Breaking copy protection for entertainment

16 January, 2007

I was saving this for Friday, because I thought it might be fun to post to my blog on a Friday, but Mark has just posted, essentially, my content x 10.

So, in summary, much like the other Mark‘s comment on Dave Shea’s related thread I bought my wife Peep Show series 3 on DVD for Christmas (for the non-Brits, this is not what you think). It doesn’t play in our desktop computer or her laptop, and most certainly doesn’t play in our DVD player (which is a first-gen PlayStation 2).

In fact, I initially took it back to the shop and got a replacement, simply assuming the disc had been poorly authored only to find our replacement disc was faulty in exactly the same way.

The back of the box does actually indicate that, amongst other forms of protection, it’s protected by Macrovision’s RipGuard and this is what stops it from playing. To put this in context, we own well over 250 DVDs, and have never had any problems playing any of them in any of our devices. Now, our legally-bought DVD doesn’t play in our legally-bought DVD players. Let’s just check Macrovision’s website:

Only Macrovision can guarantee RipGuard DVD playability on all PC and consumer electronic DVD players. Our DVD certification process for Macrovision ACP includes testing and certifying every DVD device, before and after market release.

Hm, you’d have thought that a six-year old DVD playback device which has sold over 110 million units might be included in that.

We decided to give Macrovision and Channel 4 a chance and sent them both an email asking how we were supposed to watch our new DVD. It’s been over 10 working days now, and we’ve not had any response, so I’ve used a “modern DVD ripping program [to] easily auto-detect and auto-bypass all of these protection schemes, and then re-author the disc onto ultra-cheap recordable media with no protection whatsoever” and we can now watch our DVD.

Dear Channel4 and Macrovision, you’ve just forced me to rip my own DVD in order to watch it. What’s wrong with this picture?

See other posts tagged with drm general and all posts made in January 2007.


Irregular Shed
16 January, 2007 at 12:23

I hear your pain, Phil. Our DVD recorder can be temperamental with discs that Macrovision have smeared their Advanced Copy Protection system over. The drive sounds like it’s about to have a heart attack – and the amount of seeking, spinning up and slowing down that’s going on IS going to shorten its life span, there’s no two ways about it.

And yet I had no difficulty ripping it. So Macrovision’s ingenious copy protection fails to protect copying, but does protect enjoyment and playback.

My thoughts on DRM are well documented. It adds nothing positive to the experience of consumers and, if you want to break it, it’s often incredibly easy to break it. It’s just a means of shoring up an ancient business model. If the UK copyright laws are reformed to allow the right to private copying, as is suggested – so as to decriminalise ripping CDs for your MP3 player – surely it’s going to have to be the same for DVDs, what with the proliferation of video-capable media devices (iPods, PSPs, our Maplin media boxes and so on). These technological ‘safeguards’ would then be in direct opposition to a legal right – what then?

What should happen is DRM should get outlawed, completely. Force media companies to change their ways rather than have them force legislation through to protect their precious Intellectual Property through a series of increasingly anti-consumer, draconian measures. I swear, if they could encrypt stuff based on a retina scan, they’d be all over it and strong-arming the industry to make DVD players with eye sockets.


Rod Begbie
16 January, 2007 at 14:03

On, Peep Show 3 has six reviews.

Four are complaining that the disc didn’t work on their DVD player

One is advising readers to use DVD Shrink to convert it. (This was the first review on the page when I looked today)

One is of the show itself.

19 January, 2007 at 16:29

I’m so glad I’m not crazy. Glad to see you actually took the time to complain, I considered it, but was too lazy.

29 January, 2007 at 19:43

BBC have a story on
copy protection in windows vista
according to Peter Gutmann, of the University of Auckland, Vista’s Content Protection specification is “the longest suicide note in history”.

The sheer obnoxiousness of Vista’s content protection may end up being the biggest incentive to piracy yet created,” he wrote.