Never Knew I was Living in The World
I've moved to http://tech.shantanugoel.com and http://blog.shantanugoel.com

Copy Protection

Monday, October 18, 2004
I've moved to http://tech.shantanugoel.com, http://blog.shantanugoel.com and http://www.safercode.com/blog/
Shantanu's Technophilic Musings
Never Knew I Was Living In The World
Programming Safer Code (Secure Coding In C \ C++)

Here is a story courtesy Google Blogoscoped that tells us about the mindnumbing effects of the MPAA and RIAA.
In fact, they are hurting themsleves in the process too.
Copy Protection
Here's the story of a boy who was mildly angry at vendors shipping copy-proteced CDs and DVDs.
He always liked to buy stuff at Amazon (or offline shops), and this worked well for a while. He didn't like KaZaA and others because he wanted things to be complete, in good quality, without spyware, and easy to get – he also didn't mind paying the artist. (Mind you, he wasn't mildly interested in booklets or fancy covers, or something to stick in a bookshelf, or so stuck to the material world he wouldn't accept anything purely digital. That wasn't it.)
Now the industry tried to protect itself from those people it feared would not order the stuff at Amazon (or offline shops), and they came up with Digital Rights Boycotting, pardon, Management, software. The boy who sold his old DVD player and bought a new one now found he couldn't play most of his DVDs because he bought them in a shop selling American movies. But the boy happened to live in Europe. (The boy also found some DVDs suddenly started to ask him to key in a password because they were for adults only. Luckily the boy was in his late 20s. You could rightfully call him a man, except for the fact he wasn't always treated like one by the industry.)
Lately, he also couldn't play some of the CDs he listened to on his computer (he does have a pair of speakers, but no stand-alone hi-fi set). Whenever he gets a copy-protected CD which will open up a web site or a shockwave file or tries to do something else than play music, he promised to himself to never buy from this band again. And he did. He was fully aware the actual artists might not be responsible for the copyright protecting mechanisms, but he didn't care, as it was not his responsibility to pay every artist.
Lately, he also wanted to buy a CD from a band he heard on MTV. This happens about once a week when MTV or another music channel would play interesting music for around one hour, to then continue with the same old. (It might also have been mainstream, because as we know, not everything falling prey to mainstream is automatically worse than before.)However when he came upon Amazon, he saw a review warning of a copy-protection for this CD. Seeing this he gave up on his plans to buy the CD, and told his girlfriend – who happened to use KaZaA on her own computer. She sent him the music files several minutes later after downloading them for free. (Thanks to Gmail, it was actually possible to send these via email.)
Lately, the sister of the boy told him they couldn't play a CD they bought inside their car. When they went to the store they told them this is because the CD protects itself against copying it to distribute it for free. Of course, as side-effect it also wouldn't work for a gazillion of other uses. Oh my.
Lately, the boy was more and more convinced people stopped caring for those actually buying CDs or DVDs, or they just didn't care enough. Maybe they wanted to push their online music services. Then again, there was no way to let the DVD player download movies just yet. Maybe they were just incredibly stupid.
See, with DVDs it's like this (and you probably know if you ordered from foreign countries because something wasn't available in your own country): most DVDs come with a region code restricting it to play in just a certain DVD player supporting this, and no other, region code. (Interestingly enough, there's even a region-code for places such as aircrafts or cruise ships.)This of course is silly because you paid for the product, and you are not a thief, and you don't really care about anything else except the gut-feeling the company cheated you.
Sidenote: the boy remembers that in Malaysia, things were quite a lot easier for people. You would walk into a store, and there were a lot of mediocre movies available for 30 Ringgit (and for RM30, you could eat one week – the best food, by the way). Now here's the twist: nobody actually bought these DVDs or CDs which were showcased. You had to walk up to the counter and ask for "movies," upon which you were handed a case with movies filmed straight from the screen (which is illegeal, as every cinema-goer is painfully made aware of prior to recent movies). These movies were so fresh they weren't in cinemas yet (or, in case of movies such as Daredevil, which were banned in Malaysia, would never be in cinemas). And these movies were actually affordable (around 3-6 Ringgit).
Now when the boy went to the shop to ask for a region-code free player, he was told that there was no region-code free player sold. But he was also clued in to the fact there were web sites on the internet which would educate the customer on these issues. So what was suggested to him was to make a note of DVD players available in this shop, then go look them up on the internet, then to come back and buy one (incidentally, he never did). Hey, the boy's being pushed onto hacker sites once more, and he can't help it. Again, this must be the music and movie's industry's utter cruelty, a suicidal tendency, a last cry for help, or just plain stupidity. The more the boy feels it's just stupidity, the more he wants to make the industry wake up by spreading the word.
The good thing, though the battle was far from over, he wasn't alone. I for one am definitely on his side.