If someone captures some copyrighted video on their own computer, using screen capture software, is that against the law?

Note that the capture would only be used by the person who captured it, it would not be distributed.

1 Answer 1


It is still making a copy, and thus an infringement of copyright unless an exception, such as fair use or fair dealing, applies. But if in fact it is never distributed, the copyright owner will never hear of it, and thus will never sue. Remember that copyright infringement is, in all but a few extreme cases, a tort and not a crime.

The basic law for the is 17 USC 106. This grants to the copyright owner

... the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

  1. to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;

subject to various limitations, particularly those in 17 USC 107 where [tag:fair_use] is defined, as much as it is in statute.

However, in 37 CFR § 201.40 an exemption to the anti-circumvention provision has been declared by

the Librarian of Congress has determined, pursuant to 17 U.S.C. 1201(a)(1)(C) and (D), that noninfringing uses by persons who are users of [certain] works are, or are likely to be, adversely affected.

This includes

Motion pictures (including television shows and videos), as defined in 17 U.S.C. 101, where the motion picture is lawfully made and acquired on a DVD protected by the Content Scramble System, on a Blu-ray disc protected by the Advanced Access Content System, or via a digital transmission protected by a technological measure, and the person engaging in circumvention under paragraphs (b)(1)(i) and (b)(1)(ii)(A) and (B) of this section reasonably believes that non-circumventing alternatives are unable to produce the required level of high-quality content, or the circumvention is undertaken using screen-capture technology that appears to be offered to the public as enabling the reproduction of motion pictures after content has been lawfully acquired and decrypted, where circumvention is undertaken solely in order to make use of short portions of the motion pictures

It is not so clear that it includews entire films for personal use.


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