I can copy my MP3, why not my DVD?

by on January 12, 2009 · 27 comments

Apple has announced it will be dropping DRM, completing the transition from its DRM-Free-For-a-Fee model to one where DRM music isn’t an option. As Ars reports, it’ll take until August to see all DRM’d content leave the iTunes store.

This seems to be the final stage in a trasition that started in February of 2007.  That’s when Steve Jobs wrote his now famous “Thoughts on Music” memo.  Since then we’ve seen Amazon.com open it’s DRM free store and, more recently, the RIAA change its tactics and declare its war on downloaders over.  It seems that the music industry is slowly realizing how it must adapt to life in a digital world.

While music is learning its lesson, Hollywood seems to be willfully ignorant.  The major studios remain staunchly pro-DRM and continue to fight even those activities that should be perfectly legal.

Viacom, Sony, Fox, Universal, Disney, and Warner Bros. law suit against RealNetworks is the latest example of Hollywood’s refusal to adapt.  The studios are up in arms over RealDVD—software that allows consumers to copy DVDs to their personal computers.  But RealNetworks CEO Chief Executive Rob Glaser seems determine to fight the Hollywood giants.

As the Associated Press reports:

In an interview with reporters at the International Consumer Electronics Show, Glaser said he expects that the digital entertainment company will win a suit filed against it in October by six major Hollywood studios.

He also said that if the company needs to make small changes to its software so that it can be sold, it will, “but we don’t anticipate any,” he added.

Glaser’s is the better side of the argument, and hopefully, the winning side.  The details of the case—both technologically and legally—are complex, but RealNetworks seems to have a case.

RealNetworks claims it should be allowed to sell RealDVD because it doesn’t destroy CSS encryption, the DRM that’s intended to protect DVDs from being copied.  In fact, as CrunchGear has reported:

RealDVD takes copy protection one step further. In addition to keeping CSS (et al.) intact, Real adds another layer of DRM onto the RealDVD file. This is done, presumably, to prevent people from sharing RealDVD images with each other.

So where’s the problem Hollywood?  If I want to load my laptop with DVDs and watch them on a plane, that’s a perfectly fair use.  Plus, this product is actually pro-DRM, which should make studio execs happy.  It adds DRM, this is a producer’s dream!

Hollywood Insider reports that the outlook for Hollywood is mixed.  Ticket sales are down, but ticket prices are up ($7 nationwide average in US), so box office totals actually rose 2%.  Foreign markets also helped Hollywood’s bottom line, setting new sales records.

So, Hollywood isn’t looking death in the face, but it’s not growing by leaps and bounds either.  While it hovers in this state of limbo, wondering what it’s future will be, is the best strategy to attack consumers who just want to watch a DVD on their laptop?

Sumner Redstone needs to write a “Thoughts on Movies” memo.

Addendum: I should point out that RealDVD should be legal regardless of whether it adds or even strips out DRM.  Not only are anti-DRM breaking laws (I’m looking at you DMCA) attacks on free speech as it applies to software writing, but DRM itself is just a bad idea.  I still think companies should be allowed to use it—DRM shouldn’t be prohibited by law—but I think history now shows that DRM doesn’t serve the best interests of consumers or content creators.

Thanks to Tim Lee for pointing out that “RealNetworks should have the freedom to sell DVD rippers whether or not it adds its own DRM” via Twitter.  I’m sorry I made the initial version of the post sound as though I thought otherwise.

  • http://zgp.org/~dmarti/ Don Marti

    The record cartel didn't get it until Steve Jobs became “the most powerful man in music.” In a market with DRM, thanks to DMCA-enforced lock-in, the only record company that matters is the one that controls the DRM.

    The movie business will get it when some online entrepreneur becomes “the most powerful man in movies.”

  • MikeRT

    I should point out that RealDVD should be legal regardless of whether it adds or even strips out DRM. Not only are anti-DRM breaking laws (I’m looking at you DMCA) attacks on free speech as it applies to software writing, but DRM itself is just a bad idea. I still think companies should be allowed to use it—DRM shouldn’t be prohibited by law—but I think history now shows that DRM doesn’t serve the best interests of consumers or content creators.

    Not to mention the fact that they are a violation of our property rights.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Good post.

  • http://www.cordblomquist.com cordblomquist

    The most powerful man in movies could be Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of Netflix. They're making so many set-top box deals it's crazy, and they'll soon be one of the biggest ways to distribute movies.

