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Preaching to the converted - The scourge of piracy warnings

Ben takes a look at the annoying practice in film that is likely causing more harm than good.

| Editorials in HT & Movies | Posted: Apr 2, 2011 1:06 pm

 

Friends, today I feel the need to speak out against a scourge that is afflicting the home entertainment industry. It's annoying, it's disruptive and it's treating the very customers that are doing the right thing, as criminals. I am speaking of forced copyright warnings and threats.

 

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Copyright warnings date back to VHS and beta video tapes, with small text on the back cover and a ten second warning preceding a movie that you'd go to jail and receive a $100,000 fine if you attempted to make a duplicate copy of a movie, if you were lucky enough to own two very expensive VHS units. Then in the late 1980's, a small start-up company called Macrovision Corporation patented a process that confused VHS hardware and disallowed copying of content, which spelled the end of small mum and dad instances of duplication.

 

When DVD hardware was released in 1997, it too featured Macrovision protection, but tech savvy consumers were fast becoming adept at dodging methods such as these. In addition, the cost of DVD burners and DVD media and the ease of use and availability of DVD copying software such as DVD Decrypter would become prevalent enough to cause studios to be concerned.

 

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When development of the next generation disc formats began, Blu-ray in particular courted aggressive DRM copy protection, to ensure support from studios such as Twentieth Century Fox, although most pundits would agree that this battle has essentially been lost by this point.

 

Whilst there is little doubt that piracy has had some effect on sales figures, there are certainly other reasons why sales of packaged media have reduced. To blame piracy as almost the sole reason is plain wrong. But if you believe the MPAA and numerous industry groups, they'll have you believe that the end of the world for home video is nigh.

 

Unfortunately, a side effect of this mentality is punishing consumers, the very consumers who are supporting their products. As discussed earlier, anti-piracy warnings have been a staple since the very beginnings of home video. But in recent years, they've taken a more annoying tone, with unskippable messages and warnings. On VHS, the static warnings were skippable with the fast forward button. Simple.

 

Originally with DVD this was the case, too. Then they became non-skippable. That is, the DVD has been authored in a way that prevented the next chapter/title, fast forward, or main menu buttons from being used. Then the static warnings became full motion video - effectively ads. These too were unskippable. Then this practice was transposed to Blu-ray. Combined with often poor load times for older Blu-ray players, elaborate and long load time BD-Java menus, and other commercials, these warnings add even more time that a consumer must wait before they can begin their movie.

 

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This loathsome practice is treating the very customers that have actually purchased and supported their product with complete contempt. The irony is that if you had actually illegally copied the film, you could elect to re-author the disc without copyright warnings. So the very people whom these warnings are intended for, would not be bothered by them.

 

This practice must stop and a return to a common sense approach must be re-instated, before the good will that consumers who wish to do the right thing and support the industry, retracts their support.

 

 

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