whether offering or accepting it.

That's it, and you likely

rogerx's picture

That's it, and you likely unknowningly stumbled upon the answer.

It's a crime to exploit a crime or criminal activity, in order to make money or benefit.

A business needs to invest money into making a software player for consumers to unlock their software locks. They sell something to a consumer that a consumer cannot use, it's as good as stealing from a consumer. (Oh. And then we encounter the wonderful private legal disclaimers. ;-)

Matter of fact, when a consumer buys a piece of software, it should be bundled with a program to unlock the software already, regardless of disability, or the fact the person uses a better operating system. Hence, welcome to Java. (Bleh! I personally do not use or try to avoid Java here.)

Because of this, you can see the bottom falling through on the Blu-ray market.

Shrugs. Hope they know the innocent & poor hard workers (of open source software) are suffering, while the rich have those nice expensive fuzzy & warm Linux Blu-ray players!

With this stated, I don't mind having to use a closed source solution in order to get to use my favorite MPlayer player for playback of Blu-ray content. However, I'm having to waste up to eight or more hours of my personal time along with my own personal resources just to view Blu-ray media within my favorite open source Linux operating system. All awhile the rich (or even the criminals themselves) are likely using the same operating system via the Blu-ray hardware players for viewing the same media!

As such, I only buy one or two Blu-ray Movies every so often. A waste of my time. Most others don't buy into it because they do not witness any enhanced quality, or they do not have the money for constantly upgrading their hardware. (Same with HDMI spec, it's more trouble then it's worth at times. S/PDIF Toslink fan here. ;-)

Misleading Topic

rogerx's picture

"Blu-ray Encryption—Why Most People Pirate Movies"

The topic assumes and self-convicts people who bought Blu-Ray Movies are committing the crime of piracy when they're watching their Blu-Ray Movie on Linux.

Prelude for lynching? ;-)

A better more relevent topic for this article would be, "Watching Blu-Ray Encrypted Movies with Linux." Whether it's legal was barely even speculated within the article!

Bottom line. I strongly suggest those who do not know if they're legally watching Blu-Ray Movies under Linux (ie. when using MakeMKV), that they contact a lawyer in order to discuss the finer points of Copyright laws, etc. From my view, if you do remove the (software) lock from such media, you likely do become solely responsible for your media if it is ever distributed. (For example, if you have kids whom like to share with others.)

Technically, by decrypting

kruug's picture

Technically, by decrypting the Blu-Ray so that you may make a copy of it locally is legal (at least in the US). Back in the early days of DVD, it was legally stated that making a digital backup of a DVD was entirely legal. The MPAA locking down the disc and forcing you to break their encryption violates this, and is in fact the illegal part of this whole process.

Where have you guys been?

tazman's picture

I'm not sure where you guys have been but, I've been able to watch my Blu-Ray movies on all my Linux Desktops, laptops and media centers for about 4 years now. Using MakeMKV (and BTW, it's not that complex) I've been watching Blu-Rays via XBMC, VLC, MPlayer and a host of other Linux video apps. Some enterprising young "coders" even found ways to "pipe" the decrypted movies directly into your favorite video player using a simple shell script while MakeMKV works its magic silently in the background. The disc spins up, it takes about 10 to 20 seconds to get the keys, it buffers a few Megabytes of the movie into cache and, VOILA! - WILL THE WONDERS NEVER CEASE!! Come on, you aren't really serious that this has been an issue for you guys all this time, are you?

Seriously, it hasn't been that hard for some time now, even MakeMKV's site has a Linux forum that explains how to do this with links to all the hard work other people have done to make it easy for the next guy. I get why you wrote the article as the basic issue of Linux being left behind when software and/or hardware offerings don't include our favorite OS but please, do more research. This has been somewhat of a non-issue on Linux for a while now. Sure, it's not the "LinDVD" program that was around a few years back but, it's no different than installing libdvdcss for your system and watching a DVD much the same way. Let's face it, until some major units are sold to make a dent in someones sales, Linux is always going to get the short end of the stick and it will be left up to the users and developers to continue to find ways to make stuff work.

Now, go on and find something really important to write about since this is old news.......

Using MakeMKV (and BTW, it's

Anonymous's picture

Using MakeMKV (and BTW, it's not that complex) I've been watching Blu-Rays via...

So you are not watching the Blu-Ray but a rip of the Blu-Ray, no?

