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Too Much Free Time

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
drm, dvds, oscars, screeners

cinea, mpaa

MPAA Finally Realizes That Proprietary DRM'd Screener DVDs Are A Waste

from the it-took-this-long? dept

Way back in 2003, then head of the MPAA, Jack Valenti, got so worried about "piracy" of movies coming from insiders that he banned the use of "screener" DVDs for those voting for the Academy Awards. If you're unaware, traditionally, Motion Picture Academy members received "screener" copies of the movies up for awards on DVD or VHS tape so they could watch them at home and decide how to vote. Yet, in Valenti's twisted world, this had to be stopped because screener copies were appearing online. Of course, banning screeners created quite a mess for the folks who actually had to vote on the awards, as there was no longer an easy way to actually see the movies. It also really upset smaller studios, who knew that their movies were less likely to be seen by Academy members if they couldn't send out screeners. Eventually, the MPAA relented, but the following year came up with a new ridiculous solution. Rather than sending DVD screeners that members could watch with their existing home theater setup, it hired a company to make special DRM'd DVDs that would only play on special DVD players. Then it sent these special DVD players with the screeners to the Academy members. Of course, this was both a huge expense and still a tremendous pain in the ass for voters, who had to hook up this special DVD player that could only be used for screeners. It also made it difficult if the Academy member wanted to take the DVD somewhere else (say on vacation) and watch it elsewhere without dragging along this "special" DVD player. Apparently it only took 3 years of complaints before the MPAA realized that perhaps this was a dumb idea (that also didn't stop the movies from getting online anyway). This year, it's apparently phasing out the special DVD players and will provide (gasp!) normal DVDs for voting members.

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  1. identicon
    insomniac4104, 28 Dec 2007 @ 3:34pm

    If you can watch it you can copy it. Maybe not looseless quality but still how much do you download from bittorrent that is 100% quality. Point being DRM does not work and just cost the consumer extra dollars.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2007 @ 3:52pm

    Its just like computer network security. The second you connect your network to the Internet you are vulnerable to attack. Chances are with your home network that won't happen, but the risk is there.

    Doesn't matter how many layers of security you have, they ALL can be countered. It's just a question of time.

    Unfortunately for the MPAA's twisted dreams, putting movies online has one advantage over a hacker breaking into a system. The DVD doesn't care or notice if you get around its 'protections' and won't trace/counter the activity, so uploaders have essentially as much time as they need to break the protections.

    You'll also find this in physics. Everything has a breaking point. It may take a couple of nukes, but you can get through anything with time and effort.

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

  3. identicon
    Mikey in Vegas, 28 Dec 2007 @ 4:30pm

    Well, it never bothered me

    Truth be told, as a voting member it never bothered me or any of my fellow members. We did think it was stupid, but our useage ranged from "I had the intern/studio runner/kid hook it up" to one "assistant" videotaping the movie off the TV so it could be viewed on-set. Image/audio quality didn't matter, since that's not what we voted on (however, some members do vote on things like sound design, etc).

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

  4. identicon
    FSK, 28 Dec 2007 @ 6:22pm

    They Have Watermarking Now

    I believe there is digital watermarking technology available now.

    That means that, if one of those screener DVDs is leaked to the Internet, they'll be able to figure out who did it!

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

  5. identicon
    cb, 28 Dec 2007 @ 6:51pm

    Mission Impossible

    Whatever happened to the "this tape will self destruct in 5 seconds" ?

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

  6. icon
    PaulT (profile), 29 Dec 2007 @ 12:41am

    Great... now how about removing the useless CSS and region coding systems so we can have a free market and watch movies where we want to watch them as well?

    Didn't think so. It's funny how these things are always doomed to fail, people constantly tell the studios that it's so, and yet they waste years and millions of dollars chasing these white elephants anyway.

    @FSK - I'm a little too lazy to find the link right now, but there was a very good article (I believe it was on BoingBoing) about how watermarking isn't even a good solution. In short, a guy gets a watermarked review copy of an album but loses it along with a bunch of other CDs. The CD was found, ripped and put online, and this reviewer was dragged through the coals even though he had nothing to do with the upload.

    Imagine being a guy who gets sent a watermarked DVD, his mail gets stolen before the DVD make it to him, but then he gets stung for copyright infringement anyway. Not a perfect, or good, solution.

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

  7. identicon
    Lord, 31 Dec 2007 @ 5:02pm

    Mission Impossible

    It became Divx.

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

  8. identicon
    Wizard Prang, 2 Jan 2008 @ 10:36am

    It ceased to be useful...

    ...when they stopped using tapes :)

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

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