Protect DVD-Video - A slap in the face for PC and Media Center owners

Protect DVD-Video - A slap in the face for PC and Media Center owners

Summary: 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.

TOPICS: Security

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?

Topic: Security

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  • Welcome to our pain

    With the exception of players included in Linspire and Turbo Linux there are no legal DVD players on the market for Linux. This is why DVD-John broke CSS (deCSS), to play his legally purchased DVD on Linux.

    Doesn't feel good to be locked out does it? Kinda peaves you off.

    This is how every law-abiding Linux user feels about Plats for Sure and iTunes as they are locked out, unless they use some naughty(Read illegal in the US) tools.
    Edward Meyers
    • Or you could

      Run iTunes under Wine, it sux, but at least you can listen to the music. Pray for Sure i've never bought, but the music that i receive with my ADSL (approximately 1 CD download a month) is quickly burned on CD and then converted on my box. (Though burning CD's under VMWARE is very slow unfortunately)
      • Still doesn't solve the DVD issue

        I have said naughty programs. What do I do with them? I watch DVDs. I don't pirate movies, I don't rent-n-copy my Netflix rentals, I simply use the program to watch said movies.

        And I'm doing something illegal? Explain.

        Now you Windows guys out there are feeling our pain. Funny thing is, we'll probably be able to play these new DVDs without a hitch. Mmmmmm... put a little tabasco on that crow guys, makes it go down easier.

        On to the next issue, in an article posted not too long ago, not many people at all use iTunes for purchasing music.

        "83% of iPod owners do not buy digital music regularly... only 5% of the music on an iPod will be bought from online music stores"

        Waitaminit... if they simply use iTunes to store their ripped CDs, then what's the big hooplah about it? I use amaroK which outright destroys iTunes in functionality and features. It even allows me to sync playlists to my Pod just like iTunes. All that in a very attractive Linux native package.

        However the MS guys love to point out that iTunes is absent on the Linux front...

        I don't get it.
  • Would this also include Windows Media Edition?

    • Read the first paragraph of the article (NT)

  • DRM has never been about piracy--Duh!

    Glad to see yet another ZDNet blogger catching on--DRM is not, and has never been about combatting piracy. It's about generating new revenue streams. Want to watch a movie on your tv? Buy the DVD. Want to watch the same movie on your computer? Time to pay again. Here's a great explanation of the concept:

    I once attended a DRM negotiation where an MPAA vice-president said, "Watching a show that's being received in one room while you're sitting in another room has value, and if it has value, we should be able to charge money for it." Siva Vaidhyanathan calls this the "if value, then right" theory -- if something has value, someone must have a right to sell it. So while you might be accustomed to extracting unexpected value from your old media -- ripping a CD to play it on your iPod, copying a cartoon and sticking it on your fridge, taking your books with you when you move overseas -- forget about it from now on.

    Every conceivable source of value for DRM digital movies is now potentially for sale. I've heard proposals for "discounted" movies that you can't fast-forward ("discounted" in the sense that products you buy with a store loyalty card are "discounted" -- they raise the price unless you use the card). Prepare for the future where every button on your remote has a price-tag on it.
    tic swayback
    • But I don't see the value?

      I'm the type to examine cost vs value and frankly unless it's like
      pennies and only a few at that I simply don't have the money or
      patience to put up with this. I watch a movie on DVD maybe
      once so after I am done with it I send it to a friend who might
      have interest in it....I can't stand watching the same thing twice.
      As for the value of watch some entertainment on differrent
      media well I'm already thinking of dropping cable (a lot of crap
      and only a few things I watch..way too much mulah for that
      being paid) and perhaps going iTunes only and using my TV as a
      big screen for my XBox 360. I'm not going to pay for cable and
      iiTunes and at least with iTunes I can pay for what I want
      specifically while Cable I get a ton of blank that I don't even want
      and I'm told it has VALUE!!! HA!

      Pagan jim
      • The value

        ---I watch a movie on DVD maybe
        once so after I am done with it I send it to a friend who might
        have interest in it---

        There's the value, right there. You want to loan something to a friend after you've watched it. Be prepared to pay for that in the future.
        tic swayback
        • I suppose they can try...I'll just have friends over and if

          that does not work I'll watch it and toss it.

