Popular Science explains why you can’t backup your DVDs.

Cory Doctorow has got a short but decent article in Popular Science on how Hollywood has managed to get the tech industry to sell out the consumer starting with the development of DVDs and how it’s leading to stagnation in that industry.

Think of all the things you can do with a track from a CD now that you couldn’t do 10 years ago: rip it to your laptop, turn it into a ring tone, send it to your friends, burn a mix. Many of these capabilities are illegal, and the recording industry has tried to stop them all, but they’re out there, challenging the old rules and feeling their place in the market. Innovators have tried to enable the same flexibility for the DVD. Last year 321 Studios released software that let you back up prerecorded DVDs, but the MPAA sued it into bankruptcy before a court could rule on whether or not the product was legal.

Just last month, this magazine gave a Best of What’s New award to a $27,000 movie jukebox from Kaleidescape, praising the maker’s efforts to appease Hollywood by locking down content on the device so it can’t be shared. Kaleidescape thinks the product is within the boundaries of its DVD-CCA license, but my Deep Throat on the cartel says the group disagrees and is currently deciding how the company will be punished. Penalties range from a stern warning to fines to lawsuits. (When I called the DVD-CCA for an official line, I got this reply: “I’ve been asked to tell you we have no comment.” “Who asked you to tell me that?” “I can’t tell you.”)

Of course it doesn’t help that Hollywood and the tech companies are often one and the same these days. Companies like Sony, which once fought an 8 year battle to ensure that your VCR would be able to record TV programs, now own many of the studios that produce the content you play in your Sony DVD player. When you own both halves of the equation you tend to go with whichever one appears the most profitable and to hell with the consumer.

17 thoughts on “Popular Science explains why you can’t backup your DVDs.

  1. I hate stuff like this.  When will the music/movie industry realise that fighting against people who want to make copies of their products is like the war on drugs.  It’s a no-win situation for them.  No matter what they do or say there will always be people out there getting around their new protections, and places, like Canada right now, that will refuse to bow to them.

    Vive La Revolution!

  2. These are complex issues, and I don’t think there’s any obvious moral high ground here.  On the one hand, all these copy restrictions are annoying and chiefly benefit the fat cats in industry; on the other, if there’s no protection of intellectual property, then the artists get nothing.

    It’s one thing making backups or mixes of DVDs for personal use, not to mention being able to, say, skip the ads and FBI warnings while watching them.  But speaking as a musician (luckily not my primary source of income), and a friend of many musicians, the ease with which data is copied today is a major reason that music is a tough way to earn a living.  Not for Eminem or Steve Jobs, but for the little guys.

    It would be nice if everything were free, and artists of all kinds could live on donations.  Sometimes it works, sometimes not.  For many musicians at least, it’s a tough row to hoe.

    No easy answers here.

  3. Okay, okay, okay.  But let’s speak about the REAL issue here.  Copy Protection on computer games.  Securom is a fucking pain, and the first thing I do with most of my games is get a No-CD Crack.  They tell me this is illegal, but I sure as hell don’t understand why.  Taking the disks in and out of my drive is a hassle.  Sometimes they get damaged in the process.  I destroyed my copy of Vice City because of having to put it in every time I wanted to play it, and take it out every time I don’t. Worse still, it wears down the drive you use…also an issue.  Stupidest thing ever…Full Install IS a full install, but you still have to have the disc in the drive. 

    There are many legitimate reasons for not wanting to play a game with the CD in the drive, wear and tear, if you’re on a laptop the CD saps precious battery life even though it’s reading NOTHING other than stupid CD checks.  All my games are legitimately bought (ever try downloading a game on Dialup…doesn’t work well) but with HL2, I was afraid to use a No-CD Crack because Steam COULD notice that the files have been altered.  That makes me sad.  Luckily, Vampire the Masquerade – Bloodlines has filled the hole in my soul, and it has no problems with No-CD Cracks. 

    Copy protection really does suck though, it only screws over legit end users.

  4. Zilch: These are complex issues, and I don’t think there’s any obvious moral high ground here.  On the one hand, all these copy restrictions are annoying and chiefly benefit the fat cats in industry; on the other, if there’s no protection of intellectual property, then the artists get nothing.

