What is DVD Duplication?

Brendan McGuigan

DVD duplication is the process by which a DVD is copied, either exactly, or in a compressed format. Although it may refer to any content being copied, generally DVD duplication refers specifically to copying movies from one DVD to another. There are many legal issues surrounding DVD duplication, and though it can be legal if the copied material is not under copyright, or if the copier has rights to duplicate it, often engaging in DVD duplication of commercial films is a form of piracy, and carries heavy legal penalties.

Making unauthorized copies of movies for friends is a form of copyright piracy.
Making unauthorized copies of movies for friends is a form of copyright piracy.

A DVD is a Digital Video Disc or Digital Versatile Disc, and is a high-capacity storage medium. A one-layered DVD holds approximately 4.7GB of data, while a double-layered DVD holds approximately 8.54GB of data. A third format, the double-sided double-layered DVD, holds 17.08GB of data, but this format is very rare. Most consumer blank DVDs hold 4.7GB of data, and most DVD burners are single-layer burners, while most commercial movies are closer to 8.54GB and burned on a double-layer disc. As a result, consumer DVD duplication often involves compressing the video or audio tracks of a DVD to allow a full length movie to fit on a single-layer disc.

DVD duplication services may offer labeling options as part of a package.
DVD duplication services may offer labeling options as part of a package.

For consumers looking for DVD duplication services to make many copies of their own material, there are a number of commercial services that can do this for a very affordable fee. In numbers greater than 500, in fact, DVD duplication becomes approximately the same cost as CD duplication, and the methods used are very similar. These services generally can make mass copies of data DVDs, video DVDs, and audio DVDs.

The entirety of the duplication process can be done online through a provider, so long as one has a high-speed internet connection. One can design a DVD label, sleeve art, and specify what kind of case is desired. The material to be duplicated is then uploaded, generally in an archived format, to a central server, where the service can access it. Taking this data to use as a master, they then print off as many copies as are desired, with price breaks for larger orders. For those without a high-speed connection, most services are also set up to accept a master DVD via post.

For those interested in at-home DVD duplication of personal material, there are two main routes to take. For smaller runs a consumer-level DVD burner, such as those that come with most personal computers, can be suitable. Generally these DVD burners are single-layer, but for a bit more money double-layer burners can be purchased instead, although it should be noted that double-layered media is significantly more expensive than single-layered media. Depending on the speed of the burner, duplicating a single DVD this way can take between twenty minutes to two hours.

Stand-alone devices can also be purchased. These devices generally have a tray for a master DVD, and then a caddy of some sort to hold a mass amount of blank DVDs. Blank DVDs are fed into the burner one by one, and the master is duplicated. Although not any faster than the consumer-level burners, because the process is automated the machine can be left on for days at a time to duplicate large quantities of DVDs.

Some critics argue that DVD duplication has negatively impacted the film industry.
Some critics argue that DVD duplication has negatively impacted the film industry.

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Discussion Comments


@Logicfest -- the legality of doing that is somewhat dicey, but laws were written in response to people who liked to borrow and rent DVDs and copy them or even sell pirated discs to people.

In theory, you should be OK if you are copying discs that you own and they are for your personal use only. People who make backups of discs they own aren't usually engaging in the activities that are regarded as objectionable. But always remember that theories can be disproven, so it might not be a bad idea to check on the legality of copying DVDs that you own before actually doing int.


There are programs out there that can take a double layer DVD and compress it so it will fit on a single layer disc during the duplication process. That compression used to take a long time but faster DVD players and more powerful CPUs have reduced the amount of time it takes to read and compress a disc.

While the legality of duplicating those discs is questionable, some consider it a great idea to duplicate discs that they own and watch those instead of potentially damaging the discs for which they have paid.

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