          Pagan jim
          • You're just giving them ideas

            ---I'll just have friends over and if---

            New legislation, all video playback devices must have oxygen consumption meters built in. Extra charges will go on your account for each living creature in the room when the movie plays.

            ---that does not work I'll watch it and toss it.---

            That's the idea. Pay the same price you're paying now, but get less, then have to re-buy to watch again.
            tic swayback
          • True to a point but I never ever watch the same thing twice!

            Pagan jim
          • Already happened... buy a movie your...

            friends can't watch. It was called DIVX. You buy a special DVD player. The Movies are only $4 each, but when you want to view them, there is a code that is only good for your machine and only for 48 hours or so. After that, you have to pay again to watch the movie. So, it makes view-and-toss possible. Problem is it died quickly. I think because all the movies were pan&scan, widescreen wasn't available. Besides, we have netflix today, which beats everything else out there.
          • That still doesn't mean anything

            ... Just because you don't do something doesn't mean that other people don't. When I purchase a DVD it's because I've seen it and I think that I'll want to see it again. Maybe not for several months, or till a friend comes by and wants to see it etc.

            I'll give an example of why copy protection schemes like this are bad. I've lived in Canada, Sweden, Poland, and Korea. Movies purchased in one region don't play in another region. So, if it weren't for my handy computer with Linux installed on it any movies purchased by me would become useless after each move. That's a complete ripoff if you ask me. When I buy a DVD I want to be able to watch it, period, regardless of where I am. Now, if I can't play my DVD's on my computer... well, I won't buy any because they will officially become useless to me.
        • I agree with you 100?0on this one tic.

          The media and software giants are truly lost in the world of DRM. One simple fact expresses this more clearly then all the other facts that prove the same thing; All software based solutions to provide DRM are 100% bound fail in short order as that which relies only on what?s written to work, can always be written around to not work.

          So at best, the only 3 significant effects purely software based DRM of any kind has, is to circumvent the simple Joe on the street from infringing who might possibly infringe on copyright if it was dead simple to do so, and the second effect is to restrict as much as possible fair use of legally purchased media or software and thirdly an all to frequent effect of actually screwing the rightful purchaser, through DRM error, out their properly licensed use of the media in question.

          What software based DRM solutions will never do is significantly to reduce true software and media piracy where the products are reproduced and sold for profit. Individuals who engage in such activities these days are not simple Joe?s on the street and even the most complex software based DRM is usually eliminated within a few weeks or even a few days or less. The software and media industry knows this and as a result what they are trying to do is extract their final dimes out of the hides of the general public as an offset they can justify under copyright law.

          Lets remember, the reason software and digital media is so easily reproduced in general is the adoption of the digital disk, both CD and DVD, by the industry itself because it is so cheap to produce on a material cost per unit basis. Before our current age, the only time anyone could charge such high prices for objects whose material costs were but a mere tiny fraction of the value charged for the object was if you were out purchasing collectors items like old books or rare paintings. The profit margins were just to heavenly to ignore and the industry flocked in force to the format.

          Someone somewhere must have warned them back in the early 80?s that one day, maybe 20 or 30 years from then everyone would own equipment that could copy a CD the same as a tape deck did the same thing back then. But they didn?t care, the profits available off such a cheap media format was too wonderful to turn down. The cost of putting out a music album dropped and the price to purchase tripled, even quadrupled in some cases, and the public paid; through the nose for the new digital music.

          Now that the day of easily copying those same CD?s has long come, they are desperate, and the same foolish minds that couldn?t see what was ahead still cannot see what is ahead. Some money hungry coders keep telling these software and media people that they can save them money, that they can stop piracy, that they have a program, or some code, and they are looking to sell that program or code to the desperate. Back in the day these morons where called ?snake oil? salesmen because they made ludicrous promises that their remedies would cure things they could not. It was typical that a snake oil salesman?s potions usually contained plenty of opium and alcohol and felt good for the first little while it was used, and then started causing more damage then anything else in very short order.