    I’m sorry, but that’s just not the case. If that were even remotely true then the entertainment industry should have collapsed a long time ago. You’ve been able to record movies and television programs to your VCR since the 1970s and, despite all the vehement protestations such as the one by the MPAA’s Jack Valenti that the “VCR was to Hollywood what the Boston Strangler was to women home alone,” Hollywood and TV managed to not only survive just fine on that wholly un-copyprotected medium, but they went on to make even more massive profits with video tape sales of their products accounting for a majority of their revenue after the VCR reached critical mass in the home. The same was true for audio cassettes and yet again that unprotected format not only didn’t kill off profits from radio or records, but it actually increased them. It took the studios themselves to kill traditional vinyl records because they favored CDs.

    Historically the producers of content have always resisted new technologies as being the end of their industry if it isn’t chained down with them holding the only key to the locks and yet time and again they’ve managed to survive and prosper when forced to embrace new technology.

    It’s one thing making backups or mixes of DVDs for personal use, not to mention being able to, say, skip the ads and FBI warnings while watching them.

    Indeed. Shame you can’t do that now, eh? Not unless the studios decided to be nice and let you. Disney already has a number of DVDs out there where you MUST SIT THROUGH THE FRIGGIN’ PREVIEWS EVERY DAMN TIME YOU PLAY THE DISC. Guess which company’s DVDs are under-represented in my collection? The kicker is if I were to build my own DVD player that were capable of skipping those unskippable trailers I’d be in violation of federal law. You’re telling me that makes sense to you?

    Does it make sense to you that the studios are now dictating how long you can store a copy of their TV shows on your PVR? Why do they want to do that? So they can charge you for it again later via a release on “Video On Demand” services.

    But speaking as a musician (luckily not my primary source of income), and a friend of many musicians, the ease with which data is copied today is a major reason that music is a tough way to earn a living.  Not for Eminem or Steve Jobs, but for the little guys.

    I’ve written my own shareware software in the past that I barely saw a cent from so it’s not like I’m unaware of the other side of the coin. The truth is, though, that music has always been easy to copy long before now and bootleg cassettes aren’t a post-Internet invention. If anything I’d argue that the ease of dissemination of content is actually a benefit to small bands trying to build up a following. I’m actually working on a website for a friend’s fiance who’s the lead singer in a local punk band. One of the things they want on their site is a section for folks to download MP3s of their music free of charge. Why? Exposure.

    It would be nice if everything were free, and artists of all kinds could live on donations.  Sometimes it works, sometimes not.  For many musicians at least, it’s a tough row to hoe.

    Nobody’s asking for everything to be free. The issues you bring up have been around a lot longer than DVDs and the Internet and yet so far the entertainment industry isn’t showing any signs of impending collapse. Far from it. The small musician, as near as I can tell, hasn’t benefited from studio control of their products over the years so I’m not sure why they’d think it’d change once the studios lock down how people can use the CD they just bought.

  5. This is Bullshit just like the CD thing was a few years ago and like now they are attempting to stop TIVO/DVR’s from “fast forwarding” or skipping though commercials which is another joke.

    These recording companies & artist blow this way out of proportion.
    Take the Napster debacle several years ago, the RIAA claimed that Napster was responsible for artist losing Billions in profit, that is complete and utter Bullshit, the CD industry soared when Napster was in full swing, People would download a song or two then BUY the CD, sales for CDs were never higher than they were when Napster was at its peak.
    Napster was excellent FREE advertising for 1000s & 1000s of Artist.
    Some of the well known artist whom were making Millions every year saw each song downloaded as a song that wasn’t bought, fact is 95% of those would NEVER have been bought in the first place.
    These artist lost NOTHING.
    Artist not so well known gained tremendously from the added exposure of their music floating around cyberspace & sales went up.

    As Les noted this is entirely the doing of corps. like Sony which own everything.
    Sony owns the Artist, the players, the TVs, the medium be it CDs/DVDs, the Studios, etc.

    I dont see how these freaks think they are going to stop people from fast forwarding through commercials that’s just not going to happen.

    On a side note, this Cory Doctorow I assume must be related to “E.L Doctorow” that is not exactly a very common name.

    http://airamericaradio.com/layout.asp?baseurl=eldoctorow/ELDoctorow.wma

  6. Nunyabiz: I dont see how these freaks think they are going to stop people from fast forwarding through commercials that’s just not going to happen.

