When I insert a music CD into my iMac, iTunes opens and gives me the option to "rip" (i.e. import the content and save as files) the tracks using any of these encoders: AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless, MP3, or WAV.

When I insert a video DVD into my iMac, DVD Player opens, but I don't see any menu item to rip the DVD.

Why are music CDs and video DVDs treated differently in the software that ships with OS X with regard to ripping? Why does Apple allow me to rip CDs but not DVDs?

  • I know this doesn't answer the question per se, but if you want to rip a DVD you'll have to turn to some 3rd party software such as Handbrake.
    – segiddins
    Feb 11, 2012 at 16:52

2 Answers 2


This could get very technical but the answer is actually relatively straightforward.

The act of "ripping" takes place in 2 stages, reading the source material, and writing out a converted version of same.

For music this is straightforward, mainly because the technology is old enough to predate stuff that was later incorporated into DVDs. Music CDs do not have any form of encryption. The data is laid bare for you to use as you see fit. This means anyone can read it without requiring the use of a licensed decoder which you can them laden with prohibitions on use. Once you can read it, you can convert it, so long as you have a suitable encoder, which Apple provides to allow encoding into the formats you list.

For a movie, this is different. The source material is encrypted and copy protected in a way that Music CDs never were, and never will be. This means you need a licensed decoder just to be able to read them. The terms of the license will often dictate that you can only decode for playback, and not for conversion. Most often this is purely a legal distinction, and not a technical one. Obviously Apple have to abide by the terms of these licenses or they could not provide you with them, and as such they will not allow you to subsequently decode a film, then instead of watching it immediately encode (rip) it into a different format. They do provide an encoding mechanism for movies, but it will only work on unencrypted and decoded files. Of course, there is nothing to stop other programs that Apple do not supply from ignoring such paper restrictions (or providing replacement decoders that are less inhibited in what they allow), and happily ripping away.

  • 1
    "The source material is encrypted and copy protected in a way that Music CDs never were" Does anyone else remember the Sony rootkit scandal?
    – user10355
    Feb 11, 2012 at 16:10
  • 1
    I do, but I don't consider it relevant. Sure, people have tried to copy protect CDs, but when you do that they do not meet the "Compact Disc" standard, and as such cannot carry the logo etc etc, frankly no-one does it any more. It's an interesting side-read if you want to know more though, just google it. Also the way the protection was achieved was not by protecting the content, but by modifying the player (i.e. your computer). Not so much copy protected, as read-hobbled.
    – stuffe
    Feb 11, 2012 at 16:14
  • 3
    Specifically, the encryption is CSS, the Content Scramble System. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the US criminalizes the circumvention of CSS, and consumer-grade CSS decoders (especially non-expensive ones) provide only for playback, not ripping, as @Stuffe says. If you're ripping it and haven't paid for the software, chances are you're breaking the DMCA.
    – nfirvine
    Feb 11, 2012 at 18:56
  • 1
    Also, see this story on Ars about a company making a legitimate DVD ripping and storage solution getting sued (albeit winning): arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2007/03/…
    – nfirvine
    Feb 11, 2012 at 19:00
  • 1
    @nfirvine - that case has since been appealed and overturned - albeit in a tentative judgement - see (engadget.com/2012/02/02/…)
    – jmhindle
    Feb 14, 2012 at 20:58

I Am Not A Lawyer, but I'd imagine this is because allowing you to import the DVD would put apple in breach of their license with the Format/Logo Licensing Corporation for the DVD-Video standard. This would depend on what the specific terms of the license were.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .