(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Timothy Lee

Filed Under:

Hollywood DRM Hasn't Stopped Piracy, But It Has Boosted the Antiguan Economy

from the prohibition-doesn't-work dept

We've noted for a while that just like every other DRM scheme, the AACS copy protection scheme at the heart of both the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats accomplishes little more than irritating paying customers. The system got cracked within months of its release, and the studios have been playing a losing game of cat and mouse with hackers ever since. The AACS system is more ambitious than previous copy protection systems in that it attempts to control not just players but also any device connected with the player. If you try to play an AACS-protected disc on an unapproved TV, the player is required to reduce the quality of the video, or refuse to play the video altogether. As a consequence, there are a lot of customers out there who would like to play their legally-purchased movies on their legally-purchased TVs, but whose legally-purchased HD-DVD or Blu-Ray players refuse to cooperate.

Ed Felten notes that the limited functionality of the official players has created a market for software that will allow them to play their movies on "unapproved" hardware. And thanks to the DMCA, such players cannot be legally developed in the United States. So not surprisingly, overseas firms are taking up the slack. One of the leaders is Antigua-based Slysoft, which makes the AnyDVD HD software. It advertises that its software will allow users to "watch movies over a digital display connection, without HDCP compliant graphics card and HDCP compliant display." There's a basic lesson here about the economics of prohibition. As Hollywood develops ever-more-elaborate and restrictive copy protection schemes, those copy-protection schemes come to inconvenience more and more customers. That, in turn, creates a larger market for circumvention software, prompting software companies to invest more in developing more powerful and user-friendly tools for removing copy protection. All Hollywood has accomplished, in other words, is providing a small boost to the overseas software industry.

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  • identicon
    Matthew, 30 Nov 2007 @ 8:24pm

    DRM - movies, videos, the market

    It's a new world. I don't care who rips off Hollywood as long as the writers get paid. There is so much out there for Hollywood to learn from Google.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Mike, 30 Nov 2007 @ 10:41pm

      Re: DRM - movies, videos, the market

      bah, what writers? Hollywood hasn't produced anything good for years.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Nov 2007 @ 11:00pm

        Re: Re: DRM - movies, videos, the market

        except like the 14 movies i liked.

        Granted I was disinterested in and totally hated the other thousand or so but still. Most were by different writers, or the same crappy ones anyways.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          John Duncan Yoyo, 1 Dec 2007 @ 6:42am

          Re: Re: Re: DRM - movies, videos, the market

          I'd bet the producers ruined the scripts on some of those movies with 47 rewrites, 15 different writers and three directors.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Freedom, 30 Nov 2007 @ 9:28pm

    Convenience, Quality, and Cost

    Why the movie studios insist on punishing there best and most loyal fans I'll never understand. They should encourage mashup works and the ability to rip pieces from their material. It ultimately benefits them in the end. Stop acting like your product is some holygrail and let us mere mortals have access to it.

    If I have to update PowerDVD one more time to play a new release, I'm going to lose it.

    I laugh when I think of the person with a bit of disposal income that purchases a laptop with HDDVD or BluRay, stops by and grabs a HD/BluRay movie at BestBuy before going on a business trip and pops it in to play on their flight. Oooopppss... so sorry, you need a newer version of PowerDVD to play this movie. Oh, and buy the way, it's around 100MB and can easily take about an hour to install (maybe longer in battery mode). What genius thought this was a way to reward/treat your customers.

    Personally, I can't wait until someone publishes the AACS hardware keys from a stand alone player. I would love to see them revoke those keys and how many people will go nuts when they learn they HAVE to plug their players into a network connection or take it back to the store for a firmware update - that's going to make for a nice night home of movie watching. Most folks reading this are technical, but can imagine the # folks still on dial-up, have no clue how to attach an Ethernet cable and so on. Frankly, when this happens, I think it will be the official death of AACS protection.

    In the end, if someone makes a copy of a movie and gives it to a friend, in most cases that person wasn't likely going to spend $30 to $40 for a new HD DVD or BluRay disc. The cool part though for the movie studios is that if that person likes it, he will eventually tell someone that will purchase it because buying something is still far easier and there are a significantly number of folks that want the best quality (after all - I love the comment that a lot of folks buy water because of quality and I'm sorry, but 700MB rip of movie is just that - it's like drinking water from the faucet - especially on a big screen TV).

    In short, PLEASE PLEASE let go a bit and let fair use fly. Ultimately it comes back and will generate you revenue, you just have to be a bit more clever on how to capture it.

