SoSLUG Archive

Copying commercial DVD’s.


Contrary to the title, this page ”is not” about pirating DVD’s. We at Soslug, recognise all forms of copyright and licensing, however, there is also an argument that fair use is being stifled by encryption introduced by commercial operators. It is in this context, the following information is offered. There are all sorts of reasons you may wish to have a copy of a commercial DVD. Young children for example, are notorious for destroying discs through carelessness.

Provided it is for ”’your own personal use,”’ there can be little argument that it is justified, though not necessarily legal in your own country. We are not about to get into a debate on the legality (or otherwise), only you can decide according to your conscience. The process offered here, is based on a Debian computer, but all Linux systems should be similar.

The process.

It is essential that you get your Linux computer to a point that it can ”’play”’ DVD’s. While perhaps stating the obvious, if it can’t play DVD’s, it certainly won’t be able to copy them. Guidance can be found here playing dvds, but any number of other sites can provide information specific to your own distro. In general, all main stream distro’s will be able to play DVD’s without too much hassle.

You will need k3b, the superb CD/DVD burning program. Some distro’s will have it installed as default. In Debian you will have to use the distro’s package manager, Synaptic, to install it, or if you prefer, the command line method. Note: the command below assumes a Ubuntu based, or derivative system. On a Debian system, on which this page is based, omit sudo .

#> sudo apt-get install k3b

Once installed, you will find it under the Applications >> Sound & Video menu.


On opening k3b, this is what you will see.


So far, so good! But there is now a problem and we need to leave k3b alone for the moment to discuss it.

The problem

When I show you how to copy the DVD, k3b will read the DVD and then refuse to eject it. This is because, K3b does not require the DVD to be mounted to copy it. The logical answer then, is to make sure it’s not mounted before you start the copy process – easier said than done!

Most distro’s, when you place a DVD in the drive, will auto-mount and start to play the DVD in your default player. This is great if you want to watch the DVD, but unwanted if you want to copy it. Therefore, when the DVD starts to play, you need to stop it, close the player and unmount the drive.

How is this done?

First, you have to determine the DVD drive device identifier. To do this, go to Desktop >> administration >> Disks.


Click on it and when it opens, select your DVD drive.


You can see from the screenshot, my DVD drive is listed as /dev/hdb, so it is this device we need to unmount.

For the moment, the quickest way is to open a Terminal as root and write the command:

#> umount /dev/hdb

Note the space between the command, umount and the identifier, /dev/hdb and remember, your drive identifier may differ from mine, so just substitute your identifier.

I have written a page about creating desktop icons creating desktop icons and in the process, it shows you how to have a permanent icon that does the job for you with a double click.

Now we know how to unmount the drive, we can proceed with the copying of the DVD as follows.

The process continues.

Having opened up ”’k3b”’ you must now look for ”’Tools –> Copy DVD.”’


Click on Copy DVD, and you will see this:


Next, place your DVD in the drive, not forgetting to cancel any player that starts and unmount the drive (as discussed above), then click Start. In most cases, the k3b. default settings will be just fine. If you only have one burner, k3b will copy the DVD to your hard drive first and then eject the DVD, asking for new blank media.. Place the new media (disc) in the drive and click on “Load” ”on the screen.” I have found that k3b doesn’t always like loading the media via the drive tray button. Once the process has finished, unless you tell k3b otherwise, the image created during the burn process will be deleted automatically.

In the main, it works well, but there are some “ifs and buts”.

I have found dual layer media unreliable. This may be a mismatch between the media and burner, or it could be k3b needs more “tweaking” to burn dual layers reliably. I intend to try a different brand of media in due course, to see if it improves.

Sony seem to have used more resources than anyone else in trying to stop you copying their discs. Depending on which type of encryption/copy protection they have used, will determine whether or not you enjoy success.

Author: paul - Page reference: 1184
Last modified: paul - 2015-08-20