The very name Popcorn suggests that this software is capable of copying DVD movies, though that isn’t exactly accurate. While it can copy home movies, or unprotected commercial DVDs, it won’t crack any encryption or do anything that could be considered dodgy.
Although Popcorn lets you copy DVDs, Roxio has been very careful to advise users that duplicating commercial DVDs is at best a legal grey area - and at worst, against the law.
The business of copying commercial DVDs is at best a murky area of legality. On the one hand there is a law preventing anybody circumventing the encryption of DVDs. On the other hand people may have the right to backup legitimately bought DVDs (though frankly, after some investigation I can find nothing conclusive to support this view).
There are applications available that will defeat the encryption and copy protection found on commercial DVDs. The resulting files can then be burnt to DVD using Popcorn, or Toast for that matter. This is illegal, so Roxio has been very careful to tiptoe around the issue, always talking about legal copies of home movies.
However some of the features seem aimed at commercial content. One of the main features, and the only feature not found in the full version of Toast, is the ability to recompress video from a 8.5GB disc to fit it on a 4.7GB disc. Few home movies would be long enough to fill a dual-density high-capacity disc. A far more likely use would be compressing commercial movies that have been cracked using third-party software.
But that’s nothing Roxio is ready to admit to; the company must remain squeaky clean – otherwise it risks the wrath of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). Popcorn is in many ways a cut-down version of Toast, concentrating on DVD duplication rather than CD and DVD mastering and backup. It’s half the price, and has a much simpler interface. Video compression is the only thing Toast doesn’t have.
If you have a dual-layer DVD burner, such as the LaCie model that costs £99, you could in theory duplicate commercial DVDs willy nilly using Popcorn and some slightly shadier software. The thing is, why would anyone bother? The cost of duplicating may be cheaper than buying from a shop, but renting is cheap; even buying it from a dodgy street trader gives you the extra benefit of a label or sorts. It just doesn’t make economic sense to duplicate commercial DVDs.
It turns out that Popcorn is pretty good at its advertised and intended use. If you’ve a need to duplicate non-commercial DVD-Video content, it does a great job. If you have something shady in mind, it really isn’t worth the hassle. If you want pirate DVDs, leave it to the experts and just sit in a pub, or walk through a market and somebody will try and sell you one.If you want to use the features of Popcorn for legitimate uses, though, I’d thoroughly recommend its big brother Toast, which costs more but adds lots of functionality.