Monday, September 12, 2005

Revisiting copy protection...

I e-mailed the MPAA today on their Report Piracy Hotline about copy protection. Pretty much, I'm annoyed by it, and it's useless. Now we all should know that any copy protection can be broken; and track records for breaking it typically range from several months before a copy protection method is deployed in a product to a few weeks after something on the market uses it. Millions of dollars go into dismally ineffective ideas, and here we go.

What copy protection does do is get in the way of the end user and prevent them from performing some completely legitimate tasks. As for breaking the law, somebody will do it and share the results with everyone else who can't do it themselves, so no problems there. No such luck for the end user; solutions to obscure problems don't get shared freely in a downright illegal transfer of data.

This happened to me. To be brief, I mailed the MPAA with the friendly message below.

I have just legally purchased "The Incredibles" from a Best Buy retailer. This was the 2-disc set "Special Edition" for $19.99.

I would just like to say that the copy protection works extremely well at PISSING ME OFF and assuredly PREVENTS ME FROM VIEWING THE MOVIE PROPERLY AND COMFORTABLY ON MY EQUIPMENT. Whoever designed this NEEDS TO DIE.

Let me begin with details of my setup. I have a Playstation 2 as a DVD player hooked up to a VCR which accepts audio/video, and a surround sound system which accepts audio/stereo. The VCR uses an RG6 terminated coaxial cable to connect to the TV, typical of standard cable hook-ups. This is done because the TV does not have ports for audio/video direct connections.

The apparent problem is that the copy protection on the DVD distorts the picture if a VCR is in-line. This was noticed earlier when my friend had the same problem, but jacked the PS2 directly into his TV and "fixed" it. I have no such luck; therefor, my picture flicks on and off in alternation, each state holding for a few seconds.

There are several solutions to this problem:

1. Copy the DVD using a decode/recode process
- This will definitely work; the copy protection is a useless annoyance to playback only, not actual DVD copying
- Software is easy to get, probably already installed
- The quality will go down slightly
- Costs me a DVD+R
- Fair use clause of US copyright law explicitly allows this
- BetaMax decision sets courtroom precidence allowing this
- DMCA bans this

2. Utilize my computer
- This will definitely work
- Play on a smaller screen
- Can't be productive at the same time

3. Download from bittorrent and burn
- This would also probably work
- The quality would suck
- Finding a bittorrent would be annoying
- (1) is a better solution anyway

4. Buy a new TV
- This would also work
- I'd have a better TV
- I'd be inable to pay my car insurance and fault financially
- This is not a real solution; it's a treatment of symptoms

Perhaps you need a simple reminder. . .

IF YOU SPEND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS DEVELOPING A COPY PROTECTION METHOD, IT WILL BE BROKEN VERY, VERY FAST BY SOMEBODY, AND THEN SUBSIQUENTLY IGNORED BY ANYONE TRYING TO DO ILLEGAL THINGS. LEGITIMATE USERS WILL BE QUITE ANNOYED BY YOUR IGNORANCE AND REPETED FAILED ATTEMPTS AT ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM.

Let's take a few situations here.

1. Customer can legitimately decode in his own isolated system
- It can be done here
- Reverse engineer the system OR
- Just sniff the decoded data

2. Customer needs to validate with an external site
- Not all customers have a connection to you
- Massive privacy violation you'll try to write away in a license
- Just stick a modified recording hardware in-line to beat this
- Or better, sniff the network data and RE the protocol, then start sharing the collected key(s)

Now go fuck yourselves and try to learn from repeated failure.

To add insult to injury, the response I got was rather terse.

This message was created automatically by mail delivery software. Message violates a policy rule set up by the domain administrator Delivery failed for the following recipient(s): hotline@mpaa.org

Needless to say, I'm working on getting around whatever rule set they have in place. In the mean time, let's all stand and clap for an unexpected consequence of a system which failed to meet its original intent anyway.

3 Comments:

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Blogger locklizard.blogger.com said...

Hi,

This is a really informative post. Copy protection is also known as copy prevention or copy restriction. It is almost never applied to analog media such as books, paintings, or vinyl records. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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9:49 PM  

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