    They can always have the PVR software read a flag inserted into the commercial that stops you from fast forwarding through the commercial.  Not that it would be popular(it’d likely get ugly), but they could do it. 

    If it got to that point, I’d just wait for the show to come out on dvd and watch it.  Go in on it with some friends and share the copy wink

  7. That’s when people need to stand up and say FUCK YOU!
    Tell TIVO you allow that we will drop you like a greased pig, tell the advertisers behind it that if you force this issue we will boycott your stupid greedy ass right out of Business.

    This method works very well, I noticed it worked exceptionally well on Sinclair Broadcasting just a few months ago when they attempted to air a bunch of blatant lies about Kerry a few days prior to election, BAM, few hundred 1000 emails to the right people and they backed right down and lost Millions over night.

  8. Zilch said:  It’s one thing making backups or mixes of DVDs for personal use, not to mention being able to, say, skip the ads and FBI warnings while watching them.

          Les said: Indeed. Shame you can’t do that now, eh? Not unless the studios decided to be nice and let you.

    Actually, there’s a couple of very nifty freeware apps that allow you to reauthor the FBI Warnings, etc., right out of the original DVD before you burn a ‘backup’.  Afterdawn forums has some nice little guides on how to do this with DVD Shrink.

    The downside is that you lose the menu architecture as well.  So, no trailers or FBI Warnings, but no menus either.

    The RMAA is fighting a losing battle here, methinks.  They might be able to shut down P2P distribution nodes, but there’s plenty of perfectly legitimate distribution nodes that are hella cheap, and plenty of readily available software that allow personal users to rip and copy the content that they’re A)renting from Netflix or Blockbuster B) recording to their PVR C) having streamed through their computer by a Jukebox app.  But that’s hardly unique to digital content.  Remember Macrovision?  You could strip Macrovision protection by running your signal through a blackbox that cost $15 at Radioshack. 

    Ultimately, if the content is digitized, and passes through your video card or sound card, someone out there can write an app (like TotalRecorder) to save the content to your harddrive.

    It’s the bootleggers who are buying
    Microboards DVD Dupe system, and churning out thousands of copies of the Lion King, that might actually be a threat to the industry, but I’m not even sure how much impact they have.

    But does the RMAA really think that they’re losing substantial revenue to P2P leeches?  That seems to be a more legitimate complaint for software developers, rather than movie companies.  Seriously, if someone can’t afford to go down to Blockbuster and rent the movie that he wants to copy—if he/she is so broke that he has to tie up his broadband connection for a week to download the movie over a P2P connection—is the movie industry really losing a potential buyer?  Is the industry really losing money if even a million of this type of person are stealing their product rather than buying it?  (And I want to be clear that I think it -is- stealing.  Legally, the industry owns it.  Legally speaking, if you download a movie over a broadband connection, or copy it off of a rented DVD, you’re stealing.)

    But it’s a pretty small minority, I think, that would have bought the product anyway.  It’s not like software, where if you don’t buy a copy of half-life for yourself then, ten years down the road, it’s pretty likely that you still won’t have a copy of half-life.  The nature of movies is that they show up on pay-per-view, where you can record them.  Then they show up on Premium cable, where you can record them.  Then they show up in the Blockbuster bin of used movies, where you can buy them for between 6 and 9 dollars, and then they end up on basic cable, where you can record them.  Finally, they hit network TV, where grandpa can record them onto his twenty year old vcr, if he wants.

    With a pvr, Showtime, Revue and DVArchive, you can move every episode of the Sopranos onto DVD, in much the same way that people used to record onto VCR.

    I can see why software developers are concerned with copy protection and piracy.

    To a lesser extent, I can see why the music industry is concerned with it.

    But when it comes to movies, I just don’t see it as being as big of a factor.  I ‘backup’ movies that I want clips of, particularly if I’m going to use them to prompt discussion in a classroom, and I have a minimal level of guilt about it.  I doubt it’s covered under ‘fair use,’ but I spend more money now, on rental fees, and on subscription music services like MusicMatch Jukebox, and Sirius, than I would ever spend on purchasing DvDs and CDs.  Why?  Because now I get what I would consider “my money’s worth.” 

    I just think the RMAA may be spinning their wheels a bit.

    Yikes!  I’m apparently suffering from a case of typist-diarrhea, so I’ll just quit now.

    Nice lampshade Les!

