Thursday, December 27, 2007

On screwing the consumer

For my nephew's Christmas present, we bought them the last of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies on DVD. Christmas Day phone calls are made and my wife asks if they liked the movie. "It won't play in any of their DVD players. It just says "bad disk".

Now I find this very weird. Of the 200 or so DVD's I own I have NEVER had a disk fail to play. I've had some that won't play in a particular device. (For example the new "Twin Peaks" boxed set, the menus won't work on disks 4 and 6 on my computer, but work fine on set top DVD player) but of my three DVD devices here, I can always play something in at least one of them. 99% of the time there's no problem at all in any of them.

My mother-in-law was staying with my nephews and came down to see us on Boxing Day and brought said disk with her. I pondered what the problem could be as I saw no dye issues or anything else on the disk, and then it occurred to me. Bloody copy protection. (Or "Fair Use Prevention" as it should be more accurately known as.) You see in their continuing paranoid quest to deny you your fair use rights on every piece of media you own so you have to buy it over and over again, some companies are adding new forms of copy protection to their DVD releases that are, in essence, breaking the standard of the DVD format. This particular cancerous protection comes from Sony and is known as ARCCOS.

ARCCOS disks are known to not play in a variety of DVD players, including one from Sony themselves. I won't go into the technical details as the Wikipedia link above tells you all you need to know really. Disney is one of the companies that uses this on some titles, including the aforementioned "Pirates" movie. I did some digging, and found out that the disk won't play AT ALL in certain newer region 1 devices. I took said disk, put it in my new-ish but cheap off-brand DVD player, and the disk played just fine. Same on my computer.

So once again, copy protection has screwed over a legitimate consumer. I decided to see if this act of deception on the part of the media companies had any impact on the availability of pirated versions. A quick trip to a well known Swedish torrent site revealed multiple copies of the movie for download. Not just AVI rip's, but images of the entire DVD. So clearly the protection is doing nothing, other than preventing legitimate end users from using the disk they legally own.

My mother-in-law is returning the disk later today. Now of course we all know the scam that WalMart and their ilk like to pull. They do it with software. You buy software with copy protection, whether it be Securom, Safedisc or, god forbid, Starforce, and you may very well be one of the people who find you've bought a coaster and you can't play the game. So you go to return it to the store only to be told you can't have your money back. Why? Because YOU MAY HAVE COPIED THE GAME!

This is another rant along the same lines which I will save for another day. (Since I can REALLY go off on this subject. In fact it's a large part of why I almost never buy games off the shelf anymore.) Suffice it to say I am very curious to know how much stress and aggravation will be required to return said disk that won't play (I have written down all the details on ARCCOS for her to tell them) and exchange it for another movie. Will update if there is anything to report in this regard.

List of known ARCCOS protected DVD titles.

UPDATE: As expected WalMart refused to take the open package back. To prove a point about how utterly worthless this copy protection is and how it does nothing but screw over the consumer and doesn't protect any of their precious content. I took said disk upon my mother-in-law's return home, and within half an hour had ripped a copy and had it playing on my DVD player, and gave her the copy to give to my nephews whose Christmas was extremely disappointing thanks to this asinine business decision to rape the consumer of their rights. Now my nephews can see the movie I bought as their present. No fucking thanks to you Disney assholes.

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