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Enforcing your right to fair use.

--Holiday Special Gift Suggestion: Hacked DVD Player and a Subscription to Netflix!--

This isn't the time or place to argue the ethics of copyright, intellectual property or digital rights management. Let's just say the current law in the U.S. still embraces the concept of fair use, meaning that once you buy a piece of content (book, music, art) you have the right to use and protect that instantiation of the work for your own personal benefit.  This allows you to legally make a backup copy of your CD, for example, so that you can still listen to the music, even if the original copy has been damaged.

Fair use has been upheld in the U.S. courts, and the intention here is to allow you to enforce that right with respect to your movie DVD's.   

Why VHS?  That's a good question and the answer is more pragmatic than anything else.  Copying a commercial DVD to another DVD is pretty difficult, but you can make an excellent VHS copy of a DVD movie relatively easily and most everyone already has a VHS, while DVD burners are still relatively rare. In addition, since you're not messing with the CSS copy protection,  your copying probably doesn't fall under the draconian strictures of the DMCA. This is a good thing to steer clear of, trust me.  

Most of what I know about this, I learned from the Nerd-out Apex Info Pages1 and Darren King's website2.  IMHO, both of these sites are great examples of the modest but diligent uber-nerd effort that once upon a time characterized the web.  So, if you visit them, please remember to say thank you.


In a nutshell, you purchase an Apex DVD player for about $100 U.S. then you download some replacement firmware and install it on your Apex player.  This disables the analog copy protection when you playback your DVD's.  It also allows you to make nice VHS copies of your copy-protected DVD's on your old VHS recorder.  There are many options possible along the way, and a very pleasant learning curve for those inclined to dig into the techie stuff.  Brevity being the soul of wit however, I intend to reduce the process to a cookbook for those who just need a solution and don't want to get into the gritty details..

  1. Purchase a pre- hacked Apex AD-1500 from ebay or one of the sellers at Nerd-Out in the For Sale forum.  Specify that you'd like the "Hiteker GK/AD1000" firmware, it's the most common and well tested. If you are into that kind of thing you can "upgrade" to the new "Experimental" firmware later

    Once you get your 1500, hook it up to your TV per the User's Manual. Now power up the DVD and the TV.  You should see the APEX splash screen on the TV. Now open the disc tray and push the following buttons on the handheld remote controller:

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    What shows up on your TV screen? 

     If you see AD1000, then you are ready to rock.  Your player is now "region-free," "RCE-immune," and "Macrovision-disabled." Good on ya mate! If you see anything else, then get in touch with the person who sold you the machine and ask them "WhaThaFuk?"  Don't panic.  Apex hackers are a pretty friendly group in general and they'll help you get things straightened out.  You can always check Darrell's AD-1500 page3 for more info. 


  2. Plug the DVD analog video and audio outputs into the corresponding inputs on your VHS.  

  3. Slap a DVD into the player, put a blank tape into the VHS.  

  4. Set the VHS recording speed to EP (the six hour setting).  DVD's are often over two hours, especially when you want to record some of the extra content that typically comes on them.  The good news is that the high quality of the output signal from your AD-1500 allows you to make a pretty nice copy even at the slower recording speed.

  5. Press Play on the DVD, press Record on the VHS and enjoy.

Remember, don't illegally copy DVD's4Jack Valenti and his band of MPAA thugs are rumored to be going house to house in New Yawk tracking down evil DVD pirates!


1Nerd-out.com: http://www.nerd-out.com
2 Darren King's website: http://www.nerd-out.com/darrenk/
3 Darren King's AD1500 page: http://www.nerd-out.com/darrenk/1500/1500_firmware.htm
4 My copyright ethos: Respect copyright laws, but demand fair use rights.

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