  9. I’ve got mixed feelings on this.
    Indeed, the Sony situation is fucked up – they fought for people to record TV when they could make a buck, and now they’re fighting against it, when it’ll help them make a buck.
    Disgusting.

    Still, I’ve been hooked on Bit Torrent lately. I mean HOOKED. At first, I just grabbed episodes of Lost that I missed. Then, I downloaded some $1000 editing and special effects programs. And now, I’m stocking up on music CDs that I’d originally planned on buying. I’m in the midst of downloading a feature film that is only in limited release now.

    This is scary stuff. It isn’t some sleazoid selling bootlegs on a sidewalk in New York.

    This is outright thievery. And if I’m doing it, a million other dumbasses like me are too. It ain’t no drop in the bucket.

    While music and film studios and game networks are losing revenue to it, they’re also going to end up charging legitimate customers a little more to make up the difference.

    Sure, maybe the corporate world might be considered “greedy” and “deserve it”, but even if the cost of the product was cut in half and made easily available for download, do you think people would quit taking things for free? Nope, no, not a chance.

    Again, scary stuff. More or less, their tactics are horrible, but I think the MPAA, RIAA, and other organizations need to crack down on bootlegging/illegal downloads swiftly.

    I just hope they get smarter about it.

  10. Zilch: These are complex issues, and I don’t think there’s any obvious moral high ground here.  On the one hand, all these copy restrictions are annoying and chiefly benefit the fat cats in industry; on the other, if there’s no protection of intellectual property, then the artists get nothing.

    Les: I’m sorry, but that’s just not the case. If that were even remotely true then the entertainment industry should have collapsed a long time ago.

    Les, I love and admire you, but here you’re guilty of hyperbole.  There is and always has been some protection of intellectual property, even if it’s often been ineffectual- illegality of selling bootleg copies, for instance, or publishing others’ books, or of copying films and showing them in private theaters for profit.  If there were no such laws, then the entertainment industry would indeed have long since collapsed- or do you think the honor system sufficient to prevent such abuses?

    As I said, these are complex issues.  What exactly constitutes intellectual property, what kinds of protection does it deserve (if any), and whom does it belong to, for how long?  Difficult questions.  No easy answers. That was my only point.

    The kicker is if I were to build my own DVD player that were capable of skipping those unskippable trailers I’d be in violation of federal law. You’re telling me that makes sense to you?

    Does it make sense to you that the studios are now dictating how long you can store a copy of their TV shows on your PVR? Why do they want to do that? So they can charge you for it again later via a release on “Video On Demand

  11. Nunyabiz saod: This is outright thievery. And if I’m doing it, a million other dumbasses like me are too. It ain’t no drop in the bucket.

    While music and film studios and game networks are losing revenue to it, they’re also going to end up charging legitimate customers a little more to make up the difference.

    I think this is really a place of major overgeneralization. I think if you take a moment and account for all the people illegally downloading high-priced studio software, movies in limited release, etc., things that they normally couldn’t afford nor would consider buying at all, and then look at the people who could afford to buy or would buy what they download, you’d have a very interesting ratio.

    The problem here, however, isn’t that people are downloading willy-nilly. People have been since the beginning of the internet (back in the days of BBS, and even further back), and will continue to. No one can control that. They may be able to plug holes in the dyke, but they can’t stem the flow.

    The biggest issue many companies who make the high-end software, and the same issue the RIAA and MPAA should be having, is not of the users who download for personal use, but those who download with intent to create profit for themselves and not sharing it with the creators. Alias, Adobe, and the like have had many problems with asian studios who operate entirely on illegal software copies. They are cheaper outsourcing for many animation/special effects projects, and that affects a very big industry with people all around losing money.

    The same problems plague the recording industry and the movie industry, though it may not be as readily apparent. They’re just too busy punishing the consumer and pursuing the lesser offenders to see it. A path which only succeeds in reducing their popularity with the overall population and could be blamed for the record industry’s recent faltering market. Well, that and the absence of good, or even halfway decent, music on the market these days.

    Game companies don’t really lose money from piracy, they just like to make you think they do. That way they can excuse themselves for charging $55 a pop now and explain away dubious, galumphing distributed content management systems like Steam which require a dedicated internet connection so that a central server can verify your files.

