The movie industry seems determined to continue on a course where it happily erodes the rights of legitimate users, all in the name of securing profits. The latest example of this comes in the form of a DVD copy protection technology called Protect DVD-Video which actually prevents a DVD being played on a Windows PC using Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center Edition or any software players based on DirectShow.
Protect DVD-Video is the brainchild of a company called ProtectDisc. Part of the copy-protection mechanism is a non-standard UDF (Universal Disc Format) file system which results in the IFO file on the DVD (this is the file responsible for storing information on chapters, subtitles and audio tracks) appearing to the PC as being zero bytes long.
The upshot of this is that if you have a DVD disc protected by Protect DVD-Video and you try to play the disc in a PC-based system using, say, Windows Media Player, the process will fail. Now, lets be clear here, we are taking about a genuine, legitimate DVD disc not working in a PC, not a pirated disc or a download via a torrent. Protect DVD-Video protects a DVD by basically making it un-playable in a DVD drive that's in a Windows-based PC (I've no information on whether this also locks out Linux users - I would imagine that it does).
Remember how I told you that Protect DVD-Video was the brainchild of ProtectDisc? Well, the interesting thing about this company is that it is run by Volkmar Breitfeld, who is also managing director of ACE (who market the FluxDVD copy protection). However, dig a little deeper and you find that Breitfeld used to work for the "other side" and is known for his work developing tools to circumvent copy protection, such as InstantCopy and InstantCD/DVD.
As with most copy protection mechanisms, a way round it is never that far behind. SlySoft have a product called AnyDVD which works in the background to automatically remove the copy protection of a DVD movie as soon as it's inserted into the drive. The other day they released an updated version of AnyDVD which effortlessly bypasses Protect DVD-Video.
"With this copy protection the film industry clearly overshot the mark", says Giancarlo Bettini, CEO at SlySoft. "The premium customer who spent a lot of money on his multimedia home cinema and who, for quality reasons, would never even consider watching anything else but an original DVD, is being slapped in the face. These customers with their shelves stuffed with rightfully acquired DVDs, can't watch their videos."
As usual, I don't have a problem with anyone protecting their intellectual property and making sure that they are paid fairly for their work, but I am dismayed when, time after time, they seem to blur the line between fair use and piracy. The more that legitimate users are being made to feel like they have been cheated out of being able to use what they've paid for, the more people are being pushed into looking for tools that allow them to circumvent copy protection … simply to use what they paid for. That sets a worrying trend that will ultimately make things worse for the movie and recording industry. Imagine if keys were outlawed and people had to turn to lockpicks to get into their own homes? Would that make us all more secure? I doubt it! The same thing is happening here. The entertainment industry is forcing ordinary users to look for tools to bust copy protection in order to use a product they’ve paid for, ordinary users feels abused and ripped off by a big, faceless corporation, and the next time they want a song or movie, they're less likely to pay for it and more likely to acquire it through other channels.
And to be honest, who can blame them?