  • nickbrown

    As a XBL Netflix user I would have to concur. Though as you're saying, that was only the beginning. With Roku and other STB's along with all the new TV's with Netflix connectivity built in shown at CES, they look to be making major head way into digital distribution. Now just to get their library bulked up and start allowing brand new 'new releases' into inclusion for streaming.

  • pixelm

    These arguments miss the point – Real networks wants to impose on studios AND consumers – THEIR business model – namely selling software to enable a function that's not part of the deal. Studios recently began offering DVDs with an extra digital copy so you can download it to your hard drive and not have to carry the disc. But one look at the record company shows what happens when you don't have DRM on your discs – which is the case with CDs. Consumers don't have a RIGHT to use more rights than they purchase, any more than you have a right to keep your Hertz rental car. If you require that Hertz let you keep the car – then Hertz will need to charge you $40,000 – doesn't sound like the outcome people are hoping for.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    The statement that “Consumers don't have a RIGHT to use more rights than they purchase,” is incomplete as it does not recognize that we have a shifting landscape where the content producers have been reducing the rights of the consumer. In fact this trend implies that the content producers are attempting to eliminate the concept of “sale” by claiming that the product is only be “leased”.

    When one buys a product the seller transfers the property right of that product to the buyer. Regretfully, we have few posts that acknowledge the property rights of the consumer. If the content producers want us to respect their property rights, they should respect the consumers property rights. That includes the ability of the content producer to “trespass” on the consumers computer, without due process, to spy on the consumer (SPORE DRM).

    An example of the shifting legal landscape include the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998. Each of these laws cumulatively extended the life of copyright. Through these legal actions, it could be asserted that the copyright holders stole from the public since it prevented these works from entering into the public domain. Of course had these laws gone in the reverse, shortened the period of copyright, you would have heard all sorts of howls about how the content producers where being victimized by an oppressive government.

    When one “buys” a CD, however you want to define the word “buy”, the consumer is entitled to fair use, which I contend includes the right to transfer the content to a computer or an MP3 player. The content producers through FUD unilaterally assert that no such right exists and even include questionable “contracts” or questionable “lease agreements” to make you believe that they somehow have “legal” standing.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    “Consumers don't have a RIGHT to use more rights than they purchase, any more than you have a right to keep your Hertz rental car.”

    First that's note correct: the content providers have tried to paint purchases as a license, but the courts have ruled that it is actually a purchase, and therefore consumers do have the right to time shift and format shift. Get some basic knowledge of the case law before you post, pixelm.

    Second, if you want to try to take the right to format shift and time shift away, go ahead, make my day. It should be clear those trying lock down freedom will lose that fight.

    Third, stop bellyaching: just download open SuSE and then go here:

    http://opensuse-community.org/Multimedia#Restri

  • http://thevitaminkid.blogspot.com autodidact

    1. Technical point about the RIAA “seeing the light.” According to the Recording Industry versus the People blog, the RIAA was still filing lawsuits 8 days after they claimed they were ceasing the “war on downloaders.” We'll see if they actually do stop, of if this is another deception.

    2. With regard to DVDs, I would note that with the new Batman (Dark Knight) DVD, they are trying to sell computer access as an extra fee, offering a 2-disc DVD set wherein the second disc contains a “digital copy” that amounts to a special means of downloading a special DRM'd copy to your computer. The first disc, the movie disc, has been infected with all manner of data corruption to inhibit ripping to a hard drive. Fortunately I was able to play it on my computer with PowerDVD6, but others have not been so fortunate. My point is that the movie studios are going to try to sell a fair use right (ability to watch the movie you bought on computers or possibly portable devices) as an extra license, a “digital copy,” for an extra fee.

  • Pingback: RealDVD in the News

  • http://www.idvdshop.com Carol Burnett DVD

    RealNetworks and in the studios and consumers – their business model – ie the sale of software to a function that is not part of the cartel

  • http://www.idvdshop.com Carol Burnett DVD

    It's legal for consumers to copy a backup of DVD on their computers.

  • http://www.idvdshop.com Carol Burnett DVD

    It's legal for consumers to copy a backup of DVD on their computers.

  • odelle

    The current concern about Apple's near-monopoly may be contributing to the removal of DRM, and that's fine. But it's a big mistake to think this is all about Apple. Opposition to DRM didn't begin with Apple, and it won't end with them.
    masini de inchiriat

  • odelle

    The current concern about Apple's near-monopoly may be contributing to the removal of DRM, and that's fine. But it's a big mistake to think this is all about Apple. Opposition to DRM didn't begin with Apple, and it won't end with them.
    masini de inchiriat

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