          It?s time that the snake oil salesmen of DRM were told to leave town; those who should know better should not be purchasing this C.R.A.P in quantity then be pushing it onto their customers.
    • Shooting themselves in the foot

      [b]Siva Vaidhyanathan calls this the "if value, then right" theory[/b]

      It's painful to watch any industry shoot themselves in the foot but I see it all the time. Get silly with DRM and it opens the door to outsiders willing to give the customer a better deal.

      In these times of modern technology you can watch your market vaporize almost overnight. Start charging people for everything on their remote and they'll either find a way around it, like you suggested, or just go do something else.

      You can only push consumers so far. Start treating them like the enemy and they'll start acting the part.

      It's all so very silly and very sad.
      • We'll see

        In general, I agree, but one never knows what the masses will put up with. The content owners are going to push things as absolutely far as they can, and see what sticks. Where there's pushback from the consumers, they'll back off, but they'll still end up with a net gain.
        tic swayback
        • One can only hope...

          ...that enough people push back.

          The fight against StarForce copy protection was somewhat of a win in that regard - enough people complained, and were public about it, that several large software distributors dropped it.

          The Circuit City DivX DVD plan also failed, so let's hope enough people wise up and stop supporting these C.R.A.P.-infested products.
        • Not so sure about that

          Depends on what you consider gains and losses.

          Take CDs as good example. People were ticked with the limited music offerings, price fixing and over stupidly high prices. Cassettes were more expensive to make yet sold for less than a CD for example. The consumer fought back big time when the internet got going. Even before Napster there were MP3 download site, FTP, newsgroups, and chat softare. Then Napster appeared and the price of music dropped from $25 a CD to $15. Then people started buying CDs again on mass. Then the music industry shut that down and CD sale dropped like stone in water. The prices dropped again some down below $10 and CD sales began to climb again then Sony pulled the root kit trick and boom sales dipped again.

          What net gain did the industry get. Fileswapping is still occuring on mass, people are buying less, and they are making less money per sale than they were 10 years ago. I'd say they lost this fight big time with the public and the movie industry doesn't learn from example.
          • Not sure I agree

            ---Then Napster appeared and the price of music dropped from $25 a CD to $15---

            You're saying CD prices were $25 each in the late 1990's, early 2000's? Where were you shopping? And no, Napster didn't result in any price drop. That came years later and still isn't industry wide.

            ---What net gain did the industry get.---

            It's not about what they've gotten--it's about what they're trying to get.

            What they've gotten: They've gotten you to re-buy the same music multiple times now, on lp, 8 track, cassette and CD. Movies on VHS and DVD. The big difference here is that each of these new media came with advantages that outweighed the disadvantages and people were willing to invest the money in re-buying.

            What they want to get: They want to do away with non-DRMed music/movies altogether. They want to sell you crippled and locked down music and movies. They want to sell these to you at the same price, if not higher, than you now pay for fully useable movies. They want to charge you for fastforwarding through the commercials. They want to charge you for watching the movie at a friend's house. They want to charge you for listening to the music you bought for your home in your car.

            Again, it's a question of what people will put up with. I think they'd stand a much better chance of success if they offered a carrot with the stick. Sell crippled versions of cd's for half price, for just one example. Instead, they want it all, higher prices, lower quality products, lowered cost of production. And that's part of what's going to kill them.
            tic swayback
          • Twits

            You know the funny thing, before Napster I had a CD collection of about 30 CDs. After using Napster for 18 months the price of music dropped and I bought over 300 CDs in 2000. Since 2000 I've bought 2 CDs and the last CD left a bad taste in my mouth because of DRM. I won't buy another CD till this madness stops.

            The thing is I see the same thing happening with DVDs. I used to buy 3-5 DVDs a month. Now they are lucky if I buy a DVD in a month and that's all because the pricing is getting STUPID. For example I bought Season 1 of Battle Star Galactic. The price was $35 for 10 Episodes and the 4 hour mini-series. Now Season two is total of 20 Episodes split into two box sets and each box set is selling for $58 though if I would have bought the box set the week it's released I could have gotten it a lot cheaper. I've even shopped US sites and found it was $41 but after duty, exchange and customs it would be well over $58. All I can say is I'm not buying it!

            DRM isn't going to do them in. This constant stupid pricign is. DRM is just going to be the icing on the cake that destroys them.