Still important, still that way- for some still a news...

Anonymous's picture

Decrypting movies and series is in some countries pretty much illegal... so MakeMKV is not a good answer for those having issues breaking laws or stepping into the grey areas of law.

I wish everybody knew but I just recently was told by someone that I was just to lazy to pay for software- he did not want to accept that there just IS NOTHING TO BUY.

And it is still an issue and not OLD NEWS. I wish it were...

And those Countries making

rogerx's picture

And those Countries making MakeMKV illegal, likely use the Law to incite fear. (ie. Communism or Socialism) They're probably endorsing copyright infringement, and want to turn a blind eye to it while providing an excuse. (Speculation, but we've seen this in the past.)

I'm sort of a fan of MakeMKV, as long as MakeMKV remains free for Linux users, as the Blu-ray market should be investing in a solution for Linux users for legally viewing Blu-ray content. I just think having to waste up to eight hours and resources, is ridiculous. (Basically, MakeMKV is currently free for Linux users, but may require to be purchased in the future, for just having the rights just to view their Blu-ray content.)

I wouldn't have an issue piping MakeMKV into mplayer (ie. "makemkv | mplayer") as long as MakeMKV were gaurenteed to remain free software in the future. Just an honest user's reflections here.

Try running the Windows versions with WINE instead...

Markus McLaughlin's picture

Try running the Windows versions of both programs with WINE instead!

Try running the Windows versions with WINE instead...

Markus McLaughlin's picture

Try running the windows version of makemkv & handbrake with wine, etc., instead of compiling the source code. Just a suggestion...

Boycott

AC's picture

I'll never buy a Bluray player, or any Bluray disks. I haven't bought a DVD is years.

The MPAA, and their backers, need to starve.

the only reason why I started buying blurays

customer-not-thief's picture

Since I can rip and compress bluray discs, I have bought a lot of them and will continue to do so. I have no pirated movies at all on my media server, but several hundred ripped and compressed dvd's and blurays. I just love to be able to take a few videos with me on my laptop/tablet or watch the same video with original sound and excellent image.

As long as makemkv and handbrake give me the freedom to watch the movies I BOUGHT on the device that I CHOOSE, I will continue to buy blurays. Pirated movies don't interest me a bit, first and second because it's wrong and third because the quality especially of the sound just sucks.

It's sad that the movie industry treats their customers as thiefs, instead of giving them added value. I know that it works for ebooks: O'Reilly sells unprotected ebooks, and gives me the added value of an online library where I can download any of my ebooks in the format I choose whenever I like. They even make it dead-easy to send my ebooks to my Kindle or to my dropbox. That's what I expect of a company that treats me as a customer, and I show my love by buying lots of books from them!

This could also work for movies: If I buy a movie, it would be available for download in many formats (mkv with hd sound and image, .m4v for iOS devices, etc), forever. I would stop buying discs and buy everything online immediately. But not as it is, with videos DRM'd to stop me from taking them on the device I happen to use at the moment.

Thank god, I live in a country where making a private copy, even of protected material, that you own is still legal.

the only reason why I started buying blurays

customer-not-thief's picture

Since I can rip and compress bluray discs, I have bought a lot of them and will continue to do so. I have no pirated movies at all on my media server, but several hundred ripped and compressed dvd's and blurays. I just love to be able to take a few videos with me on my laptop/tablet or watch the same video with original sound and excellent image.

As long as makemkv and handbrake give me the freedom to watch the movies I BOUGHT on the device that I CHOOSE, I will continue to buy blurays. Pirated movies don't interest me a bit, first and second because it's wrong and third because the quality especially of the sound just sucks.

It's sad that the movie industry treats their customers as thiefs, instead of giving them added value. I know that it works for ebooks: O'Reilly sells unprotected ebooks, and gives me the added value of an online library where I can download any of my ebooks in the format I choose whenever I like. They even make it dead-easy to send my ebooks to my Kindle or to my dropbox. That's what I expect of a company that treats me as a customer, and I show my love by buying lots of books from them!

This could also work for movies: If I buy a movie, it would be available for download in many formats (mkv with hd sound and image, .m4v for iOS devices, etc), forever. I would stop buying discs and buy everything online immediately. But not as it is, with videos DRM'd to stop me from taking them on the device I happen to use at the moment.

Thank god, I live in a country where making a private copy, even of protected material, that you own is still legal.

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