    If someone uses your work beyond fair use limits and makes money at it or distributes it, SUE them, but stop pi**ing off your paying customers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Uncle Terry, 1 Dec 2007 @ 10:29am

      Re: Convenience, Quality, and Cost

      "Most folks reading this are technical, but can imagine the # folks still on dial-up, have no clue how to attach an Ethernet cable and so on."

      I have a clue, but being on dial-up is a major hurdle.

      I wonder if someone out there can say exactly how many people ARE on dial-up?

      Uncle Terry

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Da_ALC, 1 Dec 2007 @ 1:00am

    Man, Hollywood... Spiderman 3 cost a reported $500million to make.
    If they spent that much on it, its cos they knew they would make it back, and that is the sadness of it all. People in general love crap like Toby flying around in a leotard and are happy to fuel Hollywood, when in other countried people are dieing of starvation, let alone not having a cinema to watch Spidey on, even for free. (Of course it didnt actually take $500million to make it, thazts jusdt what it costs when everybody overcharges for every little last service. I bet the studio donut-boy got paid $500 an hour for running coffee about).
    As for writers getting paid more.. they just been greedy of course. They sore at the fact that they see a fraction of $500million.. but of course that leaves them with say 5-10 million to themselves, boohoo im so sorry for them.

    If the FFC are allowed to cap comcast, then we shud eb capping hollywood, we should be capping high-paid pro sports, and we should be capping government employees, like the presidents and prime ministers who are allways flying in from their holidays whenever their is trouble.

    Fact is the world is full of Humans, most of which are greedy f**kers who are happy to see anybody die if they getting a million out of it. Sad, but true.

    Personally I hope internet piracy climbs and climbs and climbs to new hights for these reasons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2007 @ 5:09am

    What I don't get is why these people haven't learned the most basic lesson about anything related to computer security... which is that unless you seal a computer in a concrete block, keep it in a safe, and turned off, it's never 100% sure, and even then it's not sure. Hell I was taught this in ICT at GCSE level, which is basically a class on "how to use Microsoft Excel".

    *Any* protection software on DVDs or CDs etc... *is* going to be cracked, hacked and generally broken within 2-3 months at most, and after that, the only people affected by it are the people who legally bought it, and they're going to pissed off. They're not going to come up with 100% foolproof protection software unless they make it so that the DVDs they sell can only be played on a specific DVD player locked deep within the basement of their office HQ.

    And even then I'd say it'd only take 5 months max for someone to find a way around it. They really need to learn this, accept it, and try another way of reducing piracy. Because this simply isn't going to work, ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Iron Chef, 1 Dec 2007 @ 10:21am

    Other Viewpoint- Credential Licensing for employme

    In the USA, Canada and the UK, “licensing” although still common enough, has come under increasing scrutiny as a form of “restraint of trade” rather than a means to “protect the consuming public from frauds, charlatans or scam artists”, as is frequently cited.

    For those interested in this important topic, a friend recently published research entitled “Occupational Licensing: Ranking the States and Exploring Alternatives” written by Adam Summers and funded/published by the Reason Institute, http://www.reason.org/ps361.pdf points out the dangers of credential licensing for employment, becoming a defacto license, which prevents anyone from getting a job, or creating new art.

    To reinforce the importance of this, at last week’s World Project Management Week Symposium, one of PMI’s own supporters, Patrick Weaver, stated publicly that “I take any resumes with PMP on them and throw them into the trash”. As hard on PMI as I am, I would not take it to that extreme. However, I don’t believe any serious practitioner views the PMP as anything more than an entry level credential. Certainly none of our clients (mostly oil, gas, mining and telecoms) take it seriously enough to make it the PRIMARY or ONLY screening criteria to apply for a job.

    Bottom line folks? What Mr. Bookseller seems to be describing is a form of “restraint on trade”, for anyone using the the licesne as a requirement for trade.

