Enable Commercial DVD Playback on Ubuntu 8.04

By | 2008/07/01

I realize it has been ages since I first wrote on this topic so I figured I’d revisit it again.  If you’ve ever found yourself unable to playback a DVD on your Ubuntu system, this post will outline the reason and the fix.

The Reason

At first you might wonder why this bug hasn’t been fixed.  If, as I say, I wrote about this long ago why hasn’t it been fixed?  The problem is not in the code, but in the software patents involved.  For the same reason mp3 support is not enabled out-of-the-box, neither is DVD playback.

I should give the obligatory disclaimer about checking your local law and all that jazz.. but I wont.  Just know that you can blame the DCMA and ridiculous US patent law for this restriction.  If you are outside the US you are likely fine.. lucky bastards.

The Fix

As I mentioned above, Ubuntu can’t include the code for DVD playback by default, but it is very simple to add after-the-fact.  It takes all of one command to get it working (and will generally require a reboot), but afterwards you’re set.  I’ll outline two methods you can use to enable DVD playback on your Ubuntu system.

Method #1:

The first method toward enabling DVD playback on Ubuntu 8.04 is to simply run an included script that will automagically fetch, configure and install the appropriate code for you.  This can be done by issuing the command below:

sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread3/install-css.sh

Method #2:

The second method (both are not required) toward enabling DVD playback on Ubuntu 8.04 is to install it in its packaged form, which is available from Medibuntu.  The following three commands will add the Medibuntu repository, install the security key and then add DVD playback support.

sudo wget http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/hardy.list -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install medibuntu-keyring && sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install libdvdcss2

Either of these methods will likely require a reboot.  From here on out DVD playback should work just fine on your machine.

You may be interested in the No Software Patents website, which is an advocacy group with the goal of removing or at least improving the ridiculous, out of control software patent system.  Remember, this doesn’t only affect the US.  It could happen in your country too!

17 thoughts on “Enable Commercial DVD Playback on Ubuntu 8.04

  1. Olaf


    Why the reboot? Simply closing the DVD playing application and starting it again should be sufficient.

  2. Christer Edwards Post author

    @Olaf – it should be sufficient, but if not a reboot will surely make things available.

  3. swegner

    Although it isn’t legal in the United States, it is still very easy to enable DVD playback and non-free codecs (mp3 support). I’ve heard that Dell’s Ubuntu laptops come with DVD and mp3 support enabled, because they pay the small royalty to Hollywood or whoever to license the technology.

    Is there any way to purchase an “individual license” for DVD/mp3 playback, so it can be enabled legally?

  4. Joseph James Frantz

    For the past two years I’ve followed all of the steps suggested for getting DVD playback going. Including these this time around and nothing has worked. Ive tried with mplayer, vlc and totem.

    Finally on chance I saw Ogle when I did a search for DVD in synamptic. I installed and was able FINALLY to view dvds in Ubuntu. But the videos were tiny.

    So I went to Applications -> Add Remove. Then chose SHOW -> All Available Applications. Finally in SEARCH I entered DVD. Then I installed most of the applications that were listed as being DVD players.

    Any that were simply front ends for mplayer didn’t work at all. But Dragon Player worked GREAT. I can get full screen with it even.

    So if there are folks out there following your suggestions and still can’t get playback, then dragon player or ogle might be worth a try.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Aran

    @Joseph James Frantz – unfortunately, ogle is very outdated software. I don’t think it has changed much (if at all) in the last 4 or 5 years. VLC is very good with DVD’s, I think…you should give that a try.

  6. steve

    what’s the difference between the 2 versions. are they installing the same thing?

    if they’re different, you should recommend which one you would use.

  7. Logan

    You can also just use VLC player, since it’s got all it’s own codecs.

    That’s all I’ve ever done. Why bother installing codecs?

  8. Joseph James Frantz

    @Aran and @Logan,

    I’ve tried VLC (original post mentioned that) and had not been able to get DVDs going at all even with VLC.

    Ogle may be old and might not be supported but it did work. Dragon Player on the other hand worked just fine. So I don’t mind using something outdated as long as I can at least view the DVD.

    Kind Regards,
    Joseph James Frantz

  9. Bob

    Last night I screwed with 4 or 5 different howtos, then I found one:


    Search synaptic for “extras” reinstalled it. Encrypted movies pay fine. I rent DVD’s and they all started breaking a few weeks ago, encryption would error out of all players.

  10. Andrew

    Thanks. Command 1 worked for me. But you should really reword the reboot part. I said “bullcrap” as soon as I saw that and just restarted my media player (Totem) and of course it worked.

  11. Bob Stine

    The one-line sudo script worked like a charm, so now I don’t have to boot Vista to watch a DVD. Thanks!

  12. MangelRuiz

    I followed Joseph’s advice and I installed Dragon Player. I have to say that it works perfect for me. I didn’t have to install any additional codec.

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