JJC1138.net

More On DRM

Posted on: April 10, 2007

The other day I bought a DVD, and amongst the myriad logos on the back was one for Macrovision RipGuard. I hadn’t heard of RipGuard before, but I have heard of Macrovision because they’ve been peddling copy protection cruft since the beginning of time (if you ever saw some wacky dark colors on a pre-recorded VHS, that was them).

So I Googled RipGuard and found their page advertising it. It’s a system that’s supposed to stop people from being able to rip their DVDs onto computers, either to make copies or to convert them into smaller files for sharing online. That’s been possible ever since the weak copy-protection that’s built into the DVD standard was broken back in 1999. So the first paragraph of Macrovision’s page is:

Each year, studios lose up to one billion dollars through the digital hole. We created RipGuard DVD to help you get most of it back.

Okay, they only claim to be able to get “most” of it back. That’s a nice way of saying “okay, so we can’t actually prevent copying”, and it’s good that they admit that right off the bat. Still, if they can get back most of a billion dollars, that’s still a heck of a lot, so let’s keep reading. Two paragraphs later:

RipGuard DVD does this by blocking ripping among the majority of real-world DeCSS ripper market share. Implemented today, RipGuard DVD gives studios back 97% of this lost revenue.

Whoah! Back up there. They claim to be able to block the majority of ripping software. To then say that this will give studios back 97% of their lost revenue is an unbelievable non sequitur. With digital copying and Internet distribution, only one person needs to be able to make a copy and then the whole system is broken. It doesn’t matter to the person downloading whether the original disc had RipGuard on it, or whether it was kept in a safe surrounded with hungry dogs and men with guns. It only matters that some James Bond figured out how to get at the delicious data inside, and so now everyone can. There’s also the minor issue that people aren’t idiots. If someone’s ripping software stops working, then they’re perfectly capable of going back to wherever they got it from and getting the new version that fixes the problem.

So, Mr. Macrovision, you’re either stunningly incompetent if you didn’t realise that, or shockingly dishonest if you did. I’m feeling generous; you can choose which.

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