    What do others think about this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JustMe, 1 Dec 2007 @ 12:12pm

    Early Adopters are gonna be so pissed

    I have a couple of HD TVs. I believe neither of them is AACS compliant because they are both several years old - but THAT SHOULDN'T MATTER. I have a TV that is capable of the resolution. "IF" I ever buy a HD or BR player and a movie and it doesn't play at the promised (advertised) resolution you are going hear some lawyer laughing his ass off because he has an iron-clad case against Hollywood.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      crazyturk, 1 Dec 2007 @ 5:33pm

      Re: Early Adopters are gonna be so pissed

      Eventhough I share your stance on the matter my friend... I'm telling you now, Don't waste your money or your effort to fight a battle which you can not win. Hollywood can do whatever it wants with it's media, in the end it's your choice to either purchase the release or not. I gurantee you that the cover to booklet has a blurb about having copy-right protection on it... thus you not having a case...
      sorry but try again

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Morgan, 1 Dec 2007 @ 6:42pm


    The customer can legally not be a dumbass and legally not buy a movie that from someone he disagrees with then. I don't think the DRM is great either, but it's like we're in some alternate reality where the customer can't decide not to buy a movie? I mean what choices should we even be allowed to make in this world if we can't deal with NOT buying entertainment when we don't like the terms?

    Disagree with a company's draconian DRM? You have one spectacular option. Grow a pair and don't buy from them. Good Lord. It doesn't justify any of this garbage, or piracy, or the entire crybaby lobby. Is Spiderman 3 that great anyway?

    Adulthood-- let's all give it a shot. The other nice by-product of not supporting DRM by not buying, is it will evaporate. Faster than you can imagine. Buying a DRMed HD-DVD that you're already upset about, then copying it to some other media, and grousing about the whole thing, does nothing but draw the whole thing out longer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Freedom, 2 Dec 2007 @ 9:21am

      Re: Legally

      You are 100% right, don't buy the cr*p (especially Spiderman 3 - can you say yawn!) and send the message.

      Bottom line, the studios need you, not the other way around. Anyone that has traveled the world realizes that we live in a bit of a fantasy land here (and a good portion Europe for that matter).

      If you must buy a hi-def disc format, buy HD DVD. While neither are consumer friendly, the HD DVD format at least only has one layer of protection, AACS (which has already been side-stepped) and it's structure is much better documented, costs less to produce, and doesn't do region encoding.

      For what it's worth, since HD DVDs don't have region encoding, you could even hint at it being more consumer friendly than DVDs.

      BluRay in contrast adds BD+, ROM Marking, and Region encoding on top of the AACS protection layer. All of which improve the consumer experience, right? Oh yeah, it increases the cost of the player and your chances that a movie wont play - arrgh!

      While you can argue all day long which format is better. There is no argument at all that HD DVD is more consumer friendly than BluRay. Frankly I don't see how any one with a little knowledge of the protections in play with the hi-def formats could ever support BluRay on that fact alone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    naive_ol_me, 2 Dec 2007 @ 7:08am

    i just simply think that the artists, producers, directors are simply overpaid. Those ppl are insanely rich while leeching off hard earned money off of their poor fans....

    Think abt it, if those ppl would take a pay cut and make the movie tickets, music albums, etc cheaper wouldn't it be better for consumers and themselves?? If original stuff were almost as cheap as the alternatives seriously no one would really bother wasting time downloading or buying poor quality ripoffs....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nick Overstreet (profile), 3 Dec 2007 @ 6:20am

    DRM will always be a joke

    I would like to talk to some person who though DRM would be a good idea and stop piracy.
    They are obviously disillusioned with their (or other's) ideas, and apparently not familiar with the saying that applies 100% of the time;
    "What man can make, man can break".
    Now if only man can make Hollywood not pump out such garbage, then we'd be better off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Keith, 3 Dec 2007 @ 6:54am

    I just want it to work!

    Most people don't care about Copy Protection or DRM. That just want things too work.

    Let's be honest, they are making all these tech devices that will play movies and music. And people want to be able to use them - but they only want to have to pay once for a copy of say "Castaway". If they want to watch it on the TV, Computer, iPod, PSP or mobile phone... they ought to be able to copy, steam or move it around EASILY. But in truth they can't, it's easier to download an illegal copy and use it than it is to use a legally purchase copy.

    The way they are going it is going to take more processor power to decode the DRM protection than the video and audio.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Senator DB, 3 Dec 2007 @ 2:43pm

    CGI cannot fix Nerd

    Regarding Spiderman 3, no matter how much CGI Hollywood uses, you cannot make Tobey Maguire look cool. Spiderman 3 sucked because of Tobey's lame-ass performance as "black" spidey. CGI cannot fix Nerd.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    M Lippert, 3 Dec 2007 @ 4:15pm

    DRM & copyright

    Personally I feel that if they want to release something w/ DRM, then we the public should not give them a copyright.

    Copyright is an artificial monopoly granted by the government as an incentive to publishing new ideas for all to see. If you only publish in a form that prevents (or attempts to prevent) copying, then where's the benefit to the public worthy of granting a copyright?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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