    I think my major point here is that companies chasing after the (proportionally) small illegal copying scene only draw greater attention to it and make it grow, while punishing consumers and only slightly impeding said scene, which will never go away.

  12. I think you got me confused with someone else.
    I never said any such thing.

    I just believe the RIAA is full of shit and blowing it way out of proportion & in many cases just making the problem worse.

    Their greed has taken over their logical business sense.

  13. Zach, Bit Torrent traffic accounting for 35% of all internet traffic in the world (and by accounts only 2-10% of that traffic is for legit purposes) is not so much a small illegal copying scene smile

  14. Zach, I’m the one who called this outright thievery.

    But the RIAA is by no means blowing this out of proportion. Almost every computer savvy person I know casually downloads music here and there – and with the growing menace of Bit Torrent, they’re also downloading full albums without much risk of a bad copy or a virus.

    The thing that irritates me most about the subject is that people continue to justify stealing crap. This isn’t stuff we NEED to have. Songs, movies, games, were made in order to make a profit, and a lot of hard work and money went into creating them.

    As Zilch said, “We can simply turn the damn TV or computer or stereo off, and read a book, go for a walk, or pick up the guitar and strum a chord or two.”

    The irony for me is that I’m a major thief, and at the same time, I work in the entertainment industry.

  15. Sorry about the mix up. I made that comment early this morning, so I wasn’t quite alert enough to catch all my mistakes. So apologies for confusing you, Nunyabiz and Unsomnambulist. I’ll remember to hit the preview button first next time.

    TheJynXeD: It’s true that BitTorrent does account for 35% of internet traffic. But I don’t think you can calculate exactly how much of that is legit. It also depends on what you consider legit as well. The anime fansubbing scene (considered borderline legit by those around the scene) is a major user of BitTorrent.

    Then there’s also the fact that just because it accounts for 35% of the traffic that it’s really that big. How is this 35% figured? If it’s figured by amount of bandwidth used (data moved), then yeah, BitTorrent’s going to take up a lot because many files can be huge. Many DVD images clock in at around 4.5GB. A full season of Voyager will run you about 10GB. We’re talking about that versus a maybe 750kb request for html and images that results in visiting a website. You can’t account the user base of BitTorrent versus FTP, IRC, or HTTP in this manner.

  16. Regardless, 35% is a huge dent… sounds a little unrealistic, I dunno about such things…

    Back to the main topic at hand, which I’ve totally avoided…

    The idea that you can’t screw around with electronic equipment you’ve purchased without fear of breaking some law is totally, completely unreasonable.

    The concept is flat out dangerous. I know that on certain digital video cameras there are hidden features, that can be “unlocked”, but that the camera makers don’t want you to know about so that they can release another version of the same camera, with the features easily accessible, but at a higher price. The Canon XL1 did this. I foresee companies passing laws to make it illegal to “hack into” such benign products.

    Then again, this sounds like the concept of trial ware… so maybe its no so bad…

  17. How is copying an idea theft?

    Since when is an “idea” property, like a car?

    “Stealing” requires that the item that is “stolen” be lost by the person who is “stolen” from.  If you have a car, and I steal it, I now have the car, and you don’t.  That last bit (”…and you don’t”) is the injurious part.  That’s the “harm.”  That’s why true *stealing* is a crime, and is wrong.

    The founding fathers never, ever intended *ideas* to be treated like property.  Copyright laws were originally designed to give content creators a limited monopoly on *distribution* of content, to encourage creativity.  They were NEVER intended to treat ideas as the *property* of their creators!  Ideas CANNOT be owned; it simply makes no sense to talk about “owning” something that can jump from head to head quicker than wildfire, and something which isn’t lessened in the sharing, but actually increases in value.

    Don’t believe my assertions about the founding fathers?  Read Copyrights and Copywrongs for extensive documentation of this claim—it’s not just my wild claim, it’s backed up by fairly extensive documentation.

    The MPAA and RIAA didn’t exist for thousands of years, and still artists managed to survive.  Wonder how that worked?

    Intellectual property is a hoax, and needs to be rethought.  It will never happen, however, because the “content companies” are in charge of the airwaves and the propaganda machine and, increasingly, the government.

    The hackers and crackers and copiers, in many ways, represent the last bastion of freedom in a world increasingly owned and operated by the big corporate moguls (and their hoardes of lawyers and lobbyists).

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